Content provided by Adam Marshall of Black, Slaughter & Black, P.A. Original article can be found here.
Association Boards are not typically groups that like to overshare. They often can take a “need to know” approach to communicating with association membership. However in this brave new world we are facing with Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) sharing what actions the Board is taking, or not taking, with regard to the virus is going to be of vital importance to maintaining a well informed and healthy membership.
Typically when associations discuss communication, they are referring to those notices required to be provided by governing documents or state statute, such as notices required for annual meetings, collection of assessments, imposing fines for violations, etc. However, what about general communications to the membership regarding community news and updates? Many associations have websites, Facebook pages, email-blasts, and/or newsletters. During the COVID-19 crisis we are all clamoring for information. It may be helpful for the Board to begin to develop some best practices when it comes to keeping their membership updated as to how they are addressing the crisis.
We recommend keeping the association’s web presence current and regularly updated. If your association doesn’t have a website, they can often be developed at a very low cost. Information on the virus is changing rapidly and therefore Boards are likely changing their approach quickly as well. It is important to keep the association’s web presence current as decisions are made. For example if the Board decides that they are going to close the common area or some portion thereof, or if the association is going to cancel or postpone a meeting, this information should be communicated quickly to the membership. Keeping the association’s web presence current is likely the most efficient and effective method for communicating current association policies and procedures.
What about signage? If the Board has decided to close a portion of the common area, we would certainly suggest posting appropriate signage in these areas. This can be particularly important for places where association members regularly congregate such as a playground, pool, or community gym. Newsletters can also be helpful, although it is unlikely that they can be circulated with enough frequency to keep up with the fluidity of Board decisions regarding the virus. Newsletters serve as a good platform for highlighting a summary of actions taken to date.
Social media, such as Facebook may be the quickest way to communicate policy, however it may not reach every member. Most social media platforms require you to “follow” or “like” a page in order to receive information. Social media communication will be limited to those members who chose to engage with the association.
Most Board members are not health professionals and are certainly not giving medical advice, so we would recommend pointing members, in whatever form of communication the association uses, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. State and Local governments are also on the front lines in developing COVID-19 response policy and have web presences that can be referenced and communicated to your members. Lastly, many of the associations we work with are familiar with North Carolina’s chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI). They have compiled several helpful and informative links to assist with handling this pandemic.
None of this is to say that the Board must keep up with the news cycle or be the primary source of information regarding the virus. However, as we have been flooded with calls and emails regarding how associations should handle various matters related to the COVID-19 virus, we imagine that Board members have as well. Taking a proactive approach to communicating with the membership will accomplish a few things. First it will let the membership know that the Board is taking this virus seriously; second, it will give the membership confidence that the Board is looking out for the best interest of the association including the health of its members; and third, it will hopefully address many membership questions prior to those questions being sent to the Board members directly.