Learn About the Roles of Board Members for Your HOA
Ideally, the board of directors for your association will create and communicate a vision for the community, for its direction and goals. But they have far greater responsibility than only that task. The board must protect the interests of the association, especially financial, maintain common areas and enhance the lifestyle of all residents.
For this to happen, the board must set goals, adhere to governing documents and conduct meetings. Assuring the financial stability and health of the community is critical, as is fostering a sense of cooperation and unity.
The president’s responsibilities include important procedural roles as well as essential leadership functions. For instance, the president may appoint committees if dictated by the bylaws and operates as an authority on the rules and documents governing the association. During meetings, the president maintains order, proposes questions, calls votes, announces outcomes and recognizes those who are about to speak on the floor. The president also calls the meeting to order, announces the agenda and ensures that everyone adheres to it.
Bobby Knuth, senior regional director at FirstService Residential in Tampa, said that “The essential part of getting the right people on your board is to utilize the skills of each person for each position. Look at their skills, history and background,” he said. “If, for example, you have significant renovations planned in the community, it can be helpful to have a board president with a background in architecture, construction or engineering. Their expertise allows them to challenge hired professionals and can make a huge difference in how those renovation projects will go.”
Knuth said that people with experience running businesses of any size can also come to the board with skills that will make it operate more smoothly. “If the president handles the association as a business rather than a social circle, focusing on community goals, more will be accomplished. They understand the need to accomplish tasks, but also be fair and amicable in their dealings,” Knuth explained. “People who see the board and association as their social circle tend to run long meetings that are not efficient and don’t accomplish much. It’s important to keep in mind that many large associations are multi-million dollar businesses, not social clubs.”
The vice president shares many of the responsibilities as the president and serves in the leadership capacity when the president is absent. This individual is tasked with helping to maintain order during parliamentary procedures, keeping the flow of business moving efficiently and acting as a knowledgeable source when it comes to the rules of the association.
Think of the secretary as the association historian. The secretary’s role is to record all of the actions of the board so they can be referenced later. The secretary’s functions eliminate those “Oh, I thought you meant...” scenarios by keeping accurate minutes during meetings. The secretary will also sign the minutes of all meetings and other important community documents.
How the minutes are taken can vary from association to association. Sometimes, an onsite staff member can take the minutes and the secretary can approve and sign them. Sometimes the secretary takes the minutes during the meeting. Regardless of who is doing the job, it’s easy to take the meeting agenda and turn it into the minutes! Bring a laptop or tablet and under each agenda item, write the motion being made and what was discussed. That makes it really easy to get them sent out while the meeting is fresh in everyone’s minds. Remember, the minutes should be a summary of the motions made and actions taken, not a verbatim transcript of the meeting.
It is important that the secretary be detail-oriented and concerned with both accuracy and consistency to ensure that all reviewed and signed minutes are correct.
The effectiveness of your board is dictated largely by the effectiveness of your budget. The treasurer will be the keeper of financial records, ensuring they are both accurate and thorough. The treasurer will apprise the board of the association’s financial health through regular reports of income and expenses and will also produce an annual treasurer’s report to all members. Look to the treasurer to submit financial records in the case of an audit, and to authorize any disbursement of funds. The treasurer is also the primary check signer for community payables.
“The treasurer is one of the most critical roles on an association board,” Knuth asserted. An understanding of accounting practices, specifically accrual accounting, is a great asset to a community association treasurer.
Sometimes, board members get pushed into a treasurer position without the background or experience to be successful in that role. That may lead to confusion and challenges to financial reports from the management company and conflicts between the board and management. It’s very important that the treasurer be someone with the background and experience to interpret a financial statement and convey the information in it with confidence.
While not a member of your board, your manager is an outside party bound to your association by contract. It’s important that your manager comes from a reputable property management company. This means that your manager has the resources necessary, including the knowledge and expertise, to deliver the best service to your community and board. Though the specifics of his or her duties vary by contract, all managers typically execute the policies dictated by the board and administer all of the services, operations and programs of the association. Your manager should also be an important source of information and insight. In fact, many boards become more effective through training provided by an experienced manager.
“The manager’s role can fluctuate, depending on the strength of the board members,” Knuth said. “If board leadership is uncertain or inexperienced, the manager should step in to help run meetings if necessary. The manager must be able to fill any gaps the board may have and complement its strengths.”
On any board, the individuals elected to their roles will bring strengths and talents all their own. “I’ve seen some boards that stick rigidly to titles, and others that function more as a unit in which everyone plays to their specific strengths,” Knuth said.
It’s important to allow those strengths to come to the forefront – your board will benefit from it. Yet understanding the basics of each role will help make sure the essential functions are covered as well.
Still have questions? That’s understandable – no two boards are alike. For more educational information on training and educating your community association board, sign up using the form on this page.