I wanted to give a shout out this month to all of the people who volunteer on behalf of the Kentlands Citizens Assembly, from the Board of Trustees and committee members down to those who give of themselves in other ways to make the community “work.” No large association can function with just paid staff, there is too much to do, especially when you have a community with amenities and events. You need volunteers dedicated to meeting and making decisions and, depending on their role, giving input on policies and procedures, solving issues that rise above the staff’s authority and ensuring that new ideas are always in the pipeline. We may know where we want to go, but volunteers help us get there.
Probably the committee that does the most brainstorming is the Activities Committee. Coming up with new events such as the upcoming Kentlands Campout takes time and effort to delve into the details that make the events flow smoothly and keep everyone’s interest up. We do have a full time staff member, Dana Macena, who doubles as the Communications/Events Director and implements a lot of the nuts and bolts of the events, but she needs the creative ideas from committee members to help make that “magic” happen.
In large associations with large budgets, you need a knowledgeable and committed Budget and Finance Committee to make sure that all aspects of the community’s finances are being considered, not just the budget. Investing, and knowing what to invest for, such as reserve items, is an important aspect that this committee discusses as well as reviewing the yearly audit and creating long range planning strategies.
Two of the most important committees in any large community are covenants and architectural control. In the Kentlands they are called the Kentlands Historical Trust and the Board of Code Compliance. People don’t buy into a community because they’ve read the balance sheet. That may be a reason they don’t buy in a community, but that comes later, after they have made the decision to purchase (and then rethink that decision). The first and foremost reason someone buys into a specific community is the look of the community. Think about it, would you buy a home in a community even if it was the right price, met your needs, was convenient to work and schools, if the community was an eyesore? Doubtful; you would just keep looking. It doesn’t take long before a community takes on a rundown look when there is no attention paid to architectural details, whether it be routine maintenance, new construction or renovations.
All of these committees need volunteers to function. People who are willing to give of their time and talent to ensure that the community they purchased into continues to be the community they want to live in. Some of the committees take more expertise than others, and it’s always good to have volunteers that are knowledgeable about the specifics of the committees’ work; CPA’s on Budget and Finance Committee, Architects on Kentlands Historical Trust, etc. But all volunteers should be welcomed regardless of their skill set. Members resign or rotate off and others move. If you’re not constantly recruiting and trying to identify new volunteers, you risk committees falling apart due to lack of participation. And, volunteers can be educated about the specifics of the committee they’re volunteering for. It’s never too late to learn.
I was involved in a lively discussion at a recent Manager’s Meeting with a manager of a condo that didn’t have a Board, literally. The average age of the residents was older, and a high percentage of them had lived there multiple years. There wasn’t a lot of turnover. Most everyone who would volunteer had already volunteered, and they were quite content to let the manager shoulder all of the decision making. While this might seem like it would be easier for a manager to just make all the decisions, I can assure you it is not. You need a strong Board who is active, informed and engaged as a partner with the manager in order to make the decisions that keep the community the way the homeowners want, not the way the manager wants.
And, you don’t have to be on the Board of Trustees or a committee to volunteer. In the Kentlands, we have volunteers who commit to specific tasks such as organizing the Fourth of July parade or keeping the bulletin boards in the community updated. A volunteer is someone who agrees to shovel, pick up trash in the community one day a year or take a Manor resident home from a Happy Hour at the Clubhouse. Everyone can do something.
Hats off to all of the volunteers and all of their efforts, however great or small. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an army of volunteers to make a community.