When recruiting potential owners to add to your Association Board, do you consider what it takes for them to be a good board member? A Board is a team representing owners in determining the current and future needs of the Association.  Owners vote for a person, or persons, who will act on their behalf.  These owners who have volunteered and been elected to serve on the association’s board are responsible for making critical decisions about managing the community and money.

Traits of Good Board Members

The following mix of traits and skills typically lead to good Board members:

Respect. If they can give others respect and expect it in return, they can help keep board discussions civil, productive and on point. You’re looking for people who can lead by consensus, not by command.

Good listening. People want to be heard. Can they listen to board members and residents with sincere interest? They may have a few ideas of their own, but everyone benefits by sharing and discussing.

Thick skin. Sometimes, residents—even other board members—can be mean and insulting. Are they good at turning a conversation around and finding out what’s really bothering people?

Egos aside. If they can give others credit, the board will operate better as a team.

Agenda aside. Members who come to the board looking to help only themselves are a problem. A board is more productive when members don’t have a personal punch list. Are they able to look after the community, not just their own interests? Are they willing to compromise?

Skill. An association is a business.  Having board members with accounting, organizational behavior and teambuilding backgrounds can help. Someone with a financial background, for example, might make for a good treasurer.

The ideal board comprises a mix of management styles, professional skills and temperaments. If you know people with some of these traits or relevant skills, ask them if they’d be interested in joining the board. Some people don’t think about running for a seat unless asked.

They don’t have to know everything when joining, but they should be familiar with the governing documents and the responsibilities of the job. Fellow board members and managers can help with the transition and train them on board responsibilities, current work, projects and hot issues.

Governing by Representation

Community associations are a representative form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people. Much of our country is based on the principles of representative democracy. It starts with organizations like community associations and progresses through our school boards, city governments, county governments, state governments—all the way to the federal government. We vote for a person, or persons, who will act on our behalf.

Some might advocate that a board should not take action without a vote of the members to find out what the people want. That would be counter-productive. If association members were to vote on every issue before a decision was made, there would be no need for a board, but simply someone to send out ballots and tally results. However, boards find out what their constituents want in other ways. Many make time to hear from residents at each board meeting. But, it’s up to owners to attend meetings, voice opinions and participate in the exchange of ideas with the board.

Board Responsibility

A Community Association is a lot like a business. Collectively, regular annual assessments amount to tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars that need to be budgeted carefully and spent wisely. And neighbors who have volunteered and been elected to serve on the association’s board are responsible for making critical decisions—on owners behalf—about managing the community and money.

A board also develops long-range plans—like when the parking lot will need to be repaved and when the elevators will need to be replaced—about the parts of the community that are shared property. The board must set aside funds so that these kinds of projects can be accomplished on schedule or even ahead of schedule in the event there’s an unexpected breakdown.

The board also sends out requests for bids and contracts with vendors to do the work necessary to maintain shared amenities. Board members decide who will do the best job of replacing the roof at the best price or who will be the most reliable company to hire to mow the grass and remove dead tree limbs.

The board’s decisions can have a significant impact on the community’s appearance and, consequently, on property values. Regardless of a professional manager, the board ultimately is responsible for overseeing association operations.