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Subject: HOA Volunteers - do you use them?
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HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:71


09/15/2021 10:32 AM  
How many of you include the work of volunteers in your community?

I'm really torn on this. In the last week, I have had 3 people reach out to me saying that they are interested in helping the HOA. But to create a volunteer committee, and manage the volunteers effectively and properly and make it fun for everyone, would be time consuming. Already, I am 100% tied up (probably over busy) with HOA stuff, and have no time for this coordination. I don't believe we have another board member who would want to become a volunteer coordinator.

I think my preference is not to have volunteers in the community help with HOA stuff, simply because of the extra work that is involved. We're already busy enough. But some people seem to really want to volunteer for the community.

Any thoughts or experiences?
HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:71


09/15/2021 10:45 AM  
I guess I'm saying - I volunteer for the HOA to be President. Since no one is paying me for my time, I'm doing everything I do by choice. When homeowners decide that I need to spend more hours of my personal time to create a volunteer committee, I'm reluctant to agree to it. It's simply more hours of my time to manage and maintain, and I'm exhausted with HOA stuff as is just trying to do a good job of what we have to do to run our organization effectively.

Having a large group of volunteers who can contribute their efforts around the community sounds like a pipe dream in my opinion. I don't have time to manage that.

CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/15/2021 11:02 AM  
Why I Don't Believe in Using Volunteers in HOAs/COAs

* It's unlikely that you will get professional quality work, which includes warranties and other guarantees. IF a professional fails to perform according to the contract, you can bring them back to fix things. A homeowner will almost certainly not provide any kinds of guarantees, and will probably tell the board to go fly a kite if something needs to be re-done.

* Volunteers can walk away from the job whenever they choose, unlike professionals who sign a contract.

* Volunteers are not free. They're usually considered employees even if they're not being paid, which means they need to be covered by workers comp or similar insurance. Many professionals provide their own insurance, and many boards require proof of insurance and licensing when they send jobs out for bid. And you should not use volunteers for jobs that involve exposure to chemicals or use of equipment. (Even with insurance, you should still get signed Release of Liability waivers from volunteers).

* Use of volunteers is not sustainable. Most people don't move into HOAs (and especially COAs) in order to have an unpaid side hustle. Just because you have some eager beavers now does not mean you will have them in the future.

Bottom line: the board is running a business, not providing rewarding opportunities for homeowners with time on their hands.

Anecdote: the current board in my community is big on volunteers, and the community is beginning to look it. In addition, they have an older resident spraying weed killer around (apparently nobody has heard about the Roundup lawsuits) and - worse - shoveling snow in the winter. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen and a perfect example of what not to do. (I raised a ruckus about insurance and have taken other steps to limit my losses if worse comes to worst.)

HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:71


09/15/2021 11:05 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 09/15/2021 11:02 AM
Why I Don't Believe in Using Volunteers in HOAs/COAs

* It's unlikely that you will get professional quality work, which includes warranties and other guarantees. IF a professional fails to perform according to the contract, you can bring them back to fix things. A homeowner will almost certainly not provide any kinds of guarantees, and will probably tell the board to go fly a kite if something needs to be re-done.

* Volunteers can walk away from the job whenever they choose, unlike professionals who sign a contract.

* Volunteers are not free. They're usually considered employees even if they're not being paid, which means they need to be covered by workers comp or similar insurance. Many professionals provide their own insurance, and many boards require proof of insurance and licensing when they send jobs out for bid. And you should not use volunteers for jobs that involve exposure to chemicals or use of equipment. (Even with insurance, you should still get signed Release of Liability waivers from volunteers).

* Use of volunteers is not sustainable. Most people don't move into HOAs (and especially COAs) in order to have an unpaid side hustle. Just because you have some eager beavers now does not mean you will have them in the future.

Bottom line: the board is running a business, not providing rewarding opportunities for homeowners with time on their hands.

Anecdote: the current board in my community is big on volunteers, and the community is beginning to look it. In addition, they have an older resident spraying weed killer around (apparently nobody has heard about the Roundup lawsuits) and - worse - shoveling snow in the winter. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen and a perfect example of what not to do. (I raised a ruckus about insurance and have taken other steps to limit my losses if worse comes to worst.)





