Know Before You Go: 10 Tips for Making the Most of GHI’s Annual Membership Meeting (May 9, 2019)

people on sidewalk selective focal photo

If you love policy, process, debate, people-watching, and Robert’s Rules of Order, May 9, 2019 will be the most interesting date on GHI’s calendar.

The Annual Membership Meeting is more than a bylaws requirement — it is perhaps our best opportunity to participate in direct democracy because you vote on matters that determine how our cooperative will be governed.

You also decide who will conduct GHI’s business … and who will provide the necessary oversight. The Annual Meeting is a big deal.

However, there are some aspects of the meeting that might quash your love for all things governance if you aren’t prepared. Here are some “lessons learned” gleaned from members with years of Annual Meeting experience (and great stories).

#1 Read (and discuss!) your Annual Meeting notice.

In the weeks before the meeting, GHI will mail meeting notices that include the meeting agenda, text of motions and petitions on the agenda, and minutes from the 2018 Annual Meeting. Sit down in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage and read everything.

Then fire up your favorite means of communication and start asking questions of and debating the issues with Board members, committee members, family, friends, housemates, and neighbors.

These conversations are CRUCIAL in helping the membership understand and think about the issues before meeting day which encourages spirited and informed debate on meeting day.

#2 Use your proxy.

If you know that no one on your Mutual Ownership Contract (MOC) can attend the Annual Meeting, give your proxy to another GHI member who will attend. That member can register your vote on business matters and elections conducted during the meeting.

Official proxy forms are available at the GHI management office through May 2, 2019 and must be submitted by May 2 (6 p.m.) to GHI management office or by May 4 (5 p.m.) to GHI Board Secretary Ed James (56-D Crescent Road).

Note: Absentee ballots are another way to participate in elections if you cannot attend the Annual Meeting but they do NOT record your vote for/against motions considered during the meeting.

#3 Plan for a 2-3 hour meeting.

Life is a marathon and so are the Annual Meetings. There can be a lot of business to cover and some topics inspire a lot of member comments. Like, a lot. It’s much easier to stay engaged if:

you enjoyed a nice supper (but not too nice so you don’t fall asleep!)

the kids and pets are settled

you have water and a snack in your bag if you missed that nice supper

you are sharing your round-trip walk/ride between home and the community center with your neighbors, friends, and family.

#4 Learn Robert’s Rules of Order.

Okay, you don’t have to learn every rule and GHI hires a parliamentarian to advise on procedure during the meeting. However, you may enjoy the meeting all the more as you watch the Rules come to life. Here’s just one online resource to kick-start your studies:

#5 Pack your Annual Meeting notice.

If possible, bring along the entire sheaf of papers OR scan them into a PDF and save it on the mobile device you will bring to the meeting. Having the documents handy makes it so much easier to follow along as motions are debated and amended.

#6 Dress for comfort.

The Greenbelt Community Center’s gym can feel hot then cold then hot again, so dress in layers.

#7 Know your seating needs.

Metal folding chairs are the only seating option so bring cushions, back support, or your own folding chair. If you do bring your own chair, please make sure that it has protected tips that won’t damage the gym’s wooden floor.

#8 Know your hearing needs.

Sound echoes in the gym but does not always make it to the back of the room. If you have hearing issues, plan to sit up front or near the microphone stand where members line up to speak.

#9 Arrive early.

Although the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., member check-in begins at 7:00 p.m. Just like Election Day, you find the right line and queue up to sign in and receive your voting documents. The volunteers are very efficient and lines move quickly but arriving early gives you time to check in, choose your seat, and visit with your neighbors.

#10 Love thy neighbor.

Long day + long meeting + hard chairs + contentious issues = short tempers.

It can be easy to forget that everyone in the meeting is on the same team but GHI’s success is OUR success.

Come to the meeting and savor the opportunity to listen to, appeal to, and vote alongside people with whom you have nothing else in common except the desire for a strong and sustainable cooperative.


Author: Mo Hamilton

Mo Hamilton joined GHI in 2013 after living in the Washington area for 18 years. She lives in large yard that was sold with a block honeymoon cottage attached. Contact Mo at

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