In many areas across the United States, community associations are very prominent. However, they cannot be successful without the benefit of volunteers. The members of the board of directors are elected volunteers, committee members are appointed volunteers. It is the efforts of these upstanding citizens volunteering their time and talents that make a community the best that it can be.
Everyone has something to contribute; whether it’s expertise in a given profession or a personal experience, the ideas and suggestions that are generated are all valued. Serving on a committee not only benefits the community as a whole but it builds relationships and establishes a sense of pride in one’s community.
Communities have a vast pool of talent to tap, such as accountants, lawyers, engineers, landscapers, activity directors, etc. The saying, “It takes a village” can be applied to community associations. It takes the devotion of many homeowners volunteering their time and efforts to make an association a strong and well-rounded community.
According to the Community Associations Institute, approximately two million Americans serve on community association boards, with hundreds of thousands more participating as committee members. The annual operating revenue for community associations in the United States is more than $41 billion, and most of that revenue is spent on local businesses for goods and service.
In order for community volunteers to be successful, the board should adopt and update short-term objectives and long-term goals annually for each committee as well as for the board itself. This allows volunteers to be informed of the “big picture” strategic planning for the community, enabling volunteers to function to the best of their ability as well as keeping the needs of the community in mind. A charter should be adopted that clearly outlines how many volunteers are permitted, their term of office, and the committee’s roles and responsibilities. Once the committee has clear direction and the guidelines are established, the volunteers put the wheels in motion to achieve those goals. There is nothing more gratifying than to work together as a committee and for the fruits of the committee’s labor to be implemented. A committee is a great way for a homeowner to gain a sense of community leadership and personal achievement.
How can you be considered for a volunteer position? It’s simple – contact your board or manager and inquire if your community is seeking volunteers. My guess would be yes, and the board member or manager would be able to advise you of the open positions and contact information. Another alternative would be to attend a board of directors meeting.
How can your board recruit new volunteers? There are many avenues a community can take; however, word of mouth is the most direct. If you feel someone you know in your community might have an interest in a particular field or has expressed thoughts about something they would like changed or added, suggest that they join the committee so that they can actively contribute. Being on a committee is a great way to get to know your neighbors or other committee members that have the same interest in mind.
Committees are effective at instituting change and they are there to represent the best interest of the community as a whole. Plan to have a volunteer information table available at community events, announce available positions on the community website and in the newsletter. Have the board make an announcement to the homeowners at the annual meeting.
How can we keep our volunteers active? As with everything else, volunteers like to feel appreciated, so consider hosting an annual Volunteer Appreciation event, highlight a volunteer in your community’s newsletter or website, and thank them by name at board and annual meetings.
Remember that as a community volunteer you have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to your community. Giving is a natural instinct; what could be better then giving back to the community in which you live where you can see firsthand the benefit of your volunteering efforts? Volunteering builds community pride!
Jan Ward, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Community Management Corporation