A Lesson In Getting Organized

Someone I know recently took over a housing community board by getting organized against the old board and running an effective campaign. The strategies used to do this can apply in many areas of life. Here’s how they told me they did it.

*Know What You Want To Accomplish*
The old board was being run by 5 residents of the community and they had contracted with a management company that wasn’t doing an effective job. On top of ineffective management, the board was illegally charging landlords an extra fee for being non-residents. This was strike one for this person and was the whole reason that a group of people decided that the board needed to be replaced. This single goal united 3 people to run for the board.

*Make Sure You Are In The Right*
In cases of legal judgement, it is best to get a lawyer’s advice. The more specific the lawyer’s experience, the better. In this case, one of the landlords was a lawyer and confirmed that the fees were illegal and even sent letters to the board requesting that they discontinue the fee and refund the landlords in the form of a credit on their association dues. When the board ignored the letters, this was further cause for action. Strike two.

*Plan Your Campaign*
Now that there was no choice but to take over the board to effect change, the leader of the 3 did some research on past elections to the board and found that the largest vote count for any one member was around 90 votes. Each resident gets 5 votes, so each of the 3 needed to get around 20 people to vote for them and they would pretty much be guaranteed a seat on the board.

*Know Your Audience*
The people that were being affected by the extra fee were non-residents, so the 3 needed a strategy to communicate with them and explain what needed to be done. The 3 printed up fliers about the problem and mailed them to all of the landlords of the units in the community. They also went around to each of the units and knocked on doors telling people about the problem and to come and vote on the day of the election.

*Stand Your Ground*
On the night of the election, the ballot box was filled with a large percentage of the votes going to the 3 wanting to take over the board. The old board members had set a deadline of 6pm for all of the ballots to be in. They decided to change their minds and open the ballots to anyone who was at the meeting. The old board members went around the community and asked people to vote on the issue. This nearly doubled the amount of votes cast in the election. The 3 were still confident that they would be able to get a majority on the board. Strike three for the old board.

*Move Quickly*
Once all of the ballots were counted, the results were read and the winners announced. The 3 were on the top of the vote count and each got a seat. One of the old board members and a newcomer got the other two seats. Immediately, the management company, seeing the writing on the wall, resigned. The new board members immediately put the extra fees to a vote and the fees were immediately reversed and all past payments were credited back on the association fees.

*Plan Ahead*
Knowing that they would win, the leader of the 3 had already gotten bids several weeks before from several management companies to replace the one that had just left. In my state, you’re required to have a new management company within 30 days. Having these bids in place would speed up the process and allow the board more decision time to choose the best management company.

*Don’t Burn Bridges*
The 2 board members left on the board were upset that they no longer had a majority and couldn’t make decisions the way that they wanted anymore. Being gracious, the 3 board members included them in the process of managing the community, but made it clear that any illegal activity would not be tolerated and that they would need to decide on issues as a board. The 3 knew that it was important not to alienate the community and make sure to listen to their concerns and manage fairly.

So the lessons I took away from this are that in order to get something done, you need to have a clear goal, a flexible plan for getting there, research to back up your claims, and organization to pull it all together. Once you’ve gotten what you want, it’s important to make sure that you make good on your stated goals quickly and work with the former group to keep things running smoothly in the future.

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