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By Paul Keily | Sponsored by Cardinal Management
Community associations such as those managed by Cardinal Management rely on volunteers to function and provide services to residents. Ashley Gonzalez, Portfolio Manager at Cardinal Management Group, said, “Responsibilities will vary depending upon the position for which someone volunteers. Board of Director positions require the most work and time commitment as they are responsible for overseeing the operation of the community and have a fiduciary duty to ensure proper budgeting, monitoring and reviewing the financials and working closely with management to ensure covenants are being enforced and much more. Committee positions typically require less of a time commitment and responsibilities can range from planning social events, communications to the community or reviewing and approving exterior modifications.”
Volunteers are often found through community and networking events. Sending out calls for volunteers in association communications or directly approaching community members are great places to start when looking for volunteers. Gonzalez said, “Another great way [to find volunteers]is when a member attends a board meeting, this is a great opportunity to let them know what vacancies exist on the Board or on the committees and inquire if they may have an area of specialty or interest that could help support the community.”
Challenges to Finding and Retaining Volunteers
Lack of time, fear of conflict with neighbors, and lack of awareness are common obstacles when seeking volunteers. To confront these challenges, Gonzalez offered several suggestions. “By increasing awareness about the importance and benefits and encouraging members to volunteer. Regular communication about opportunities and information sessions can help educate owners on how their involvement positively impacts the community. It’s also important to recognize that time constraints are an obstacle, so exploring options for dividing responsibilities can empower members to volunteer without feeling overwhelmed with long-term commitments.”
Retaining volunteers presents its own unique challenges. Gonzalez said, “Lack of recognition and communication along with burnout is a big challenge for Association volunteers. Volunteers get quickly discouraged when they do a lot of work and make suggestions for areas of improvement which are immediately shot down by a board. The lack of volunteers also leads to less hands doing a lot of work.”
Gonzalez noted the following ways to help retain volunteers: “Volunteers should have their contributions recognized publicly, this can look like certificates presented at Annual Meetings, mentions in community newsletters or hosting an appreciation event. Regular communication with the Board of Directors and membership should take place often, for instance we can set aside time on meeting agendas for Committees to provide reports to the community. Additionally, boards are encouraged to be responsive to their committees, listen with open minds and mindfully adopt their recommendations or reach compromises. Volunteers should be given clear outlines (committee charters) that establish proper tasks and responsibilities and ways those can be rotated if needed.”
When asked about ways Cardinal Management has been successful with volunteer recruitment, Gonzalez said, “Personalized outreach, clear communication of impact and recognition are a few successful approaches Associations have taken. When management and the Board of Directors actively engage with volunteers meaningful relationships and connections are formed. Volunteers want to know that their time and energy have a positive outcome so sharing their success stories demonstrates the power of their contributions.”
Creating a positive community and culture will help associations find and maintain a robust volunteer network. Gonzalez said, “Volunteers are the backbone of Community Associations. They should be valued every step of the way. A culture of appreciation should be the standard. Continuously promote your community, the benefits of serving as a volunteer and the personal joys and victories that come from it. All too often community association volunteerism is spoken about in a negative light which does not foster a positive and welcoming culture. At Cardinal Management Group, we embrace our community volunteers by making them a part of the discussion and solution. We welcome their help and support and offer training and education to make their volunteer experience as impactful and rewarding as possible.”
Paul Keily is a regular contributing writer for Prince WIlliam Living.