Beyond Board 101: Five Topics HOA Members Should Know

Posted on Friday February 23, 2018

Did you know that your level of knowledge as an association board member can have a direct impact on your community’s property values? By arming yourself with the latest technical, practical and emotional knowledge to excel at your role, you can help make well-informed decisions for your community, which ultimately improves the resident experience. A happier resident experience can amplify your community’s reputation in the marketplace, resulting in higher demand and property values.

This level of association knowledge doesn’t happen overnight. Look to your community manager and management company for support. An experienced HOA management company will provide you and your community manager with local in-house training and resources that are tailored to your community and in line with feedback they receive from clients. This method of developing training helps address common association needs. Some examples of these resources include in-person training, e-learning programs, educational articles and access to industry experts.

So what does it take to excel as a board member and make a positive impact on your community and property values? Here are the five areas of education that association members should prioritize.

1.    Dive into your role and responsibilities
If you’re a board member for a high-rise association in San Francisco or a master-planned community in Santa Clarita, you’ve probably taken a basic orientation class. But that doesn’t mean your knowledge about your role and responsibilities should there. A board member that knows the ins and outs of their role is a valuable force in their community. By understanding the standards and laws that apply to your role, you’ll have the confidence and knowledge to run more effective meetings and make decisions that are in the best interest of your community. Further, this knowledge can help protect you as a board member. Jillian Fiske, FirstService Residential community manager of the SF Shipyard said, “As long as you engage experts, stay up to date on your education and act in unison with your fellow board members following a decision, you will not be held personally liable should a board decision not go as planned.” Whether you are the board treasurer, secretary or president, knowing what you should and should not do makes a world of difference.

2.    Stay up to date with HOA legislation and regulation
Association legal issues can become a major headache if you aren’t familiar with basic HOA laws and regulations. Before you go anywhere else, make sure you first reach out to your association’s general counsel for advice. While you can never replace general counsel, your community management company may also provide your board with helpful resources and knowledgeable professionals to help you better understand association laws. The best community management companies employ associates who have the specialized knowledge needed to educate community managers and board members on the latest legislation. At FirstService Residential, Kelly Lee, vice president of legal and risk management for the West region works with a team to oversee training and provide education to board members and community managers in California. She said, “The legal team at FirstService Residential stays current with California legislation and the ensuing operational changes that may affect associations.”

3.    Become more adept at technology
Technology is not the same as it was five years ago. And the same changes that you’ve experienced in your smartphone and personal computer apply to your association. If you’re not staying up to date on the latest HOA software and communication tools, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace. That’s why board members and community managers need to learn how to use the latest digital tools and technologies within their community. The best community management companies will provide their clients with up-to-date, in-house software designed to work with association applications along with complementary seminars and robust IT support. In addition, board members and community managers need to be aware of increasing cyber threats and take measures to protect their association’s personal data. To learn more, read our article on cyber security and white paper.

4.    Increase your financial IQ
As a volunteer board member, you generally don’t need to have an exhaustive understanding of your association financials, but it helps to be familiar with them so you can be more effective in your duties. Your community management company should provide in-person, interactive training courses so that you can get an in-depth understanding of financial and budget-related topics that pertain to your association. FirstService Residential offers a number of informative resources, financial experts and practical courses on topics like Budgeting and Financial Planning 101 and Understanding Your Reserve Fund.

5.    Learn how to communicate more effectively
Lastly, in order to be an effective board member or community manager, you should resolve to develop strong communication skills. Having meaningful and positive relationships with residents and fellow board members is key to helping your association thrive. Association communication can be challenging at times, and board members can improve their “emotional IQ” by taking courses or workshops taught by experts who specialize in communication and conflict resolution. The best community management companies will employ industry experts who can facilitate these classes. Supplemental opportunities like DiSC training are also great opportunities for board members to learn more about themselves and their communication style. At the end of the day, developing strong communication skills will make a positive impression on your community and can help you boost your association’s reputation.

Without a doubt, successful and thriving associations are home to board members who prioritize education and training throughout their tenure. A knowledgeable board member can make better decisions and build stronger relationships that help enhance their community’s reputation, which can improve property values. Your association’s success also relies on the continued growth of your community manager through ongoing education and leadership opportunities. A community management company should offer helpful and convenient training opportunities to aid in this growth.

FirstService Residential provides board members and community managers with convenient training sessions, a network of industry experts and multiple resources that incorporate feedback from ongoing surveys such as NPS. These resources include in-person training seminars and roundtables, in-depth e-learning opportunities through the proprietary online platform, BoardAdvantage along with educational articles, comprehensive white papers and digital resources.

To learn more about board member and community manager education, contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading community management company.

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