Six Important Things You Need to Know as a New Board Member
The board of directors is usually made up of owners with a vested interest in their community; they usually want to do what is best for their community. Many times new board members who are in this position for the first time, are unsure of what to do.
That’s why FirstService Residential is here for you! Follow our board member basics and the rest will fall into place.
1. What is your role as a board member?
If you understand your role, you will be better-equipped to carry out your duties. As a board member, your responsibilities are to look after the best interests of all the homeowners, help maintain the investment value of the homes in the community and enhance the residents’ quality of life. There is no room for personal agendas on a condo board.
In addition to their roles as stewards of the community, there are specific roles for different members of the board.
The president leads and manages the board. This person should understand the bylaws, policies and other documents that govern the condominium. The ability to oversee the business of the corporation democratically is key. The president sets the agenda for, and chairs each meeting.
Next, there’s the vice-president who supports the president and shares areas of responsibility with him or her. When the president is absent, the vice-president assumes that role. The vice-president helps to move the business of the community forward and is also a knowledge-leader regarding the corporation’s documents.
The secretary’s duty is to keep records, or minutes, of the business of the condominium and maintain the files for historical reference. Many of these documents need to be available to owners upon request.
The final required position on the board is that of treasurer. The treasurer focuses on the financial stability of the community, reviewing monthly statements and reporting to the board. Acting as the financial voice of the board the treasurer works with accountants, auditors and helps prepare the budget.
Other board positions can include things such as landscaping, newsletter, architectural controls, or simply member-at-large who fills in where needed.
Whatever your specific role is, follow these guidelines and you’ll be a successful board member:
- Always remember you are part of a team. No single board member has more authority than another.
- Diligently adhere to the procedures, policies and rules and regulations of the corporation; they must be followed at all times.
- Decision-making must be based on facts, not assumptions or emotion.
- Be accountable – and make sure your fellow board members are too.
2. Do your homework.
As a new board member, you also need to be familiar with the documents that govern your condominium. The first important document is the bylaws of the corporation. The bylaws lay out the responsibilities of the corporation and the rights and obligations of the owners. They also detail election procedures, how meetings are to be conducted, board duties, use and occupancy restrictions and much more related to the operation of the association.
What are the policies and rules and regulations of the board? Review past minutes to get a sense of the history of the board and the community. The condominium plan, monthly financials, reserve fund study and plan and Condominium Property Act of Alberta are also documents to which you may need to refer.
3. Make the most of meetings.
Boards meet to get things done. However, if a meeting is run poorly, it will create more problems than it solves. There is an art to conducting effective meetings, and it is a skill that can be developed.
The first step is to designate a meeting chair. In a condo board meeting, it is usually the president, or in his/her absence, the vice-president. The chair creates and distributes the agenda and leads the meeting. It is the chair’s job to keep the discussion on track, not straying from the agenda. All board members should take personal responsibility for keeping the meeting moving forward. They should keep their comments succinct and prepare by reading the agenda before the meeting and collecting any material they may need to contribute.
While most bylaws allow boards to run meetings as they see fit, they are often conducted according to parliamentary procedures. For example, after discussion a member makes a “motion” to initiate an action. The chair should repeat the motion to ensure it is clear to all. The board has a simple majority vote to decide if the motion is carried or not. Minutes should be kept of every meeting. To conclude the meeting, the chair should summarize the discussion and confirm actions and next steps.
Finally, board members must protect the confidentiality of the owners they represent. Topics discussed at meetings can contain sensitive personal details. They should not be discussed with others outside the meeting. The board should, however, be open and communicate information to the owners on a regular basis. It is also important to be clear from the start that disruptive behaviour at board meetings will not be tolerated. Ideally the entire board will make a commitment to operate as a professional, respectful entity.
4. A good property management company can help.
Make the most of the resources your property manager offers. A good management company supports the board as they carry out their volunteer duties. In addition to providing customer service and support, the manager takes the decisions of the board and turns them into actions. Further, the manager enforces the corporation’s policies and delivers communication to the homeowners and residents. A professional property management company prepares financial reports, assists with budgeting, maintains records and connects the board to approved vendors that provide expertise and value to the condominium.
5. Be a part of the change in your community.
As a board member, you may want to encourage a volunteer culture within your community. This comradery can go a long way toward forming the relationships that bring neighbours together. Seek out great volunteers. Appreciate and nurture them, helping them become community leaders.
Committees are a great way to achieve this goal. There are two main types of committees: standing committees, which are permanent, and special committees, formed on a temporary purpose to fulfill a specific purpose. Both types of committees report their findings to the board in writing. If your community engages the services of a professional property management company, your manager will be able to guide you as you set up and operate committees.
6. How you present yourself is important too.
As a condo board member you will face challenges, but if you abide by some basic principles you will encourage an environment that is open and collaborative. Never do anything that will compromise your integrity. Face conflict and challenge with a calm response. Consider the needs of the entire community as you go through the decision-making process; your needs can never come before this. Make decisions that are based on thoughtful consideration. Stay away from “back-room” deals and operate in a transparent manner. Most importantly, listen and demonstrate a willingness to work collaboratively with others.
There is much more that could be said on the topic of board membership, but this list should help you get off to a good start. You will learn much from the experienced members on your board – they will have a wealth of information and before you know it, you’ll be one of the experts. A trusted property management company is a great resource as well. Your manager will work with you and your fellow board members to help you do the best you can for your community. Contact FirstService Residential, Alberta’s leading condominium management company for more information.