How to Be a Great Board Member The Top 5 Do's...and a Couple of Don'ts

The best association boards in the Windy City—those that accomplish the business of their communities effectively—often seem to have members with similar habits. By the same token, poor boards frequently make similar mistakes. But even good boards can improve, and bad ones can turn around. Brushing up on board do’s and don'ts can help make your board a dream team.

Billy Rudolph, the director of corporate communications for Associa, a property-management firm with offices across the country including in Chicago, Schaumburg and Plainfield, declares, “Whether you live in a small, close-knit association, a luxury gated community, a high-rise condo or a lakefront co-op, your HOA board will need to stick to some fundamental principles in order to be successful.”

1. DO communicate. “Communication with homeowners is vital to running an effective association,” says Rudolph. And don't forget that communication is a two-way street—listening to what residents want and letting them know what's going on are equally important. Rudolph has noticed that a majority of complaints from homeowners against their boards stem from the homeowner not knowing about a policy, procedure, due date, regulation or some other bit of information that could have been communicated to them in a number of ways. Hold annual (or more frequent) shareholder meetings without fail. Send updates on repairs, replacements and other maintenance items. Consider having an electronic bulletin board or newsletter to minimize conflict and help the shareholders feel that they’re more informed about what goes on in their community.

Every director must also communicate effectively with the association manager and with other members of the board. Jory J. Carrick, president of Williamson Management in Bensenville says, “Boards that are able to debate in a healthy manner without getting personal, and that understand it’s okay to have differences as long as those differences are expressed without malcontent seem to operate most effectively.” Furthermore, he says, “board members who are unprofessional, condescending or belligerent can create havoc in a community.”

2. DO participate. Being a board member means much more than just snoozing through meetings and rubber-stamping documents. A fully participating member has to have some understanding of everything that is presented in meetings, which may include national and municipal laws affecting associations, the community deed and bylaws, insurance claims, hiring and handling staff, maintenance, project management and financial planning. Board members need to do their homework and come to meetings prepared to discuss these matters and vote on them intelligently.

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