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Saving your Sanity: Developing a Communications Policy and Protecting the Association

Mark GotAs I was contemplating the way our association was conducting its affairs, I knew I had to think of a creative strategy to not only protect the association but also to restore some sanity to my volunteer service on the Board.  One strategy I used to eliminate a lot of the drama associated with HOA volunteer work is to implement a Communications Policy that specified where and when the individual Board members could discuss important community business.  The cornerstone of the policy was the recognition that individual board members had NO authority to speak for the Board of Directors.  Therefore, no individual Board member could discuss important community business through electronic mail, or while out in public – at the pool for instance.  Instead, if a matter was to be properly brought before the Board, that matter had to be on the agenda at a duly called meeting.

This stopped a lot of the drama.  Every time I received a three page, single spaced diatribe from one of our “Concerned Residents,” I would cut and paste a reply that cited the policy and the fact that as an individual, I had no authority to speak for the Board of Directors, and that if the homeowner wanted their matter addressed, it had to be added to the agenda at a duly called meeting of the board.  Whenever I was out at the pool with my kids, or playing catch with my son, if someone interrupted our family time to complain about speeders or trash, or dog poop, I merely referred to our neighborhood Communications Policy and asked the concerned neighbor to contact the property manager to add the matter as an agenda item at the next meeting.

Some of the folks actually followed through.  Some called the community manager, had their concern added to the next Board meeting as an agenda item, showed up at the meeting and discussed it in a rational fashion.  However, many people DID NOT follow up in that manner.  Many did not add their concern as an agenda item, and many did not even bother showing up at the meeting to discuss it.  I guess to them, the concern was not serious enough to warrant them taking time out of their day to actually do something proactive about their concern.  This was the real benefit of the Communications Policy – It operated as a funnel, winnowing out the trivial and preserving time for the important.

I would encourage you to adopt a similar policy in your neighborhood.  I promise it will restore some normalcy to your volunteer service, and it will also protect the Board from allegations that one Board member did or did not say something that compromised the Association’s position on vital issues.

By Mark D. Gott