Six Ways Board Member Training Creates Successful Communities

Posted on Friday December 23, 2016

When board members volunteer, they’re driven by the desire to enhance their communities. But what happens when good intentions don’t pair up with a board members’ level of expertise or education?

“Board members volunteer their time because they want to do what’s right for their community,” said Maurice Talley, corporate trainer for FirstService Residential. “The best thing you can do is harness that enthusiasm and pair it with some real know-how.”

That’s why it’s important for your board to understand the basics like how to run a meeting in addition to the more complex issues such as insurance liability coverage. To that end, here are some ways board members can become more educated and the benefits of doing so.

How to Educate HOA Board Members

1. Start with basic training.

Leading Effective Meetings

Start with the basics. Talley points out, “There’s both a science and an art to executing even the most rudimentary functions of a board, and that begins with holding effective meetings.” To make that happen, Talley and his team offer an educational session called, “Board Member Training 101,” which covers basics such as Robert’s Rules of Order. This is essentially the go-to resource for holding successful meetings, following effective parliamentary procedures and keeping attendees focused on the agenda so the most important matters can be addressed in a way that is both timely and effective. For the uninitiated, Robert’s Rules of Order can seem like a different world, but following these guidelines can have a profound impact on keeping the board on track. This underpinning of successful meetings will provide the foundation for effective governance across a variety of essential board activities.

Preparing a Budget

A primary responsibility of association boards is preparing a budget, which we’ve covered here – including common-sense steps such as thinking long-term, considering the fund balance, monitoring expenditures, handling delinquencies, prioritizing needs and keeping the good of the membership top-of-mind.

Understanding the Essential Documents

Board members should also understand the essential documents that guide the board in its activities– you can find a full explanation here, but broadly speaking, these include the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions), the Articles of Incorporation and the Declaration or Master Deed, to name a few. The names for these documents may vary from state to state. What matters is that every new board member be provided copies of all of them, as well as explanation of anything they find unclear.

Managing Successful Projects

Finally, new board members should become familiar with how to successfully manage a project, whether it’s a small neighborhood upgrade or a major community overhaul. If the board already uses a project management software or online tool, provide access to it, along with basic user instructions.

2. Use a variety of educational media.

Learning how to be an effective board member isn’t about sitting down in a classroom for hours on end – it’s more about different learning experiences. In fact, a diverse set of board members may prefer to learn one way over the other, so it’s best to have variety. Though in-person instruction can be part of the mix, many boards have found that taking advantage of a broad variety of educational opportunities is what’s most effective. That means seminars, guest speakers and online training courses can all work together to create highly effective boards. Additionally, when a community management company has a nationwide presence, board members have the opportunity to use these training sessions and conferences to network with other board members from different markets and bring their insights home.

3. Convey the importance of expert advice.

Board leadership requires attention to a host of important details that affect how the community operates. Utilize and highlight a variety of experts across a breadth of disciplines to help board members fulfill their functions.

“A board must deal with a host of issues, from landscaping to engineering to legal, insurance and much more,” said Melissa Ramsey, vice president of community and lifestyle services for FirstService Residential. “That’s why we try to expose them to experts in these areas. It’s how board members are both informed and inspired, and that helps them make the decisions that result in healthier, happier communities.”

Knowing these details is the product of connecting communities with the right expertise. For example, attorneys can help boards navigate shifting legal environments, engineers will assist with reserve studies and landscapers will lend their special expertise into how to make your property shine from the first glimpse of it.

The Benefits of Educating Your HOA Board

1. Limiting the HOA’s exposure to liability.

Without the right training, board members may expose their communities – and themselves – to risk. Thorough knowledge of the board’s responsibilities, duties and the experts they should rely on will help avoid this potential problem.

“One big example is personal liability,” Talley said. “For instance, without the right insurance coverage, many board members open themselves up to personal risk. However, with the right policies in place, they can protect themselves.”

Further, issues of compliance and the changing legal landscape in most states may require board members to contract with a professional insurance agent. This agent will have a working knowledge of the market and take these specifics into account in order to insure your association correctly. Once the policy is in place, board members should familiarize themselves with all of the coverage so they have an understanding of how the association is protected.

2. Helping your volunteers grow.

Building a happy community is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why it’s important to foster leadership potential among specific community members who wish to become involved. This happens by helping board members identify community volunteers with potential to improve the association, and ultimately offering educational opportunities that will help them develop into leaders who can gradually take on more responsibilities. This continued influx of quality resident-volunteers is what keeps committees strong – and communities healthy.

Your HOA board members are the keystone of a good community. Properly trained leaders will create results that will resonate throughout the association. For more on effective board member training, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.

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