The vast majority of HOA and community association board members volunteer so they can do their part and give back to their communities. Politics doesn’t necessarily factor into your decision, but in reality, board members have been appointed or elected to a position that manages a large budget and essentially “governs” the community by enforcing covenants. There will always be residents who agree and disagree with your decisions, and some dissenters will most likely be vocal about their disapproval. Welcome to politics.
Congratulations! You’re now a politician
While you don’t need to shake hands and kiss babies every day, you should adopt some positive political attributes as you interact with other board members and the community at large. Think about the greater good, address the needs of the majority of your residents, and stay above reproach. Here are a few ideas to help you become a more politically savvy board member:
- Build a board with a variety of backgrounds. This ensures that you’ll have more of the community represented when making important decisions. Disagreement is perfectly fine, and you may even learn from others’ differing opinions.
- Set and share goals. What does the board want to accomplish this year? Try to get as specific as possible, like improving collections by 10%, renovating the clubhouse, or conducting a new reserve study. Then share your goals with the community.
- Communicate early and often. Let residents know what’s going on, both successes and challenges. Provide more detail, and let residents decide what to read. We used the front page of our newsletter for monthly board updates.
- Hold open board meetings. Communicate meeting dates and invite residents, even though they may never show up. Limit executive sessions to legal discussions. Post minutes, including financial reports, on your website or in the newsletter so everyone can see what’s going on.
- Encourage participation. Especially when major decisions are being made, proactively solicit feedback from residents, ask for volunteers to lead task forces, and hold town hall meetings to answer questions. Then share all information with all residents to build support.
- Maintain sound financial controls. Prepare and stick to your budget, keep your reserve account funded, and conduct regular financial audits. Share budget updates and audit results with residents to confirm the board is proactively maintaining the community’s financial health.
- Think about that “greater good.” Represent the entire community even if that sometimes conflicts with your own opinions. Consistently enforce the rules, even for other board members and friends.
- Take the high road. Remember that you’re a leader, so you need to stay above the pettiness and personal attacks. It’s just a tactic to get you to react – don’t fall for it. Abide by the Golden Rule, and over time you’ll convert enemies into allies.
You serve the silent majority
Sometimes it may feel like everyone is unhappy, since most residents only communicate to the board when they have complaints. Remember the silent majority – all your neighbors who love the community and think you’re doing a great job. They just don’t openly express their approval as often as those with complaints.
Thank you for volunteering to serve on your community association board of directors. See beyond the occasional pettiness and know that you’re taking on a valuable and rewarding leadership role that protects the value of your community. Be a politically savvy board member, even when tough decisions have to be made and residents start complaining. When issues do arise, you’ll be in a position of strength to quickly address and resolve matters.
Neal Bach, CPA