Committees are invaluable to community associations. However, in order to harness the full power and benefit of committess, thoughtful planning should be applied.
The Purpose of committees is to assist the Board of Directors. Examples include, but are not limited to, researching alternatives and making recommendations to the Board, processing routine requests for approval of exterior modifications to the Board, processing routine requests for approval of exterior modifications (ACC, ARC, PIC, ect), maintaining vheicle and parking spreadsheets, monitoring the chemistry of swimming pool water, or acting as a hearing panel to review compliance enforement violations. Their role is typically limited to an advisory capacity (although they may be delegated limited decision making authority) and the Board should always be aware that the while a limited amount of authority may be delegated and remains with the Board. Yup, you read that right-the Board is responsible for what the committee does. Committees report directly to the Board and should be fairly self-sufficient. The management company is also a resource for the Board and does not typically provide administrative support to committees.
Before leaping out of the starting gate, the need for a committee should be determined. Is the committee required by the governing documents? If not, the Boeard should first identify a specific and fairly immediate need to enlist the support of a committee. Resist the temptation to create a committee just because other communities my have one.
Once the need is identifited, the board should decide what the purpose of the committee will be and, from there, determine the type of committee that is appropirate. A standing committee is a committee that is ongoing or perpetual (such as an Architectual Control, Architectual Review, or Property Improvement Committee). Conversely, an ad hoc committee is established for special projects that have a limited duration and an end date. Examples of ad hoc committees established for special projects that have a limited duration and an end date. Examples of ad hoc committees might be a Playground Committee, Budget Committee, Summer Picnic Committee, Elections Committee, etc.
Before committee memebers are appointede by the Board, a committee charter needs to be developed. The charter is a document that outlines the committee’s roles, responsibilities, and authority. Without that direction, the committee is almost certian to fail, either because they will not meet the Board’s expectations or they will not have the direction they need to be effective. Like directors, committee members take a tremendous amout of pride in serving their community and they need good direction to succeed. Components of a committee charter may include:
- Committee Name (Landscaping Committee, Architectural Control Committee, etc. )
- Committee type (stand or ad hoc)
- Purpose / desired outcome (must be realistic and achievable)
- Term – how long the committee will exist
- Number of members (3-5 members is most common, more than 5 often to leads to “analysis paralysis” and the committee becomes stymied)
- Designated liaison to the Board (note: many governing documents specify the members of each committee must include a director)
- Delegated authority (approve ACC requests, tow cars, etc.)
- Meeting Frequency
- Reporting Requirements – keeping meeting minutes, providing recommendations to the Board, etc.
In addition to providing structure and direction for the committee, the charter may also provide some protection to the individual committee members. Most Directors and Officers insurance policy coverage extends to include committee members. With a well thought out charter, the committee members have an instrument that supports their validity and authority. As long as the committee is acting within the boundaries of their charter, the individual members are likely to be substantially immune from personal liability.
Once the committee is up and running, there are a few keys to ongoing success. At the forefront, the committee members need to be thanked often and recognized for their work. When the committee makes recommendations to the Board, listen carefully, ask thoughtful and positive questions, and act promptly on committee recommendations. By engaging committee members in community governance, there are more hands to help with the work, owners (and don’t overlook the resources of renters!) become more involved and knowledgeable which results in a stronger sense of community, and future Board members are cultivated.