Training New Board Members Shortening the Learning Curve

A cooperative, condominium or homeowners association is the cornerstone of a building community.  The co-op, condo or HOA maintains order and continuity by preserving architectural integrity, maintaining the common elements, protecting property values, and often providing for recreation and/or entertainment for the community. Board responsibilities may run the gamut from basic maintenance to sophisticated special services. To be effective a co-op, condo or HOA needs a strong board of directors or managers who, individually and collectively, understand the role and mission of the association. Operating a co-op, condo or HOA involves many of the same responsibilities as any other business, although board members are volunteers and generally serve without compensation. 

While some board members may have personal experiences from private life, working as accountants, attorneys, brokers, and managers, most come to their position on the board armed only with a desire to serve their building community. A newly elected board member will need solid instruction and training to fully understand their role and fiduciary duties. Serving as a board member can be a valuable service and a rewarding experience, but like any other position, proper training and instruction is a must. So who performs the training, and when and where do the instructions take place?  There is no one simple answer, but several excellent options for motivated boards and board members.

Building an Informed Board

According to Steven Greenbaum, the director of property management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate (MGRE) in Lake Success, New York, “There are no laws mandating board training in the state of New York, but I feel obligated to prepare an individual, and arm them with knowledge.”

To accomplish that, Greenbaum believes in a proactive approach he calls “succession planning” in order to identify good prospects for future board positions. He looks for interested and/or involved residents who may or may not be already serving on a committee, and invites those individuals to sit in on a board meeting and observe the board in action. The visitor can see the nuances and timing of an actual meeting, and observe which board positions might be a good fit for his/her talents and interests. Greenbaum may suggest the individual serve as an assistant or intern. During this phase, a prospective board member can observe and participate in board functions such as reading, presenting and understanding a financial report. Additionally, Greenbaum supplies and reviews two years' worth of minutes for assistants and/or new board members.

Raymond Dickey is president of Brainerd Communications, publisher of AsociationHelpNow, and the executive director of CAI Big Apple, CAI Hudson Valley, and CAI South Carolina. He too believes in a proactive approach to board member development. “If you know someone who is interested in running for a board position, include them as much as possible in board activities prior to their being elected into their position, he says.  This way, when and if that person is elected, they can hit the ground running. Also nominate potential board members from those who are regularly at meetings. These people already know a great deal about current issues in the building or association.” 

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3 Comments

  • info@askthepropertymanager.com on Sunday, February 28, 2016 3:25 PM
    New board members should be given a copy of the House Rules, By-laws and list of committees, this will help the new member navigate more easily and avoid any potential conflicts. In an effort to help the new member get involved more quickly and get your board the help it needs, the board should be prepared to identify some projects or committees it may need assistance with, and try to give the new member a choice of what area he or she would like to contribute assistance to. Some boards also give new members a Confidentiality Agreement to sign as a reminder that board conversations should not be made privy to those not on the board.
  • info@askthepropertymanager.com on Sunday, February 28, 2016 3:26 PM
    New board members should be given a copy of the House Rules, By-laws and list of committees, this will help the new member navigate more easily and avoid any potential conflicts. In an effort to help the new member get involved more quickly and get your board the help it needs, the board should be prepared to identify some projects or committees it may need assistance with, and try to give the new member a choice of what area he or she would like to contribute assistance to. Some boards also give new members a Confidentiality Agreement to sign as a reminder that board conversations should not be made privy to those not on the board.
  • President Dan Wurtzel is quoted extensively in this Cooperator article that covers building safety for residents.