Annual Meeting Date
In many instances the date or possibly the time of year of the annual meeting is prescribed in the HOA’s governing documents. These dates may also just coincide with the time the declarant transitioned the association to membership control. The months that can be worse for annual meeting attendance are December, July, June, November, and August. These months coincide with holidays and when people are on vacation. The best months for attendance are April, March, April, February, and January.
Day of the week affects annual meeting attendance as well. The best days of the week for attendance are Tuesday, Thursday, Monday, and Wednesday in that order. Weeks that include a public holiday are best avoided because of the inclination of people to take additional time off around holidays.
Notice period refers to when an annual meeting notice must be mailed to give legal notice to the membership. The notice period is usually specified in the association’s bylaws. The wording can be similar to this: …notice shall be delivered not less than ten (10) nor more than sixty (60) days before the date of any such membership meeting… Annual meeting notices must be in the mail during the prescribed time period, but picking the optimum amount of lead time can be hit and miss. Ideally the 15 to 20 day notice allows members to plan ahead for the meeting, while not so far ahead that members forget. A postcard mailer reminding everyone of the meeting timed to arrive in the member’s mailbox 1 to 2 days before the meeting are effective. Email or text blasts the day before and the day of the meeting are the most effective methods.
Pitney Bowes, a manufacturer of mailing equipment, conducted a survey on mailing trends from direct marketers. They were asked which was the most responsive day of the week for their mailings and Tuesday was selected overwhelmingly. While this is presumably based on solicitations and their follow-up being on Tuesday, this is still a good indication that people may pay more attention to their mail on Tuesdays. From the author’s experience mail arriving on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday does obtain more attention than the other mail delivery days.
Recognition & Awards
Recognizing committee members or other people in the membership is an effective method to improve attendance. While in most cases these types of active members will be in attendance anyway, these active members many times have a following that will attract other members to see them receive recognition. This recognition does not necessarily need to be tangible, having members stand up for applause goes a long way.
Short & Efficient Meeting
When members can anticipate an hour to an hour an half meeting that runs smoothly, attendance is generally better. It should be obvious that long and tedious meetings are detrimental to attendance, however this is commonly not taken into consideration. The real benefit of these efficient meetings is that a more representative group of the membership are in attendance. Representative in that more members tend to come with a positive outlook to learn what has been achieved and how the association is moving forward. Long and tedious meetings tend to attract a higher percentage of members who are in attendance that seem to have an ax to grind. Long and tedious has never seemed to deter Ax grinding members.
While captivating may not be the typical word in describing an annual meeting, a meeting can be interesting or just raise the membership’s curiosity so that they attend. Discussions affecting the association, such as a local municipality service change or a development on a neighboring property are common interest topics that can draw members to the meeting. Guest speakers, such as the HOA’s community police officer or an association vendor, can have an impact on attendance. These guest speakers must adhere to a time limit and ideally they would speak before or after the official meeting. Because of procedural issues, it is advisable to keep a strict business like agenda that does not get bogged down with a guest speaker.
It is important to notice these discussion topics or guest speakers on the annual meeting notice. Or better yet, noticing this on a separate sheet of paper to make certain it stands out in mailing. If the meeting agenda is mailed along with the notice, just including items such as this maybe overlooked in all the other mailed material.
Guest speakers being a common method to attract more membership participation, the right guest speaker can add a great deal to the meeting while the wrong guest speaker can have the opposite effect. The first and most obliviously question, is there a very strong reason to have a guest speaker. The guest speaker’s talk must add significantly to the meeting and benefit the entire association before this even be considered. The association’s community police officer are a common membership draw because members are interested in crime and crime prevention with the community. It is advisable to have the speaker outside the official meeting, before call to order or after adjournment. There are procedural issues with this and this prevents meetings from becoming bogged down with questions of the speaker. No matter the speaker the chair should establish time limits or the speakers talk to ensure it does not impede the meeting.