Greater Syracuse Tenants Network
HOW TO KEEP YOUR TENANT ASSOCIATION GOING STRONG
A Tenant Association can be a very effective method for dealing with building problems. However, some tenant associations have internal, structural problems that make effecting change in the building difficult. Some of the problems we've heard expressed most often are listed here with some ideas for your tenant association to consider.
1) Nobody knows what's going on. This means there's a communication problem. Members need to be informed of the goings on, or they will lose interest. This is done in several ways.
* Keep good minutes of meetings and distribute a copy to each member, preferably before the next meeting. Good minutes are brief, but cover the major items, decisions and commitments made.
* Written and/or verbal announcements of meetings need to be made in enough time (generally 5-7 days before, the meeting) for members to be aware of the meeting. The announcements should highlight the agenda. Remember, the personal touch works best.
* Set up a community bulletin board, a place where announcements of meetings and other happenings can be posted and inform member to check the board. Often times, the communication gap is the main reason for floundering attendance at meetings.
2) Members don't attend meetings. First off, some people don't or won't go to meetings. Don't try to force them to attend. It's best to involve them in the area they are most interested. To identify members' interests, talk to them individually in the building or consider doing a survey identifying interest areas and the level of commitment.
Those members who have stopped coming to meeting usually do so because of (1) above or the meeting are poorly organized. Good meetings are brief (around an hour) and have an agenda established. A typical agenda follows:
* Meeting called to order
* Correction and adoption of past minutes
* Committee and treasurer's reports
* Old Business: New Business
* Review of commitments made at the meeting
* Setting the next meeting
The meetings give members an opportunity to voice their concerns, priorities and develop a strategy to deal with those getting attention and check on problems of the past or current strategies undertaken to see how they are doing. Because of the brevity of the meeting, there is also a time afterwards for members to socialize.
Remember, a good tenant association is not measured by the number of people attending a meeting, but rather by the commitment and number of people involved in issues and projects.
3) We can't get members to volunteer to do anything, and when they do, they don't do a good job. Members who voice concerns, but aren't willing to help, can't really be that concerned. When a problem does arise, involve those people who voice the problem. Help them get started if they are hesitant. Most people don't get involved because of fear - they don't know what to do. When someone else takes leadership, they are more willing to help. By including members initially this way, you are building confidence.
If the job's done poorly, it's usually because the members of the committee weren't sure what to do and how to do it. That, again, is where leadership is involved. Make people accountable. Give them specific duties and deadlines. Also, have someone volunteer who has some leadership to check up on the committee to see how things are going.
4) New people don't get involved. Some Associations seem unable to attract new people. If this is the case, don't let this prevent you from moving forward. What you have is enough.
Recruiting new members will come particularly if your club resolves some building problems or is seen otherwise as a viable organization. The best recruitment technique is doing a good job. If the association is working, members will be excited and talk with neighbors, and that should get people involved. Also, by maintaining good communication (see #1), tenants will see the association is active.
5) The meetings are disorganized. Members and outsiders judge an association often by what happens at meetings. It is important to prepare an agenda before (see #2) the meeting and keep to it. Brief meetings are always appreciated by those with other commitments, and it affords those who would like to meet other tenants an opportunity to talk afterwards without being drowsy from a long meeting.
To ensure that an agenda is prepared, some tenants associations have the officers meet a week prior to the regular meeting to draw one up. This spreads the responsibility around.
The major weakness of some tenant associations is that they expect too much from their meetings. The real work of a tenant association happens between the monthly meetings. Meetings are merely a forum to determine members' concerns, what to act on first, and what has happened up till now. The committees' and individual commitments must be realized, or the meeting will make little headway. The leaders should check a week before the meeting how those members or committee members are coming along with their commitments/ responsibilities.
6) Our leaders are burning out. This happens when the leaders don't delegate responsibility. A good tenant association needs good leaders, but it also needs active members. If an activity or problem arises where there is interest but no willingness to help organize or resolve it, then the leader(s) should not try to do it themselves.
Drawing members into areas of responsibility is an important skill to develop. Begin first by outlining all the things that the leaders are doing. Then, pick out from that list all the things that the leaders really are not required to do. Move to delegate these to other members explaining first the need of their involvement and second that you're coming to them because your confidence in their ability. Remember, a good leader leads, overseeing others who do the individual tasks.
7) Our problems don't stay solved. This happens often, but a tenant association is an ideal organization for recurring problems. Because a tenant association is an on-going group, it can monitor problems. If someone makes a promise and doesn't follow though, the tenant association should re-contact the party.
It is important for members to be ever watchful. If a problem arises again, let your chairperson know so it can be brought up for the next meeting's agenda.
8) We've accomplished everything we started out to do. What do we do next? Only part of the tenant association's purpose is to solve problems. A tenant association also has informational, educational, and social components. Use these to keep members involved with the timely activities. Alternate meetings with any of the following:
* Speakers on subject matters that members have shown concern;
* Social gatherings such a potluck dinner, and seasonal or holiday get-togethers;
* Fund-raising activities for improvement to the building;
* A newsletter telling people what has been happening;
* Fund-raising for charity.
504 East Fayette St, PO Box 6908 Syracuse, NY 13217-6908
315-475-8092 * [email protected]
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