This expert post is written by Corinne Arnold and Will Kwan of EZ Election Solutions, a white-glove election management company for cooperative and condominium communities. Together, Will and Corinne have 35 years of board member experience in their co-ops located in Manhattan.
Running an effective annual meeting is core to responsible building governance. It is essential that all owners are able to have their voices heard as a part of a democratic process. And, it is important that the board and management use the opportunity to educate owners on the status of their investment and community. The annual meeting includes a legal aspect and a community aspect—both are important.
A well-run meeting gives the opportunity for owners to see the challenges the board faces and gives confidence in the direction the building is heading. Additionally, it should fully address questions that are asked and bring the insights that building experts (e.g. a managing agent, attorney, accountant, or engineer) can provide.
Based on the many meetings we have run, here are our recommendations for an effective annual owner’s meeting.
1. Get organized. Put the process together and ensure it adheres to the bylaws of the building and business corporation laws.
Your building’s governing documents will provide structure and a timeline for your annual meeting of owners. Refer to the bylaws for notice of annual meeting deadlines and meeting agenda. Prepare and organize all of your documents and timeline in advance so your attorney has plenty of time to review everything. You do not want to be in a rush.
Clarify whether you will use e-voting and/or paper voting, as well as the submission options (for example: will there be a secure drop box in the lobby for paper ballots?). Use this time to also identify who will be responsible for tallying the results. It is essential that a neutral party take on that responsibility.
Also, get organized on all relevant unit owner (condo) or shareholder (co-op) information, such as email addresses, physical mailing addresses, signatures (if necessary), percentage common interest (condo) or shares (co-op), phone numbers, etc.
2. Make a list of all presenters, secure a date, and select a meeting format (in-person, hybrid or virtual)
As you determine a date for your annual meeting, you should consider the location and who needs to attend. Will your accountant need to present your finances? Have you been working on a Local Law that you would like your engineer to provide an update on? All of this should be taken into account when setting a date and location. Take any expert presenter’s schedules into account when selecting the date.
You also now have options for whether the meeting is virtual, in-person, or a hybrid. During the pandemic, many associations moved to virtual meetings and still enjoy the format. There are many advantages to hosting a virtual annual meeting, including:
It is always nice to get the owners in a community together in a physical location. If you choose a hybrid of in-person annual meeting, consider the following:
Keep in mind, if you opt for a virtual annual meeting and want to maintain the community element of an in-person meeting, it is easy to host a social event after the meeting concludes.
3. Save the date, and call for candidates.
Send an announcement or mailing to advise all owners that your annual meeting has been scheduled and provide a deadline for candidate nominations. Different buildings have various processes for accepting nominations, be sure to check with your attorney and your bylaws on your process.
4. Send the notice of meeting of unit owners or shareholders and voting deadlines.
By now, you’ve prepared your notice of annual meeting, vetted owner mailing addresses, determined the voting method (e-voting and/or paper voting), and confirmed that the mailing adheres the deadlines outlined in your building’s bylaws. You’re now ready to send the notice to unit owners or shareholders. Include details on the style of voting and all voting deadlines in the annual meeting packet.
Additionally, we recommend you mail merge the owner apt number and shares/percent of common interest on the proxy/ballot to reduce confusion.
5. Define security and quorum.
It is extremely important that the meeting is secure and maintains voter integrity. For virtual meetings, each attendee should register to receive a secure link. This may be used exclusively by that attendee by validating their names, unit #, and email address is associated with the individual attendees.
With e-voting, this integrity is equally important. The IP addresses of voters should be auditable, should there be any doubt about the outcome of the election. It is also important that quorum be monitored to determine if the meeting is on track. Leveraging a secure system (such as EZ Election Solution) can help report on quorum, offers secure and trackable e-voting, and uses the same encryption methods as major banks. Voting reminders should be sent to those who have not yet voted.
6. Confirm that everything is set for the day of the meeting.
Confirm that the proper number of staff is prepped and that your full process is secure. Assign a person who is available to speak with voters who have questions, and another person that is available to speak with anyone who has questions on how to log into the meeting or on the physical location of the meeting.
7. Meeting day.
The day you have been preparing for has arrived! If you have taken the steps outlined above, you should be at or near a quorum and ready to focus on delivering a great presentation to your owners. This includes:
The presentation should be structured in a way that creates a productive roundtable discussion. And, all that is left is for the Inspector of Elections to close out and certify voting.
8. Voting closes, and results are tallied and certified.
The final step: After the voting concludes, the inspectors of election produce the certified election results.
It may seem like a lot of steps, but proper preparation will help ensure a productive annual meeting and ironclad election process. We hope that these tips help you and your community get the most out of your annual meeting this year.
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