I like what you said about the board is running a business, not providing rewarding opportunities for homeowners with time on their hands.

I joined the board to run a business. I didn't join the board to provide rewarding opportunities to homeowners and run a volunteer organization.

Thank you.
ND
(PA)

Posts:632


09/15/2021 11:15 AM  
What HOA stuff do these volunteers want to help with?

You've started many threads that cover just about every aspect of HOA life, membership, and management that I can think of. Most of your threads (this one included) have the common theme that you do the majority of the work, you don't have any more time to give, nobody else helps out, and nobody wants to be a Board Member.

Here you have folks willing to volunteer. Why would you not figure out a way to make that happen? It doesn't need to be a laborious activity that necessitates creating a "volunteer committee" that you then have to personally manage and coordinate. Let the volunteers do all that themselves and come to you with their proposal. The Board can ask questions, amend it, and eventually provide the blessing for them to move out on executing whatever it is they are volunteering to do.

Further, these volunteers would be prime candidates for future Board and/or Officer positions . . . unless you completely turn them away (which sounds to be the current plan) . . . then you'll be in the same position you were before . . . overworked and nobody to share the workload.

All that said, back to my original question . . . what are they volunteering to do? If they want to volunteer for asbestos removal from the clubhouse, that's a hard no. But if they want to volunteer to come up with ideas on how to solve your b-ball court, bike path trailhead issue, then that sounds like a great opportunity.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/15/2021 11:20 AM  
Yes, and you're correct about the work involved in managing a troop of volunteers.

Hopefully some others will wade in, but you have some solid business reasons to hire professionals: quality of the work, reliability, and potential liability issues being the big ones.

I think it's possible to use volunteers successfully under the right circumstances, so I won't say never ever, but so many boards view it as a way to cut costs. I think this falls under "penny wise and pound foolish" - the savings are never as much as you think they'll be, and the costs are more than you'd expect. No free lunch and all that...
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:764


09/15/2021 11:21 AM  
Let me make sure I have this right. You claim to be over worked yet you are quick to turn down offers of help. Makes sense to me.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/15/2021 11:30 AM  
Posted By ND on 09/15/2021 11:15 AM
... snip ...

All that said, back to my original question . . . what are they volunteering to do? If they want to volunteer for asbestos removal from the clubhouse, that's a hard no. But if they want to volunteer to come up with ideas on how to solve your b-ball court, bike path trailhead issue, then that sounds like a great opportunity.



ND makes a good point. So many boards view volunteers as replacements for contractors, and that's where you can get into trouble.

Another area for volunteers could be social activities. We've gotten into discussions/disagreements in the past over whether or not social activities are the proper business of an HOA, especially since many CC&Rs don't mention them. Having a group of homeowners who can handle self-supporting events sounds like a way to have these things without causing complaints from others who don't want to pay for their neighbors' fun. Of course you'd still need to have some oversight - use of amenities, liability issues, etc. - but it's nothing like using volunteers to save money on contractors.
MaxB4


Posts:1351


09/15/2021 11:31 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 09/15/2021 11:02 AM
Why I Don't Believe in Using Volunteers in HOAs/COAs

* It's unlikely that you will get professional quality work, which includes warranties and other guarantees. IF a professional fails to perform according to the contract, you can bring them back to fix things. A homeowner will almost certainly not provide any kinds of guarantees, and will probably tell the board to go fly a kite if something needs to be re-done.

* Volunteers can walk away from the job whenever they choose, unlike professionals who sign a contract.

* Volunteers are not free. They're usually considered employees even if they're not being paid, which means they need to be covered by workers comp or similar insurance. Many professionals provide their own insurance, and many boards require proof of insurance and licensing when they send jobs out for bid. And you should not use volunteers for jobs that involve exposure to chemicals or use of equipment. (Even with insurance, you should still get signed Release of Liability waivers from volunteers).

* Use of volunteers is not sustainable. Most people don't move into HOAs (and especially COAs) in order to have an unpaid side hustle. Just because you have some eager beavers now does not mean you will have them in the future.

