For homeowners associations, online voting is invaluable for electing officers, but annual elections are only the beginning.
Thousands of homeowners associations across America have already embraced online voting as a means of conducting efficient, transparent, paperless annual elections. Online voting is particularly well-suited to HOAs. In fact, we've managed many such elections ourselves. Still, as valuable as online voting is for annual elections, there are other times during the year when HOAs need to poll their membership in an unofficial capacity — particularly on the subject of financial expenditures. For these occasions, online ballots streamline the polling process so officials can make timely informed decisions.
A Windfall Endowment to the HOA: Good Luck, or Good Grief?
A few years ago, a widow who was a popular resident of an affluent neighborhood passed away, leaving no next of kin. In her last will and testament, she bequeathed a large portion of her estate to her neighborhood association, with no earmarks or instructions for how the funds were to be spent. The association's bylaws made no provisions for distributing windfall endowments, and granted control over the association's budget to the board of directors and finance committee.
So the endowment became a topic of heated debate at a series of HOA meetings, with residents making their cases for various improvement projects they wished to see adopted by the board. Of the proposed projects, the three that had the most support were the renovation of the neighborhood playground, the resurfacing and expansion of the community's tennis courts, and the creation of a memorial botanical garden dedicated to the deceased benefactor.
How Online Polling Brought a Solution to Light
Under the homeowners association bylaws, the board and finance committee were empowered to allocate the funds as they saw fit. However, given the large sum of money involved, and the strong opinions presented at their meetings, the board opted to poll the entire membership to get a definitive answer as to how the residents would prefer to see the money invested.
The board circulated an online ballot that enabled each member of the HOA to show how he or she wished to distribute the endowment. Using a simple graphic interface (similar to the one we introduced last week for vote distribution by elected delegates), members shared their opinions for how to spend the endowment. Each member could allocate anywhere from 0 – 100% of the grant to each project, provided the total distribution across all projects did not exceed 100%. Any portion not allocated to one of the projects would presumably go to the association's general fund.
Upon tallying the results, the HOA board learned that, while supporters of the playground project were particularly vocal during association meetings, they were decidedly in the minority. The majority of residents favored designating a large portion of the endowment to the expansion of the tennis courts. The poll was non-binding, and the board and finance committee still had final say over expenditures. After studying the results and considering the strong arguments on all sides, the board ultimately voted to allocate 65% of the endowment to expand the tennis courts, 20% to refurbish the playground, 5% to set up a small memorial garden, and 10% to bolster the general operating fund.
Majority Opinion Guides Decision-Making
In this particular scenario, an online poll helped bring to light the prevailing opinion of the silent majority. Depending on the size of an HOA and the attendance trends at association meetings, a popular vote—even an unofficial one—could be the only accurate way to measure public opinion. It's the main reason we offer “unlimited” voting and polling via our annual subscription plan option. We encourage our subscription clients to take full advantage of the service and hold several votes a year.