Board Basics: Top Tips for Board Members
Nine Ways to be an Effective Board Member
In your community association, taking on the role of board member means taking on many responsibilities. It is an important job that should not be taken lightly as you are looking after your condominium association. You have a duty to look after community members as both a business and neighbor.
Below we provide nine effective guidelines for both new and current board members to ensure their term is rewarding and effective. It will also guide you to become a trusted, reliable member of your community.
1. Be In It for the Greater Good, Put the Community First.
All decisions or rules set by the board members affect the community. Before putting your own self interests first, think about how your decisions will impact homeowners both positively and negatively. When a homeowner joins a board of directors, it should be because he or she cares about the neighborhood and wants to improve the property values of the community.
The core of volunteerism is being able to look beyond yourself and putting the needs of other people first. Success often follows those who work tirelessly for the benefit of the great good, no matter what challenges they may face.
2. Do Your Homework.
It’s important to stay on top of what’s going on in your community, and as you progress through your work, you will learn what to do from trial and error. But it also helps to think beyond where you live and tap into knowledge from other sources such as seminars, books, and networking with members of other association boards. The more you know about your community, the better you’ll be able to tackle your responsibilities as a board member.
Finally, take some time to understand your new role on the board whether it’s as president, secretary, treasurer, or a member at large – know that you’re a part of a team and no one board member has great authority than another.
3. Operate Like A Business.
A good rule of thumb is to have a mission statement for your association, much like any other company. A mission statement can help align board members and allow the entire community to get on board with a common goal. If you see that your association currently doesn’t have a mission statement, do not fret. You can easily come up with a draft which incorporates the interests of the current board members, future members, and the whole community.
Remember, your association is a corporation, so it should be treated as such. By being on the board or committee of your community, prepare for any meetings as though they were a formal business engagement. A great association manager will give you any important information you need to make an informed decision on a topic before the meeting.
4. Consider Partnering with a Professional Management Company.
As mentioned previously, being a board member is no easy task. That doesn’t mean you cannot ask for outside help. By hiring a professional association company, you can have a weight lifted off the shoulders off the board, alleviating many of your pain points. This way, you can set important boundaries between the board and the association manager. For example, the role of the board is to set policies and make policy decisions. The role of the association manager is to support and enforce those policies while taking care of the daily operations of the association.
5. Be Responsible and Timely.
To provide service means to be knowledgeable, empathetic, communicative and much more. If someone in the community comes to you with an issue or concern, you should be able to provide those qualities to get the right answers. If you leave your neighbors in the dark for too long, they will be less likely to ask for help in the future, severing an important relationship. Have this mindset when you have any interaction as a board member.
To ensure responsibility and timeliness, distribute materials to the board in advance so they can review, understand and ask questions. After all, you should expect the same from them.
6. Remember Your Fellow Board Members are Neighbors.
Keeping this in mind is very crucial to your success. There may come a time when decisions need to be made but board members disagree, and perhaps heatedly so. Maintain a respectful tone even if you have differences. You not only have to continue working together, but you also live in the same community. Animosity can hurt the board’s standing among community members.
7. Encourage Homeowner Participation.
Encourage residents to get involved with the community by volunteering to be on a committee. Boards that are overloaded with tasks could consider creating committees for architecture, security, social events, landscape, etc. The board must follow the guidelines set forth in the governing documents when creating a committee. Remember that committees are tasked with completing the leg work, providing their findings and making recommendations to the board in writing.
8. Build Trust Through Transparency.
It’s important that homeowners know you are open about communicating and will give them advanced warning of any water shut-offs, street cleaning or trash delays due to holidays, etc.; but, communication shouldn’t end there. Look to the larger aspects of community life (like the beginning of the school year) and remind them how these seasonal changes can and will affect life in your community.
Another great way to build trust within the community is to reiterate that the board has the community’s best interest in mind at all time. Share upcoming projects, scheduled events, board meetings and annual meetings that homeowners are welcome to join.
9. Say Thanks.
A little “Minnesota Nice” will go a long way with your fellow board members and homeowners alike. Show your gratitude often and you’ll be repaid in the form of a friendly, healthy community. Take the time to thank your residents for following guidelines and making an effort to keep your neighborhood a great place to live.
Board membership has its challenges, but if you stick to a few basic principles you’ll foster a culture of openness and success in your community. Never allow your integrity to be compromised. Stay calm in the face of conflict and challenge. Put the community’s needs above your own. Be thoughtful and deliberate in your decision-making. Avoid “back-room” deals and maintain a culture of transparency. And most of all, listen and be willing to work with others. Loaded with this information and by working closely with your fellow board members, your tenure as a board member should run smoothly and be productive.