As a board member or association manager who has a full, rich life outside your HOA duties, you are likely looking for a way to increase the efficiency of your association’s meetings.
Alternatively, maybe you aren’t bothered by the length of your board meetings, but you have a fellow board member who is incredibly passionate about their vision for your community, and you’re hoping to move your association’s meetings forward in a way that’s more equitable and fair to all board members.
Maybe you fall into neither category, but would still like a procedure for ensuring consistent meeting formats and a blue-print for stepping into the meeting facilitator’s role.
Whichever category you fall into, learning and applying Robert’s Rules of Order will help your board meetings, special meetings, and annual membership meetings run more smoothly.
Robert’s Rules of Order is a popular book of parliamentary procedures, which are a set of basic principles all groups can use to streamline their decision-making processes. The Webster’s New World edition of Robert’s Rules of Order emphasizes the importance of following these types of procedures by saying,
Parliamentary procedure enables members to take care of business in an efficient manner and to maintain order while business is conducted … Parliamentary procedure takes up business one item at a time and promotes courtesy, justice, and impartiality. It ensures the rule of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority and absent members. Adhering to parliamentary procedure is democracy in action (4).
While whole books have been written about the intricacies of Roberts Rules of Order, parliamentary procedures generally contain four basic principles:
Someone has to facilitate or direct the discussion and keep order
Often, the democratic principles by which most of us were raised may make some of us reluctant to own the task of creating and maintaining order during meetings.
It can feel foreign to apply rules during a discussion, such as limiting member-to-member talk and instead addressing all statements to the chair. However, electing one individual to maintain order during meetings ensures someone has taken responsibility for creating a space for justice, impartiality, and equality in meetings.
Having a group facilitator also ensures that someone is in charge of making sure the motions made are handled in an efficient manner.
Democratize discussion: everyone is free to raise ideas and participate in the discussion
Sometimes, a board ends up with one or two particularly passionate board members, and the others are not sure how to make their voices heard.
Robert’s Rules of Order is a great mechanism for ensuring everyone is heard equally. Rules, like not allowing members to speak twice about a motion until all members have had the opportunity to speak, ensure that everyone’s right to be heard is taken seriously.
Implementing parliamentary procedures helps protect the HOA board’s overall unity and harmony.
Reach consensus: the members must decide how best to move forward with the problem facing their community
There may be a problem facing your community that has many different solutions. For example, there might be several different ways to cut costs, so you don’t have to raise assessments.
Robert’s Rules of Order provide a mechanism for HOA boards to tackle problems in a hierarchal order, which allows boards to reach resolutions more quickly on complex issues.
Decisions are made by majority vote, but the rights of all members are protected through their right to speak and to vote
Even on the most open-minded boards, sometimes votes don’t go the way you hope they will. When you feel strongly about the proposed change coming to your community, getting out-voted can be challenging.
You may feel, for example, that spending money to increase your community’s landscaping is going to hurt the community long-term by taking more money away from the reserve fund. Adopting parliamentary procedure doesn’t guarantee that more votes will go your way, but it does protect the rights of individuals, minorities, and absent members.
The rules are designed to enforce courtesy among members and enable all ideas to be taken seriously.
While it does not make sense to always implement every rule in Robert’s Rules of Order, taking a few minutes to learn the parliamentary procedures outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order will save you and your fellow board members tons of time and help ensure that the process of governing your HOA remains democratic for all stakeholders.
For more training on board-member-specific problems, check out Boardline. We’ll be releasing more coursework on parliamentary procedures in the coming months, so stay tuned!