By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
How far we’ve come
Hard to believe that two years ago, without warning, we lost our office manager. She just stopped showing up to work and stopped communicating. Tough way to start my term. At the July 2021 meeting, the Executive Committee was given emergency powers until the September meeting to take care of business.
Once we realized she wasn’t coming back, I called an emergency meeting at the end of July to terminate her employment. I wasn’t sure I’d even get a quorum for a last-minute meeting call on a Saturday. To my surprise, almost every chapter had a delegate show up to vote. And that’s been the way it’s gone ever since. Every decision, every pivot we were forced to make, I had incredible support from our officers and delegates.
We had to forcibly take over our bank account authorizations, change our Secretary of State information, find account numbers and passwords, pay bills, set up board meeting venues and menus, get back in control of our email accounts and Quickbooks, it was a mess. With no employee, the board decided we could operate with independent contractors and close our physical office. Cloud Miller and his dad, Ray, drove out from Ontario to Keizer to help. Dennis Chappa, and Jill Maricich also came to help pack up and clean out the office. Change came fast and furious after that.
Cloud was able to break into the office computer and start closing our accounts, getting the info we needed. He stepped up mightily and took over most of the basic office functions serving our chapters. Then in January 2021, Ben Seamans stepped in to take over many of the office functions. Cloud spent many hours training Ben so he could get back to focusing on ORHA’s technology needs.
I boxed and hauled the paper forms back to my office and began ordering and shipping forms to the chapters for several months until we signed on with a drop-ship printer to handle that part of the business. That had its own set of issues with quality, timeliness of shipping, accuracy of orders, ugh. We stuck with it and eventually got things dialed in but resulted in frustration for our chapters and their members.
Kathleen Ashley of Salem RHA stepped up to check our mailbox in Keizer and forward info to the office and accounting staff and make bank deposits.
We hired a bookkeeper, Lori Black, to handle our finances, and under the leadership of Dennis Chappa, created a functioning Finance Committee that is not chaired by the Treasurer to avoid any appearance of shenanigans. Ben Seamans created a reimbursement form and set up a multi-person expense reimbursement approval process. The office no longer pays directly for reimbursements but requires everyone to pay for reimbursable expenses themselves, then submit a request for reimbursement through a system that requires multiple approvals.
With COVID forcing us for the most part to online meetings, the Executive Committee decided we should meet virtually for our November and January meetings to save money and avoid travel during the fall and winter months for safety reasons. We now only meet in-person four times a year.
With no office rent, no landline phone, no internet, no UPS pickups, or drop-offs to pay for, no employment taxes or reports to file, and reducing in-person meetings to four times per year, our financial position has gradually stabilized and for the first time in a while, we have sufficient reserves.
There is a lot involved in setting up our in-person meetings as I discovered when I had to take the reins for our September 2021 meeting that included the Leadership Dinner. Last year, we were too late to meet where we normally do, which created some hassles reserving another venue. Now, we have settled on two recurring venues for our July and September meetings, so the planning part is reduced.
Unless something dramatic happens, we will always hold our July meeting at the Oregon Gardens Resort in Silverton and our September meeting at the Doubletree in Bend, which is where we host the Leadership Dinner Friday evening before the Board Meeting. This is a chance for officers, presidents, and committee chairs to socialize, have a nice meal and hear updates from the office and the committees. We are heading to southern Oregon each March, and May will continue to be our Far-Flung month where we visit a smaller chapter and hold our Property Management Palooza. We have completed two successful seminars and look forward to more.
November and January we meet online using Teams, and every delegate has the option to participate in any board meeting virtually.
Our meeting agenda is planned by the Executive Committee based on the usual committee reports but including special projects such as the reformulation of our regions, forms store issues, or the needs of specific committees to carve out more time occasionally. We’re stricter about staying on track, if you haven’t submitted an agenda item in advance, it may get tabled if we run out of time. All our meetings are now recorded through Microsoft Teams.
