So you want to be on the Board of Directors. Don’t take this lightly, if you want to volunteer to be a leader in your community and actively contribute on a month to month and sometimes daily basis, make sure you understand all of your responsibilities. That does not mean that you need to become an expert in all aspects of HOA management, however, it does mean that you should have a good understanding of the elements. In fact, it is not a good thing, when you are new to a board of directors, even if you are an expert, to come on to the board and start in with all the things that are wrong. Remember to listen and get to know your fellow board members and manager. Be prepared to comment, but not dictate. This group of individuals are your neighbors and volunteers as well, so show respect for their opinions and views. Learn how to be a politician – it is only one aspect of community leadership, but is the single most important skill you need to be an effective board member. All of your other knowledge, whether it be finance, maintenance, or whatever, will be presented and discussed through your political skills. Listen and most important be patient and respectful of others. You may be ambitious and want to be the board president, be patient. Just cool your jets and work through the system and if you have handled yourself correctly your fellow board members will elevate you to that position, in time. A position of responsibility, obtained through a coup, will not only create instant adversaries, but the ill-will you create will divide the community members. It will make whatever future efforts you make opened to criticism, and you will likely have plenty of that anyway.
So, play your roll on the board, help your other board members achieve their goals, but if you disagree with the purpose or intent, layout your objections logically and with facts. You may be the only one who sees the unintended consequence of a new rule or action of the board. Be patient and explain your position, and be armed with facts- you will not have a problem finding examples of unintended consequences on any subject related to HOA management on the web.
Next, listen to your constituents, your neighbors. When you attend your next board meeting, if you don’t know how the membership generally feels about and issue, then suggest to the board that poling the membership would be useful. That is not to say that all issues need to be poled. The vast majority of decisions that a board makes are recurring and ordinary issues of management. Pick your battles carefully. The important things are obvious and that is where you should focus your attention and research. Dues increases are right at the top of the list, everyone is impacted by dues. Creating new rules, or enhancing enforcement, ranks right up there as well.
You may have been motivated to be on the board because you feel that the dues are too high and have been increasing year after year with no obvious explanation. You would love to decrease the dues and believe it or not, you are probably justified and you will have no shortage of supporters in the community. The problem is, dues increases are often due to a systemic approach by boards and managers to simplify the budgeting process (and being too liberal with projections)- I will be penning an article on Budgets and Reserves, for my thoughts on the subject. Understanding the elements that go into budgeting process is your first job.
The point is choose your issues carefully and educate yourself before you make your case.