ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Monday, February 01, 2016

Board Service is an Honor and Responsibility

Stop begging your neighbors to serve on the board. Stop assuming you have to promise a limited time commitment and even more limited responsibility. By doing so you are demeaning the honor of being on a board, and diminishing your chances of recruiting outstanding candidates who will serve you and your community well.

Serving on Other Types of Boards

If you were invited to serve on the board of your symphony or opera you’d consider it an high honor – only for those who are capable of making contributions in knowledge, time commitments, and financial donations.

If you were invited to serve on a corporate board you would be taught immediately about your responsibilities, especially those that have now been strengthened because of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX).

If you were invited to serve on a non-profit board you would be told what responsibilities you had for serving on committees, raising funds, working with volunteers, etc.

Stop Begging and Demeaning the Role of the HOA Board Member

So, why is it that so many people tell me that the way they “induce” people to serve on HOA boards is by promising that they wouldn’t have much responsibility and that the monthly meetings would be very brief.

Brevity, for the sake of “getting us out of here fast” seems to have taken the place of doing the work we volunteered to do. 

Sometimes this goes so far as to make it almost impossible for a healthy discussion about a topic. It also significantly reduces the amount of time allotted for members of the community to voice their concerns. 

HOA Board members are so important to the health and well-being of the complex in which they serve. These board members are the guardians of our property values, our relationships with our neighbors, maintenance, safety, and of course, our HOA finances.

If serving on a Board was seen as the honor and responsibility it really is, there would be many more nominees than seats to fill. In that manner, the members of the complex would have some serious choices and would no doubt select the best of the candidates.

Too, there needs to be ample opportunity to know the candidates. Town hall meetings, interviews in the newsletters, and the ability for self-promotion are all methods candidates can use to persuade their neighbors that they have much to offer and should be selected.

Nominating Committees – Candidate Selection and Campaigning

Those associations that create nominating committees tend to find better and more qualified board members. Instead of begging, they interview their neighbors and select those members of the community that have something to offer, and are willing to give the time and attention needed. They act as a marketing arm of the community – selling nominees on the belief that there is value to be given and to be gained by serving on the board. They act as a screening device, not recommending those who just want the status of being on a board, or worse even, have a specific ax to grind to the exclusion of looking at the bigger issues.

Serving on a board is not the same as being a member of a committee in your typical large high tech company. It requires knowledge of the laws, the governing documents of the complex, group process, dealing with the people in the audience and in the community who have issues to be resolved, understanding group decision making and problem solving, consensus building, Roberts Rules of Order (when the meeting is formal) presentations and public speaking. It requires training.

Yet, how many board members of HOAs actually go for training? How many recognize that there is much they could – and should learn – if they are to be responsible and effective?

Don’t Let Your Property Manager Control You

If the members of the board don’t know how to manage the HOA they defer to the hired property managers – abrogating their own responsibility and passing it on instead to the paid professionals.

In my complex, a prior board went so far as to give check signing responsibility to the property manager, without any controls at all. When that firm was fired, they wrote themselves a bunch of un-authorized checks.

I know of other situations where property managers just made up the rules as they went along – saying that their pronouncements were law – when indeed they were not.

Is it right to defer to and be led by the nose by the hired property managers? I think not! I hope not! There are no requirements for property managers to be trained and certified either. Some are good, some are bad – but none have the level of responsibility bestowed upon the board members. These property managers are the employees of the HOA, not their leaders or controllers.

Don’t make it too easy – have standards

In my many years of training boards all over the country I’ve seen the results of what I am suggesting. In psychology the term is “cognitive dissonance” – in this context it means the harder it is to get into the club, the more value people perceive it to be and the more they want membership. Think about the old US Marine Corps or any Special Ops force in the military. Think about exclusive clubs that have stringent membership requirements. 

If we insist on quality representation well trained and accountable for the standards we set, we will get a much higher caliber board member and much better and more conscious service during their terms of office.

So, stop begging. Recognize and honor the importance of serving on your HOA board and recruit only those people who will offer something valuable and will serve with full awareness and acceptance of their responsibilities.


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