Last post, we covered how to build up your nascent Condo Association Resistance Movement to help undo damage a Board has done. Today we’ll discuss how you use the Movement to figure out what victory looks like and achieve it.
Figure Out What you Want
Now that you have your team and you’re educated on the issue, it’s time to define what success is and if it’s achievable. If a popular amenity was shuttered – let’s say a decision was made to halve the size of the gym to make room for an underwater basket weaving room – a resolution is both realistic and feasible. The effort may not have started yet, but even if it has been, it can be undone. Tougher things to fix involve personnel or people. If the Board fires a popular staff member, that staff member may not WANT to come back, despite the popular support. You really need to make sure you’re fighting for something where there’s a clear victory. This is again where many things fall apart – some decisions can’t be undone. For this stage, you need to figure out what you want and what’s feasible. I recommend you bring your Condo Association Resistance Movement together to figure out what’s going to get people to happy. You also need to select people who will represent your group. You don’t want to be a mob, you want to be a Resistance Movement. A movement has leaders. A mob just yells and burns stuff. Figure out who is going to represent your needs to the Board. Then you need to engage with the Board in a polite and constructive manner. As before, I recommend you reach out in a polite manner and inform the Board you intend to speak with them at the next Board meeting. If appropriate, I would give them a broad outline of your concerns and desired outcomes.
Now it becomes a battle of wills. The goal is to have positive, productive engagement at the Board meeting. You need to come in ready with what you want – but also have fallback options. I’ll let you look elsewhere for persuasion tips – here’s a great list though. Here’s the best secret for negotiating in your Association, and where your Condo Association Resistance Movement comes in: There’s a decent chance that at least one of your Movement will have a friendly relationship with a Board member. Try to gather some intelligence as to where the Board’s at – was it a unanimous decision, or a 3-2 decision? Try to find out what’s really bothering the Board and then work that into your negotiating.
What’s important throughout this process, though, is you need to be polite and bring data. Try to establish from the start if the Board is willing to walk back or meet in the middle. If the Board tries to be dismissive around cost – like the cost of an amenity – you need to make it clear that you represent Owners who strongly believe the cost should be borne. For example, if the Board tries to counter that “you’re only 5% of the population – we’re making a decision for 95%” – point out that amenities aren’t built for majority use (if you have a pool, for example, I doubt you see more than 5%) – they’re meant to add community value and be well-utilized. Your group represents one that is well-utilizing an amenity. If they push further, ask them where the people who strongly support the Board are (chances are, there won’t be a counter protest movement there that night).
While I am using some tactical examples, the key is to focus strategically. Stay focused on the prize and getting there. Don’t be surprised if the Board tries to wait you out or dismiss you. That’s a common tactic of Boards – because it works. So now get ready for the final phase.
Going for the Long Haul
If you’re dismissed – and you likely will be at first – now it’s the true test of what separates “mobs” from “movements.” You need to settle in for the long haul and sustain pressure on the Board. This is the hardest part – but it’s also the part Boards are least prepared for. Most Boards expect anger and rage for 1-2 meetings, then nothing. Your goal is to sustain pressure beyond that. Your group needs to keep showing up – keep emailing politely – making it clear this is a priority. Bring up the same issues over and over again. STAY ENGAGED. Do not surrender. As I said, this is a battle of wills. Your Condo Association Resistance Movement only needs to sway a majority of the Board. Keep showing them you care. Boards get disturbed when a large group of people keeps showing up. The good ones – and even the dense ones – start to realize that maybe they need to reconsider and represent the people who elected them.
And if they don’t, you’ve already built up a huge momentum for the next election. You’ve already got a listserv of people who care. If you want to fight for change, now you’ve solved a problem many people complain about – “I can’t get elected to the Board.” Guess what – your campaign network has already been assembled AND you have a starting issue to platform on. If you care about your community, this becomes a no-brainer. After you win, you can come back here and click the “Tips for Board Members” section (link) to get started.
Keep Up the Momentum
After you win – whether it’s on the issue or a Board seat (or two) – rally people who want to be involved and keep them involved. Join committees. Focus on good Owner habits. After you’ve invested so much energy, it’s much easier to keep things going than starting from scratch. While this experience may have been grueling, it also just catapulted you into the top 5% of Condo Owners in terms of knowledge and involvement. Don’t let it go to waste. Fight apathy through your Condo Association Resistance Movement and start building a Better Condo Life.