Bottom line: the board is running a business, not providing rewarding opportunities for homeowners with time on their hands.

Anecdote: the current board in my community is big on volunteers, and the community is beginning to look it. In addition, they have an older resident spraying weed killer around (apparently nobody has heard about the Roundup lawsuits) and - worse - shoveling snow in the winter. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen and a perfect example of what not to do. (I raised a ruckus about insurance and have taken other steps to limit my losses if worse comes to worst.)




So, if you don't believe in using volunteers, who sits on your Board?
MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:275


09/15/2021 11:58 AM  
Our Association has the following volunteers committees, none of them are run by the Board.

Architectural Review committee
Landscape committee
Welcome committee
Social activities committee No Association budget
Nominating committee
Communication committee
Lights committee
Maintenance committee

Residents sign up for a year at a time.
MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:275


09/15/2021 11:58 AM  
Our Association has the following volunteers committees, none of them are run by the Board.

Architectural Review committee
Landscape committee
Welcome committee
Social activities committee No Association budget
Nominating committee
Communication committee
Lights committee
Maintenance committee

Residents sign up for a year at a time.
MaxB4


Posts:1351


09/15/2021 12:01 PM  
When I was president of an association, the Board and I set up a number of committees, Events, Budget & Finance, Water, Website and Architectural. We have as needed committees such as Parking and Governance.

We had 317 homes and a convent. Annual operating budget was $1M, with reserves at approximately $1.5M. We had about 20-30 residents in those committees, some were even renters. We held monthly meetings and a report from each active committee was given.

Once a meeting was held, the following day, approved minutes and financials were loaded on the website. Important information was emailed blasted to all members as needed.

This was a business and needed to be treated as such. I did most of the work, but I enjoyed it. But all the hard work put in came to a crashing halt at one board meeting with a new board. I moved out three years later.

SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4221


09/15/2021 12:20 PM  
If people want to help out, why stop them? You don't really need a volunteer committee - figure out what areas the board can use help in and establish advisory committees for those issues. Using volunteers is a great way to recruit future board members because they'll have more perspective on community issues and how the board operates.

However, the first thing to remember is that these committees ARE NOT the board and do not substitute for the board making decisions. They can take a deeper dive into certain issues and make recommendations for the board to consider, while the board can focus on more immediate issues. For example, an exterior design standard committee could explore establishing design standards for stuff like fencing styles, so people would know in advance what will be more likely to be approved. The board should also set the framework under which the committee should operate, such as committee members gathering information on various fencing styles and polling homeowners to get their opinions.

I think I've suggested this before, but just in case, you really need some training on best practices for board members and board presidents in particular because you're heading straight into burnout if you don't get a hold of yourself and set priorities. I can see you want to do a good job and I think you have the right attitude, but you can't and shouldn't try to control everything. You may be president but there are other board members and all of you should have a particular area of interest to focus on.

I've always suggesting taking a look at the CAI website that has all sorts of training materials (some of them free) for new and experienced board members on HOA issues, ranging from rules enforcement to the care and feeding of property managers. Why not have a look at invest in some of it. There may also be a local chapter in your area that sponsors in-person training (some of that's slowly coming back as more people get vaccinated). If not, I believe there are on-demand webinars you can take. Good luck!
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1786


09/15/2021 3:35 PM  
For social reasons, absolutely use volunteers and encourage them.

For business reasons or repairs, hire vendors.
MaxB4


Posts:1351


09/15/2021 11:09 PM  
Posted By KellyM3 on 09/15/2021 3:35 PM
For social reasons, absolutely use volunteers and encourage them.

For business reasons or repairs, hire vendors.



I believe the OP was talking about committees, not having owners perform work in the community.
MaxB4


Posts:1351


09/15/2021 11:32 PM  
Henry,

This was your statement, I joined the board to run a business. I didn't join the board to provide rewarding opportunities to homeowners and run a volunteer organization.

Running an HOA is running a business and potentially running a volunteer organization. Every HOA is going to be a little to a lot different. As the CEO, you have to identify what the association needs to do and what can be done by a management company. I am a huge believer in building communities from within. Get people to volunteer to be on a committee. Could I have done it, yes, but then how to get people out of their shells and get to know their neighbor? You never know when you'll need them.