Chair Violet Wilson continues to add classes to ORHA’s portfolio of educational offerings and has done a fantastic job of teaching for the chapters who qualify for mentoring services. Last year we lost one of our chapters, Mid-Columbia, after the President, John Frederick died. Nathan Haworth tried valiantly to keep the chapter going but became overwhelmed with his own business plus taking over John’s and couldn’t do it alone. In late May, we heard from the folks at John L. Scott, Todd Fiebig and Tanya Dean, who wanted to see the chapter come back and agreed to provide leadership. We’ve met a few times and are excited to announce that the chapter is back on board!
Ben Seamans has resigned as secretary for the committee and Joanne Williams with ROADC has volunteered to take over the position – Thank you, Joanne!
The Forms Committee developed new forms, updated existing forms and during that time produced our new 2022-2023 ORHA Forms Manual.
Lance Lesueur reviewed our insurance policies and with his guidance we are properly insured. We were over- and under-insured in some areas. What a great asset he has been to help us understand the inner workings of insurance and make recommendations that are cost effective and protective of our association.
We’ve asked the chapters to pivot to a new electronic membership reporting process and send their membership dues directly to the bookkeeper eliminating the need for mailing paper forms. With the new process Ben created, it takes an average of 8-10 minutes. This year we started enforcing the deadlines in our bylaws, including the charging of late fees if reports are not filed in a timely manner. With these changes, we’ve seen phenomenal results and we no longer have any associations with delinquencies.
Beginning in September of 2021, we brought Social Media Chair Maria Menguita back on board to start producing newsletters again. Then when Ben stepped up to work as our contracted office manager, he was able to take over that function along with many others. We’re back to 11 newsletters per year except for December.
Other Office Functions
Even without an office, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Scheduling meetings, addressing chapter needs, preparing agendas, addressing issues with forms, correspondence, interfacing with vendors, calculating revenue sharing, routing invoices, and responding to ORHA member support tickets.
Ben has done a fantastic job of putting together our agenda and meeting packets, setting up training for individual chapters, responding to inquiries, and keeping track of everything. For years, Cloud had tried to work with staff to bring ORHA into the new technological age. With Ben on board, the two of them have taken us to new heights. Everything we do has been made more efficient and cost-effective. Every new process, every new procedure, provides increased efficiency and the stable foundation we need to move forward in a positive way.
Cloud and Ben convinced the board we should switch from Google to Microsoft Teams for our emails, meetings, videos, webinars, and so much more. They created dedicated emails for each officer and committee chair as well as group committee emails and they continue to update those as positions change.
Each officer, committee and chapter now have their own email address, and the local associations have access to Teams included with membership. This allows for full use of the platform for meetings, videos, and webinars. Training is happening on a regular basis, and we have new training ideas in the works. Our plan is to add a Sunday morning training event at each in-person board meeting to help our chapters maximize the use of technology. We will offer this and other important training for about an hour on Sunday mornings before we head home. For those who can’t stay, virtual participation will always be an option.
We were finally able to distribute profit sharing funds from the ORHA Forms Store and anticipate regular revenue sharing moving forward.
Where do we go from here? In addition to continuing our efforts in education/mentoring, lobbying and legislative work, adding or updating forms as needed in response to new legislation, and quarterly member surveys, we plan to offer:
- Continued improvements to efficiencies across the association.
- Forms packages on the Forms Store that will allow users to enter tenant information once for the rental agreement and auto-populate the addenda you choose.
- New 2024 Law Book.
- New 2024-2025 Forms Manual.
- Providing both manuals in electronic formats.
- Chapter training in Teams.
- Finish second round of bylaws updates.
Back in July of 2021, I was shocked and stressed about the changes, wondering how we could survive much less thrive, but looking back it was the best thing that could have happened. Problems became opportunities and opportunities brought positive change.Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Here’s to continuing to work together to help the rental owners in Oregon keep up with legislative and regulatory changes, use proper legal forms, develop relationships, and advocate for removing barriers to rental housing ownership and management. With your support, I look forward to what the next two years will bring.