Are You Ready to Become a Board Member? A Guide to What it Takes

“I wish someone had told me the nuances of trying to cultivate a community while also trying to manage a business,” said Pat Burke, president of the Fieldstondale co-op in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and a 12-year member of its board. “The two tasks are usually in dire conflict, or so I’ve found.”  

It’s a common refrain among members of co-op boards, that they didn’t expect the time investment to be so great. “It takes time,” Daniel Sabillon, of Daniel Sabillon Management Corp, said, “it’s not a paying position so [people looking to be board members] need to make sure that they are aware that it is involving work and takes up their personal time.”

Being a board member is more involved than just going to the meeting every month. Board members need to be actively involved with the building and need to actively communicate with the building management so that they can remain aware of any issues and stay a step ahead of problems that could potentially cause problems. Here are a few aspects to consider before taking on that responsibility.

1. You Don’t Need to be a Rocket Scientist

While Mr. Burke has a background in construction and as an operational engineer, you don’t necessarily need to have any experience to be a board member. “To serve on a board you just need to be willing to give the time and attention,” said Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums, “No particular expertise is required but it makes sense to read the proprietary lease, the by-laws and house rules of your co-op and note any questions you have and ask those questions before joining the board so you can learn how co-op governance works and what your role would be.”

While you may not need experience to serve on your co-op board, you should probably learn how it works said a long-time board member who wished to remain anonymous, “I would recommend that anyone joining a board request an hour or so with an officer or other board member for the purpose of gaining an overview of the co-op’s history, financials, contracts, committees, projects in the works, and current issues of concern. If they cannot do that before the first meeting they attend, do it before the second meeting.”

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