It’s the beginning of another meeting in your building and even though signs were posted throughout the lobby and on bulletin boards, the crowd is sparse. To make matters worse, the few owners or shareholders who are in attendance have only shown up to complain that they’re unaware of and disagree with recent board decisions.
This situation isn’t uncommon. In fact, a lack of shareholder participation is one of the growing problems within co-op and condo communities. Hectic lifestyles and multiple responsibilities can often place participation in the community at the bottom of a long list of priorities. This can be especially true if there appears to be little reason to get involved in the first place. Shareholders who feel that they’re only part of "someone else’s" building, are less likely to feel compelled to take an active role. To create a sense of community, boards must keep residents informed about ongoing projects and decisions and must create opportunities for involvement. You can enlist the support and contribution of building residents through committees and activities.
The Need for Involvement
Getting members to take a proactive role in their co-op or condo improves the lines of communication and also may decrease the number of angry residents who show up at annual board meetings. According to Jeff Levy, vice president of management of Argo Management in Manhattan, which manages about 10,000 units in Manhattan and Queens, "You tend to see less people at the meetings when everyone is happy. But when there are problems in the building, people will show up to let you know. Maintaining enthusiasm is certainly one of the more difficult areas to deal with." Communication can put a quick end to hostility that may occur between shareholders and board members.
Of course, improving communication in a co-op or condo setting is easier said than done. It takes willingness on the part of the board, and an interest on the part of residents. Starting a newsletter is a common way to keep residents and shareholders informed about what’s going on in their building. Newsletters offer the advantage of providing shareholders with information they can review at their leisure. While not everyone has time to attend a meeting, a newsletter can be read when time permits–during a morning commute to work or after dinner, for example. Levy says to keep in mind that communication attempts such as newsletters should be from the board, not just the managing agent of the building.