A.C. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Can a condo association board use association funds to “gift” residents who volunteer? (i.e. the garden committee did a great job this year so let’s vote to give them a gift card to Max Downtown this Christmas) It doesn’t seem like it would be appropriate for a board to use residents’ condo fees to give “gifts” to other residents. But for some reason I think this may be legal. Would love to know. Thanks!
Mister Condo replies:
A.C., I am not an attorney so I cannot give you a legal opinion. However, I do have very strong feelings on this matter and I can certainly share those with you. From an ethical standpoint, it is a wrong and dangerous practice for any association to use common funds for anything other than common expenses of the association. Associations are run by volunteers. This is true of the volunteers that serve on the Board to the unit owners who volunteer their time to come to the Annual Meeting. Committees are comprised of volunteers. No one should ever be paid or compensated in any way for the volunteer service they provide to their community association. The reward is the work itself and knowing that you have made a positive impact on the community in which you live.
That being said, I do not have a problem with an association sponsoring a party of other event that the entire community is invited to celebrate the work of the community throughout the year. I prefer modest events like pot luck dinners or cookouts over fine dining in one of the area’s more prestigious restaurants but if the event is open to all community members I would feel better about it. I do know of a few condo associations who offer holiday parties for their residents. It is a nice touch and can certainly help build a harmonious community. Harmonious communities tend to be the better places to live with less “neighbor versus neighbor” issues so a party like that can be well worth the investment.
Compensating volunteers with anything more than thanks opens the relationship of the volunteers with their fellow community members to compromise and suspicion. Where do you draw the line on rewards? Board members may give up hours of their time every month to attend to their functions. Will you offer them a reward as well? It is a dangerous precedent to set and would I would avoid like the plague. How about an extra round of applause or praise offered in the next issue of the community newsletter. These are the rewards these volunteers deserve as well as the thanks from their fellow community members. Best wishes!