Serving on the board of directors should be a valuable experience for anyone committed to helping the community. Being on the board is not about power and control, it is about community service, leadership and making business decisions in the best interest of the community and its members. If you maintain a level head and follow some best practices, your term of service on the board will be productive and fulfilling.
Often, members are elected to the board because they happened to attend a membership meeting and there were no other volunteers. Sometimes, people get on the board because they are upset about an experience and want to make some changes. Other times, people volunteer to serve on the board because they want to get involved with their community, and this is an excellent way to do so.
However you came to be on the board, you do have an obligation to serve the community and its best interests, regardless of personal agendas. This can be difficult – maybe past board members have fostered a hostile environment or kept secrets from the membership; or maybe past board members were elected and then not provided guidance or training on what being a board member is all about. This is your chance to break the cycle! You do not have to do things simply because ‘they have always been done that way.’ At the end of the day, you are part of a group that is running a business and that group must work together with the understanding that you are responsible for what may be millions of dollars in property values.
Serving on the board in any position requires leadership. Leadership is not simply running a meeting, being the president or telling service providers what to do. Leadership is committing to your community and being engaged in the business while serving. That means:
- Attend meetings and review materials in advance so that you are prepared to have a productive, efficient business meeting;
- Keep an open mind when dealing with homeowners;
- Work with quality service providers (management professionals, landscape contractors, attorneys who focus on community association law, etc.) and partner with them to obtain the very best services for your community; and
- Communicate with your fellow board members and professional advisors effectively to be part of the solutions.
- Serving on the board is a volunteer position and not likely to be the main focus in your day-to-day life. However, by committing to serve you have the responsibility to maintain an understanding of how the community operates. Your community may have a management company; leverage it receive training and up-to-date information as it relates to your association in particular and the community association industry in general. In conjunction with professional guidance, you and your fellow board members should empower yourselves to be knowledgeable about the business you are running. There are many resources available to boards and community association members such as the Community Associations Institute, so don’t be afraid to use them.
Many governing documents provide for term limits for board members, usually one to three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in the lifespan of your community, this is a blip on the radar. Keep this in mind during your term and use your time to focus on the necessary changes that will have a positive impact on your community. It may seem appealing to get on the board and change everything because of a past experience or poor leadership from past board members. By focusing on a few important issues or projects, you will have a powerful and positive long-term impact on the community resulting in a respected and memorable legacy.
Board members are truly the leaders of community associations. They are elected by their fellow homeowners to make important business decisions on behalf of the entire membership. This commitment is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. People who volunteer for board positions are courageous. They sometimes must make difficult decisions that affect others, are responsible for the operation of a business, and do all this as unpaid volunteers. It can be a thankless position, but board members who use good business judgment, communicate effectively and focus on important issues during their tenure are likely to have a rewarding experience and even learn some things along the way.
Kimberly Corcoran, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Canyon Gate Real Estate Services