Until recently, Claudia Tracey worked full time in a position that required an extensive amount of travel. At the same time she was, and still is, board president at Hampton Vistas Condominiums in Manorville, New York, which just went through an $860,000 assessment for major renovation work spread out among 48 owners. Their typical monthly board meetings turned into weekly meetings until the assessment was complete.
At the same time, Tracey had to fit in her duties as a board member for the Community Associations Institute (CAI) of Long Island and chair of the annual CAI trade show. Each board also meets once a week. Let’s not forget the fact that Tracey is married with a family and has to deal with all the obligations that entails.
“I am fortunate to be married to a very patient man and my three children are grown,” says Tracey. “[When you are a board member], family life can get pushed to the back burner sometimes—so the cooperation of the entire family is needed.”
If you want to volunteer on your board, it’s important to first know that there is a time commitment involved. What that commitment will be depends on your individual board and how much volunteering you want to do and, according to Edward Andron, vice president and director of management for Leebar Management Corp. in Manhattan, what position you want to hold.
“If you’re the president, it’s overall responsibility,” says Andron. “The secretary is responsible for the monthly minutes as well as any newsletter the board distributes to all residents/shareholders. If you are the treasurer, your responsibilities include the budget, monthly income and expenses and management of the reserve fund including allocation of all payments for capital improvement expenditures such as exterior waterproofing, new roof tank, new roof or boiler.”
“Their time can vary from an hour a day or less per day made up of phone calls and emails, but may take longer depending on the size of the building, its needs and how involved the board is. There should be constant communication between the management and board but there should be a balance as management should be allowed to do their jobs and work together as a team without being overloaded with constant emails and phone calls.”
For the past two decades, Carol Hodes has been secretary of her board of directors for the Deerwood Farms Homeowners Association in Old Bridge, New Jersey. She said she joined the board because her home, “was my most precious investment, so I had better do what I could to protect it!”
Deerwood is a small, self-managed board and over the years, the amount of time that Hodes has devoted to the board has varied, depending on what tasks other board members wanted to take on. Presently, her responsibilities include more than just taking minutes at the monthly meeting. She is responsible for all board correspondence, newsletters, dealing with attorneys, banks and realtors when owners are selling or refinancing. She also keeps the checkbook and pays the bills.
If you want to be a successful board member, you must also learn how to juggle all of these board responsibilities with a regular job, family, hobbies and other commitments—which can sometimes be difficult.
“We do a lot by phone or through informal meetings as well,” says Hodes. “There are stretches when the demands are more hours and others when we are ‘quiet’ and between projects that it occupies very little time.”
Although she doesn’t keep track of how much time her volunteer duties take her, Hodes estimates that she spends about eight to 10 hours a month on board responsibilities.
Sharmen Lane, a New York City-based life coach, reminds board members that it doesn’t matter how much money you have, or what school you went to, or where you were raised. “We all only get 24 hours in a day,” she says. “The way to be most efficient and effective with your time and get the most out of your 24 hours is to follow simple time management steps.”
Write it Down
Lane suggests that everything you need or want to get done in a day, write it down. “You don’t have to overcomplicate this one,” she says. “Simply write down what needs to be done to free up your mind and instantly be more focused,” she says.
“Distractions or interruptions are the primary cause for people to not be efficient and get done what needs to be done,” says Lane. “Either remove the distracter— for example, turn off the phone or don’t log on to email—or remove yourself from the distracter.
Set an Alarm
Lane suggests an alarm to help you to focus. “Allotting a specific amount of time will enable you to concentrate on just the matter at hand without concerning yourself with the clock or other things around you,” she says.
Stay in the Moment
Many times people do not use the present moment effectively because they are projecting in the future or dwelling on the past.
“Nothing is better than having a little incentive when you are learning a new habit,” says Lane. “The next time you are struggling with managing your time, give yourself a reward for when you finish.”
Sharon Beason, a personal concierge and owner of All About Brooklyn Concierge, Inc. also suggests distributing work and tasks to others, if possible. “Is there an assistant or other committee member who can help you?” asks Beason. If your personal responsibilities are overshadowing your board responsibilities, there are concierge services, such as Beason’s, who can help you complete those tasks, while you focus on board duties. This might be helpful during an especially busy time.
Abbie S. Fink lives and works in Scottsdale, Arizona and agrees that delegating tasks can help New York board members prevent being overburdened. As president of her homeowners association, she oversees 48 units and a board of six. She is also vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations and oversees another staff of six. She volunteers on the board of directors of the Phoenix Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. As a single woman, she also fits in some social time for herself.
“Although we meet once a month, our board conducts a lot of business over email and we use the board to ratify any decisions that require a vote,” she says. “My best advice is to delegate to others on your board and to have a strong working relationship with your management company. Our volunteer board has been together now for four years, we are a “well-oiled” machine and know what each of our strengths are. We rely on that and it makes things much easier.”
The bottom line is that by managing your time well, with whatever system works for you, will allow you to stay focused and complete your responsibilities in a timely manner, and of course, the true reward is a well-run and efficient board.
Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer, published author and mother of three living in Poughkeepsie, New York.