Owner Meetings and Annual General Meeting (AGMs) are critical to the successful operation of condos and HOAs. They are where many of the most important changes and decisions occur, like voting for directors and on critical bylaws, and where the overall direction for the community is set. They are also a legal requirement that absolutely must be met. AGMs deserve a high amount of attention and care in their organization and execution.
Running a successful AGM is a difficult task. Property Managers and the condo board face a number of financial, logistical and attendance challenges. No matter how well the community is managed, many of these challenges are still bound to persist.
Thankfully, technology has allowed for the creation of digital solutions to many of the challenges of running a successful AGM. The following will give you a breakdown of how innovations like electronic proxy voting can take the stress out of your AGM.
The challenges of running an AGM
While each community faces its own unique set of challenges, there are three that are near-universal.
- High costs
Leading up to the meeting date, it’s required that owners are served with at least one, but often two, notices. This includes a notice package, usually containing information on the meeting agenda, financial statements, minutes of previous year’s meetings, director candidate resumes, and details of any proposed bylaws to be voted on.Altogether, that’s quite a lot of paper to print and distribute, especially when you consider that meeting packages have gone beyond more than 100 pages per package. For a large association of 500 or more units, that’s more than 50,000 pages. That on its own would create an extraordinarily high cost for the meeting, before even considering costs for international shipping and any professionals such as lawyers required at the AGM, or booking a space with a third-party, if needed.
- Attendance and Participation
Condos are major investments for almost all owners. Yet many communities still struggle to get owners interested in attending their critical AGM. We often hear things like the following from owners who don’t attend their meeting:
- “It’s not at a good time.”
- “Meetings are boring.”
- “I’m not in the country.”
- “I’m busy.”
- “I have better things to do.”
This type of apathy makes it difficult to run an AGM. While thresholds vary, Florida for example requires that at least 25% of owners attend the meeting in order for it to be valid. The same amount applies for Ontario. Imagine spending all of the time and money required to organize an AGM, and having to do it all over again because you did not reach quorum. Even worse, associations must often vote on critical issues, like approval for borrowing, to fund projects crucial to maintaining their communities. Low participation rates make achieving the required 25%+ threshold challenging.
- Proxy & Voting fraud
To enable more owner participation, proxy voting and secret ballot voting is allowed. However, this is generally done with paper proxies and ballots, which are highly vulnerable to fraud. Extra proxies can be printed, and signatures can be forged. Identifying these fraudulent votes is very challenging and time-consuming.If proxy and voting fraud occurs, there can be serious consequences. You risk losing control over critical aspects of community operations to individuals who are not acting in the best interest of the association. Additionally, rule-abiding owners are not able to exercise the input that they are entitled to.
What’s the solution?
Almost all of these issues can be overcome with electronic communications and electronic voting. Essentially, this takes the transmission of AGM information like notice packages and voting and moves it online, making it much more easily accessible.
From a financial perspective, it significantly lowers the amount of notice packages that need to be printed and mailed. Just how much? Take a look at the chart below outlining what eliminating 60% of packages can do.
In terms of attendance, allowing owners to participate from anywhere makes it significantly easier to reach quorum. Electronic voting has allowed condos to double their owner representation, and in one case, even triple it.
Finally, electronic voting eliminates the core problems that contribute to fraud in paper proxies and ballots. Here’s how:
- They reliably identify the voter by requiring authentication before submission.
- Records of proxies are retained digitally.
- They can be audited at any time.
- Secret ballots are available when required.
Are owners interested?
This is an entirely valid concern. However, GetQuorum has seen that nearly 95% of GetQuorum users opt-in to receiving notice packages (and all other notices) by email.
Gathering owner information
It should be noted that online package distribution can only be used if the owner consents to being served notice packages by email. For example, in Florida, owners must opt-in to receive meeting materials electronically as well as signing a Voting Certificate to participate in the electronic vote.
There are a few reasons corporations aren’t already sending meeting packages electronically:
- Associations don’t collect and record owners’ email addresses as a normal procedure.
- Associations don’t have express consent from owners to receive notices by email.
- Associations don’t have the tools to send electronic notices.
- Associations don’t consider email addresses as part of owners’ contact information.
To combat this, follow the following tips:
- Update your resident information & registration forms and ask for their email addresses.
Include a checkbox that allows owners to opt-in for electronic notice package delivery. You can then maintain a simple spreadsheet of the email addresses and the consent of unit owners.
- Use your condo’s website to have owners provide their consent and email addresses.
If you don’t have a condo website, software such as Concierge Plus is an excellent way to gather and store owner information securely.
- Use a digital solution built specifically for condos.
GetQuorum’s online distribution system allows you to electronically serve notice of meetings to owners.
Our partner, GetQuorum, offers all that you need to gather required opt-ins, serve notice and collect electronic votes. Beyond this, they can also assist with passing bylaws, amending declarations and more. They are the pioneers in the space and have assisted with hundreds of AGMs, as well as many other condo and association campaigns.