HOA Board Member Responsibilities: 3 Primary Roles
Aside from attending board meetings and making policy decisions, what’s your responsibility as an HOA board member? What are your HOA board member responsibilities?
Whether you’ve been a board member for 1 week or 1 year; whether you’re an HOA secretary or high-rise board president; and whether you have a strong association or one that’s facing challenges, your core roles and responsibilities are unchanging.
So, what are the three primary functions of a community association board of directors?
1. Advocate: Protecting the Association’s Interests
As a volunteer, one of your HOA board member responsibilities includes being a strong advocate for the community or building you serve. This means making decisions and taking actions that benefit the residents and enhance their experience while also increasing property values. It is important to remember that a strong association board is a reflection of a strong and supportive community. On the other hand, weak boards are driven by self-interest and personal gain. They may seek board positions with the intention of changing rules, adding amenities, or simply making their own lives easier. It is crucial to avoid this mindset at all costs.
Debora Stacker, an HOA treasurer, said, “You have to recognize that what you’re doing as a board needs to be based on what’s best for the community, not based on your personal opinion and preferences.”
Does that mean your board should base decisions off the general consensus (or even the squeakiest wheel)? Not necessarily.
Your decisions as a board are to keep the best interest of the association at heart. This includes safeguarding against liability and financial risk while maintaining a strong reputation. At times, you may be faced with making unpopular decisions in order to protect the association's interests. For example, you may need to delay investing in a desired amenity due to an upcoming costly maintenance project. To ensure understanding and support from residents, it is crucial to have proactive and transparent communication. It is important for residents to see you as their advocate and to know that every decision you make, even if unpopular, is aimed at improving the community and enhancing their lifestyle. Your management company should be capable of assisting you in creating clear, concise, and compassionate communications that effectively explain the reasoning behind your decisions. For more tips on communicating tough decisions, read HOA Policy: Why Consistent Communication Is Key.
2. Doer: Managing the Business and Setting Policies
To establish a strong association, it is essential to adhere to local laws and governing documents, and effectively manage day-to-day operations. Additionally, mastering the art of conducting productive meetings and setting goals is crucial (more information on this will be discussed later).
While your association operates like a business, it is not your job to handle all tasks on your own. Your main focus should be on the practical aspects of your role, while recognizing the limitations. To be clear, your responsibilities do not include enforcing policies, dealing with detailed financials, collecting assessments, hiring staff, or managing daily paperwork. These tasks should be handled by your association manager and/or staff, preferably with the support of a professional management company. It's important for them to have the expertise and resources to effectively support your association financially and operationally. To learn more about the value of a team-oriented management company, read the article, Is Your Association Manager Equipped for Success? 3 Questions to Ask.
If you aren’t handling the paperwork and day-to-day violation notices, what should your board be doing? Ultimately, your board should be setting policies and making decisions. After all, the primary function of a board of directors is to direct. That’s why it’s critical to partner with a management company that can take care of daily tasks with ease and provide informed feedback and guidance to assist you with important decisions.
As a board member, you should also make sure that your policies and decisions are in the best interest of your community or building (see what it means to be an Advocate above). Making decisions on behalf of a community of unique individuals is a weighty task. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you are on the board for the right reasons. Board member Gigi Martin said, “If you go into the process understanding that you’re a board member because you want to serve the community and you have the community at the very heart of what you do, then it makes it [decision making] easier.”
3. Visionary: Creating a Plan for the Future
Are you focused on the future for your association? As a board member, this is just as important as making day-to-day decisions (and can help provide context and guidance for those daily decisions). In fact, the most successful homeowners' associations (from master-planned and single-family to high-rises and mid-rises) have a strong strategic plan in place.
A strategic community plan is a crucial tool for any association as it sets clear goals and provides a roadmap for success. It ensures that the association remains focused on its objectives regardless of changes in leadership. By creating a strategic plan, the association establishes a legacy and guidelines for future boards to follow. A reputable management company can assist the board in developing this plan by facilitating the formation of a vision, setting goals and objectives, and outlining strategies to achieve them. With their guidance, the association can confidently navigate towards a prosperous future.
Kirk Kowieski, executive vice president at FirstService Residential, said, “We’ve seen the significant and long-term benefits of the strategic community plan. It not only provides the board with a solid tool for daily decision making, it helps unify the existing board and all future and incoming board members with common goals and objectives.”
HOA Board Member Responsibilities
It takes a special individual to volunteer their time as an association board member. That’s why it’s crucial to understand what your core roles and responsibilities are. If you have the right mindset and act as an advocate, doer and visionary, you’ll set your association up for success – now and in the future.