What are the key ingredients of a great community? Combine committed residents, add a dedicated board of directors and blend in a clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities, and you have the recipe for success.
Your community association board should offer a robust vision for the community and its future. Leadership of the board is critical to developing and articulating that vision. But the board’s responsibilities go far beyond that. The board must protect the interests of the association, especially financially, as well as maintain all common areas and enhance the living experience for all of the residents. Goals must be set. Governing documents must be followed. Meetings must be conducted. A sense of cooperation and unity help make all of that happen.
What can happen if you don’t have that sense of cooperation and unity? Nothing good. Boards that aren’t united around a common purpose aren’t able to function effectively, to fulfill their responsibilities to the community, maintaining its financial health and improving resident lifestyles. Having the right people in key roles on the board will help develop that unity and keep your community moving in the right direction.
Eric Love is the senior association manager at Viewpoint Master Condominium Association, an Atlanta high-rise of 377 units. He works with four boards – two master associations and two resident associations. In Love’s 12 years in community association management, he said that the most functional boards, whether at a townhome, lifestyle or high-rise community, are those in which everyone can respect one another and their differing opinions. “The best boards are made up of people who can consider a motion, vote and leave it in the boardroom,” he said. “On the other hand, nothing good happens when board members take every action personally and get upset when things don’t go the way they personally want them to. That’s when things get political and lines are drawn. Board members need to be able to agree to disagree.”
The people who are part of your board are critical to its success. If they understand their roles and responsibilities, they will be more effective and better able to run the community in the best interest of everyone who lives there. A professional property management company will be able to offer education and training to help your board members operate at their peak! Read on for some basics about the most important people on your Georgia community association board.
– 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. As you can see, this takes a unique personality: someone who is conversant in the dynamics of effective meetings as well as knowledgeable about many of the specifics of your community.
“The best presidents are those who are able to see the big picture,” Love asserted. Great presidents are able to keep people from going on tangents during meetings and keep the proceedings on topic. Sometimes being president means needing to bring someone back on point in order to keep the agenda moving during a meeting.
In his experience, Love said that board leaders should be careful about how much time they spend on the day-to-day management of the community. “If the community association manager is spending an hour updating the president every day, that’s an hour that is not being used to accomplish the board’s goals,” he said. “There needs to be trust between the board leadership and the management company.”
– The vice president shares many of the responsibilities as the president and serves in the leadership capacity if the president is absent. This individual helps to maintain order during parliamentary procedures (not letting people make motions outside the procedure, for example), keeps the flow of business moving efficiently and acts as a knowledgeable source when it comes to the rules of the association.
– The secretary’s role is to keep the history of the association and to record all of the actions of the board for later reference. A clear record minimizes confusion down the road. It eliminates “Oh, but I thought you meant….” scenarios.
Attention to detail is important for a secretary but he or she shouldn’t get bogged down in details either, Love warned. “It’s important to keep the minutes simple so they can be followed,” he said.
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, Love has tips to make it easier. “Just take the 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.”
The secretary will also sign the minutes of all meetings and other important community documents.
– The effectiveness of your board is dictated largely by the effectiveness of your budget. This makes the treasurer’s role essential. The treasurer keeps financial records, ensuring they are both accurate and thorough. The treasurer will regularly provide reports of income and expenses to the board and will also produce an annual financial report to all community members. The treasurer is also the primary check signer for community payables.
What should you look for in an effective treasurer? Someone who understands accrual accounting will be very helpful, according to Love. “They will appreciate the level of detail that financial reports provide and can explain them to the rest of the board or to any residents who have questions,” he said.
Love explained that an effective treasurer helps the board run better by offering a knowledgeable second set of eyes on all financial activity. “Whatever I say to the board, an experienced treasurer can back it up, and vice versa,” he said. “That said, an inexperienced treasurer can become very effective if they are able to rely on other board members or homeowners who have more knowledge of financial matters. One way I’ve seen this done is via the creation of a financial committee that reviews all financial matters as a unit, with the treasurer serving as the liaison for the management and board leadership.”
While not a member of your board, your manager is an outside party bound to your association by contract. It is important that your manager is experienced and comes from a reputable property management company. 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.
“As a manager, I have found the most success with boards and communities if I come to them with simple, clear recommendations,” Love said. “We should be able to speak to the facts without emotion or bias. A good manager talks about the budget, the reserve study, which line items are affected and how. Of course, I also provide them with my professional opinion on motions such as vendor choices.”
As with many boards, the individuals elected to their roles will bring strengths and talents all their own. 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.