I didn't join a board to stand behind a management company while they were writing violation upon violation on owners. I know board members who thrive on that, and it disgusts me to no end. Board members crying about the statues one has in their front yard. Sorry, life is too short.

IMHO, if you're not on the Board to build a community, step down as president and let someone else try, if anyone is willing. Maybe no one want to be president, so be it.
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:249


09/16/2021 5:03 AM  
Henry,

You've gotten some great feedback here. HOA's were designed to be run by volunteers from the Board down. Very few HOA's have residents knocking on their door to volunteer. Consider yourself fortunate. From your other posts, you seem to be overwhelmed by the demands the other volunteer Board members have placed on you.

Most who approach you many not be volunteering at all. It may seem that way because they are bringing you a concern of theirs. It's probably a good idea, but not one that deserves Board hours to research.

Couple of past issues presented to us come to mind:

- Collecting dog poop DNA to fine the owner.
- No where in their request did they volunteer to do any research on this very complicated request. They where just throwing it at the Board.

- Installing a 1,000 feet, of 6' fencing to separate us from a neighboring development because occasionally people walked through our community.
- Our buildings where failing and all they wanted was a fence. Although people shouldn't be walking through, there wasn't a reason to qualify fencing the area.

We thrive on resident's volunteering. Our City offers Matching Grants driven by volunteer hours. Over the past 5 years we have improved and maintained our community with over $100,000 in funds provided by those City Grants.

Our volunteers pick up trash, tidy up flower beds, repainted the numbers in our parking lot, spread pine needles that the HOA provides, developed wildlife areas while clearing natural areas, spray painted the ugly propane tank that serves our picnic area. An owner sent us a letter saying it was ugly, but didn't offer anything to resolve the issue. It was ugly, and we already had plans to paint it with volunteer hours from a Grant.

Same owner wrote us and complained that there were deer outside her unit (common property) and she wanted the Board to do something about it. Thanked them for their concern, had a chuckle, and moved on.

We don't supervise them. We carry a Worker's Compensation policy to cover volunteer's, which includes Board members. Broke my tailbone a few years ago just walking around the buildings looking for maintenance issues.

I've lived in 3 HOA's over the past 30 years. Two were single-family, and now a 40 year old condo. Even the single-family HOA's had yearly work days and volunteer committees.

Push back on the other Board members demanding so much of your time. Ask those offering to volunteer for a written proposal of their concerns and what THEY will offer the Board. "That's an idea. Put together a proposal that the Board can review". You may never hear from many of them again.

I am not suggesting using volunteers for issues that are best left to insured vendors. Volunteers can change community light bulbs, not replace light fixtures.






Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/16/2021 5:34 AM  
This gets us back to discussions we've had in the past: what is the purpose of the HOA? Is it to maintain the physical property (in which case we're talking about vendors) or is it to create a social environment, or both?

Granted I haven't read gazilions of declarations, but with one exception (a 55+ "active adult" community where social events were part of the stated purpose of the community) none of the documents I read referred to social activities at all. All of them defined the nature of the property (common elements, etc.); maintenance responsibilities; assessments and reserves; insurance; restrictions and enforcement; rules about expanding the property or rebuilding after disaster; etc. It was all legal stuff and financial stuff. The same held true for the bylaws in the communities.

In other words, all HOAs/COAs are organized for business purposes, and some may go beyond that into social purposes as well. Problems arise when boards confuse the two.

I liked Kelly's comment: for social stuff use volunteers and for business stuff use professional vendors. I would add: if consistency and quality of the product are important, use pros. If a hit-or-miss approach is good enough, then you can use volunteers.



BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1026


09/16/2021 5:49 AM  
We use volunteers mostly for cleanup projects at the park. We have had no problems and it has become a great way for neighbors to meet and get involved. Over the years we have had several board members who started out at a volunteer "work day."

