How to Be a Great Board Member The Top Do's and Don'ts

Often, the best, most successful boards and communities share the same combination of habits and traits; all the while, the worst, least successful boards and communities share the same habits and traits, as well. Case in point: there isn’t tremendous mystery in what actions make certain communities successful…and others complete failures.

“Whether you live in a small, close-knit neighborhood, a luxury gated community, a high-rise in the city, or a beach-front condo, your HOA board will need to stick to some fundamental principles in order to be successful,” says Billy Rudolph, the director of corporate communications for Associa, the nation’s largest association management company, with two offices in New York.

1. DO organize. “The most basic tool that a board should have and the easiest for any board to achieve—is organization,” said Enid Hamelin, the director of marketing with Lawrence Properties, a full-service building management company based in New York City. Hamelin was a board member in her building for 16 years, five of which she didn’t live in the building (but still owned a unit in it), and claims the more organized the board was, the smoother it ran. Prior to each meeting, her board always sent out an agenda. That small action saved time during the meeting, and was super helpful for everyone. “It’s all about getting the board to run properly,” Hamelin says.

Sticking with that agenda is crucial. Rudolph says that board members and residents often have individual and personal agendas to present at meetings, making it difficult to remain on topic, causing them to run for hours upon hours. If there’s an agenda and a time limit for other business, then it becomes easier to keep the meetings timely.

Although easier said than done, creating a diverse group of board members is imperative, also. “They may be florists or interior decorators; they may be in retail or one may be an artist, and it’s really helpful for the managing agent to remind them that there are opportunities where they can learn,” Hamelin says.

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3 Comments

  • Wonderful article. We are in a pickle at our building. The building has proposed a $9 million Dollar assessment to renovate the Amenities Area that is 6 years old. There are many issues, but one that is most troublesome is: The board showed a plan that removes key selling features of the building, in which, residents facing these features paid a $100,000 premium, i.e. a maze, walkway to the Amenities area, and a forest. The board to garner more space wants to remove the maze, convert the walkway to a conference room (which will now look into the private area of a residence outdoor space), and remove some of the forest area to create a larger stretching area. The board does not wish to address this, along with the point that they have admitted the sponsor did not deliver on all the contractual and marketing points made to the shareholders. The board claims that the sponsor had all the votes. However, the sponsor had fiduciary duties to the shareholders and was contractually responsible to deliever what was promised. The board had a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to notify them that there was a problem getting the Amenities space delivers as promised. Fast forward, 6 years the board wants to do a vanity project of $9 million dollars. The project in no way is anymore special that that which exists today. The board has been unresponsive to several shareholders that are objecting to this plan.
  • This is terrible, wasteful and sounds like the Board has overstepped their 'responsibility' and has not listened to the shareholders or acted in the best interest of the shareholders. Shareholders take hold: hire your own attorney and fight! You are, after all, owners too!
  • Wonderful article ! Good insight into situations which arise. I sent it to my board of directors , which i was part of for 10 years. .