If you have that many people willing to volunteer, why not use one of them to coordinate? There is no reason it has to fall on you.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4221


09/16/2021 5:53 AM  
I think it's both, with most of the activity leaning towards maintaining the common areas. Since the success of a HOA depends on the people who live in it, it's great to present opportunities where people can meet and discuss ways to make the community a better place to live, whether that's establishing a neighborhood watch or co-sponsoring a recycling drive that can help reduce trash (especially if you have a lot of dumpsters like in my community). From there, you may be able to find people with the drive and talent to serve on the board someday.

Some people aren't impressed with any of this, of course - they pay their assessments and go on about their business. That would be fine if they would also comply with the CCRs or at least try to be a good neighbor instead of being an asshat. Unfortunately, people don't do that either, and so the CCRs are there to set some standards regarding appearance. That has to be enforced by someone, and although CCRs can be enforced by one neighbor against another, we also know most people prefer someone else to do the donkey work. That also goes for setting association budgets and selecting vendors for landscaping - everyone expects someone else to handle all that while they sit back and relax. Or criticize because that's so much easier than getting off one's butt and doing it themselves.

This is why it's so important for an HOA board to set priorities and to let homeowners know what they are and why. People need to remember the board members are also homeowners and have a life outside the association, so they shouldn't be expected to sit around waiting for someone to call, text or email about some spat with a neighbor to go investigate. If homeowners want a bunch of extra stuff, they need to know this will cost time and money - if they can't or refuse to put up one or the other (preferably both), they need to sit down.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/16/2021 6:03 AM  
Posted By PatJ1 on 09/16/2021 5:03 AM
... snip ...

Our volunteers pick up trash, tidy up flower beds, repainted the numbers in our parking lot, spread pine needles that the HOA provides, developed wildlife areas while clearing natural areas, spray painted the ugly propane tank that serves our picnic area. An owner sent us a letter saying it was ugly, but didn't offer anything to resolve the issue. It was ugly, and we already had plans to paint it with volunteer hours from a Grant.

... snip ...

Volunteers can change community light bulbs, not replace light fixtures.




That's great, but here's the guidance from our attorney:

Don't use volunteers for anything involving chemicals or the possibility of injury on the common elements - you're asking to be sued.

Talk to your insurance agent to make sure *all* of the volunteer activities are covered. This includes personal injury to the volunteer as well as any damage they do.

In addition to the insurance, you should get signed Waiver of Liability forms from each of the volunteers.


You were thinking you didn't need to manage this crew? Ha! Guess again. :-)

The sad thing is that many of the folks with time on their hands are older/retirees, and these folks are the most prone to injury.

It's up to the board to decide if it makes business sense to take on these risks in exchange for tidy flower beds. Bottom line: one insurance claim can wipe out any money you've saved, so consider carefully.
HenryS6
(Arizona)

Posts:71


09/16/2021 7:02 AM  
Thanks all.

I did assign one volunteer task last night to a renter in our community who has been complaining for a while that she wasn't part of the HOA. It's an easy, no liability task. We have some street lights that are HOA owned, and I asked this person to walk around and note the pole number of any street lights that are out or malfunctioning and give to our property manager for repair. It's a mundane task but no one has been doing it so I suspect there are 3 or 4 street lights that are not working properly in our neighborhood. It'll be great to have someone keep an eye on these.

I suppose there are little tasks that this that I can seek volunteer help with that won't add to my workload.
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:249


09/16/2021 10:15 AM  
Posted By HenryS6 on 09/16/2021 7:02 AM
Thanks all.

I did assign one volunteer task last night to a renter in our community who has been complaining for a while that she wasn't part of the HOA. It's an easy, no liability task. We have some street lights that are HOA owned, and I asked this person to walk around and note the pole number of any street lights that are out or malfunctioning and give to our property manager for repair. It's a mundane task but no one has been doing it so I suspect there are 3 or 4 street lights that are not working properly in our neighborhood. It'll be great to have someone keep an eye on these.

I suppose there are little tasks that this that I can seek volunteer help with that won't add to my workload.




Henry,

Volunteers do not have to be owner's. We have renter's who care more than many of the owner's. Welcome their interest in the community. It's all a group effort for everyone!

Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
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