Board Member Best Practices
As a volunteer Board Member, you have made a selfless decision to volunteer your valuable time for the betterment of your community. You’re an inspiration to many, including our management team at PMP, and one of the main reasons we love what we do!
Because we understand your time is valuable and you take your role as a Board Member seriously, PMP is dedicated to continuing education to ensure you have the tools necessary to be effective. Below are ten attributes of a successful Board Member, part of our DR HOA Board Member Best Practice Educational Series.
1. Avoid Personal Agendas
As an elected Board Member, it is imperative that the decisions you make are for the betterment of the community as a whole, even if they are contrary to your own self- interests. It is important that Board Members govern selflessly to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest and to ensure the decisions you make are in the best interest of the corporation and its members. The role of a Board Member is to protect the value and integrity of the Association and its common areas, while at the same time acting within your authority to enforce the Association’s governing documents. Make a concerted effort to avoid personal or self-serving agendas at all costs.
2. Respect and Support Community Vendors
Board Members are leaders, and what better way to lead than by example. Community vendors, such as your management company, landscape vendor and janitorial team should be viewed and treated as valuable community partners. It is important that Board Members treat vendor partners professionally at all times and make it clear to residents that mistreatment of community partners will not be tolerated. Working as a team, embracing positive reinforcement and open lines of communication will yield better output and a more productive working relationship. Your Community Asset Manager, for instance, has the difficult task of enforcing the community rules, which some residents do not always appreciate. It is important that the Board overtly support their Community Asset Manager, signaling to residents that you’re on the same page and that you support their efforts.
3. Embrace Continuing Education
Being a Board Member is not always easy. All of the legislative rules and case laws that must be considered when making decisions can feel daunting. Commit to continuing education, such as PMP’s complementary DR HOA Board Member Training Series, to ensure you have the tools necessary to be successful in your role. For a full list of PMP’s DR HOA Board Member Training modules, please contact your Community Asset Manager. At PMP, Board Member education is always available and always free.
4. Prepare for Board Meetings in Advance
You should be receiving a comprehensive Board Package at least 4 days prior to each Board Meeting. It is important that you review the Board Package in its entirety prior the meeting, submitting any questions or requests for additional information to management in advance. This not only ensures you have the information necessary to make educated decisions at the meeting, but also ensures meetings are streamlined and productive. Waiting until the meeting to address questions is not nearly as effective as submitting the questions in advance of the meeting, allowing management time to perform research as may be necessary to adequately address questions.
5. Be Transparent
One of the number one complaints we hear from residents is that they do not feel the Board is transparent. While the primary purpose of Board Meetings is for the Board to conduct Association business, we have found that providing brief introductions and summaries of Board discussions is helpful and ensures residents feel engaged. For instance, if the Board is going to approve a new landscape contract in General Session, notify the members present that the Board competitively bid out landscape maintenance, vetting multiple potential companies, reviewed each bid in Executive Session, as permitted by Civil Code, and ultimately determined that the contract being approved represents the best value for the Association. This will play much better than simply voting on the new contract with little to no explanation and will highlight the Board’s commitment to transparency.
6. Be Professional
Being professional at all times, both in your actions and your discourse, is essential and a key element to being a successful Board Member. Residents will challenge the Board’s decisions. Board Members will passionately disagree with one another. It is important to always stay professional. Yelling and profanity should be strictly forbidden. Each Board Member should be allowed equal time to voice their opinions and ask questions, but it should be understood and accepted that ultimately, majority rules. Once the votes are cast, the decision should be respected, no matter what the outcome. Discourse with residents should also always be respectful and professional. This will at times require Board Members to take the high-road, agreeing to respectfully disagree, while at the same time ensuring the residents feel heard. Remember, as a Board Member you set the example. That said, it is important that Board Members enforce professional conduct of the residents present, as well. It is never appropriate for residents to be aggressive or hostile towards the Board Members. We recommend Boards adopt a Board Meeting Conduct Policy outlining the Board’s expectations and including the drafted policy on the back of each Board Meeting agenda.
7. Follow The Business Judgement Rule
While the Business Judgement Rule is actually a Corporations Code (7231 a) meant to protect volunteer directors from personal liability, it is a straight forward concept that is easy to understand and a valuable guide to a diligent decision making process. The Business Judgement Rule states that so long as the Board Member is:
- acting in good faith;
- acting in a manner which they believe to be in the best interesting of the Association; and
- acting with a duty of care, including reasonable inquiring, as an ordinary prudent person in a like position would act under similar circumstances,
Board Members are protected from personal liability, even if they are wrong.
8. Differentiate Between Being a Resident and a Board Member
Yes, you’re a Board Member. But you’re also a resident. You have the same rights to privacy and community enjoyment as other residents, and it is important for your own well-being that you differentiate your roles. For instance, if you are stopped at the mailboxes by a resident who would like to engage in Association related discussions, it is often best practice to let them know that Association related matters should be discussed with management or shared at regularly scheduled Board Meetings. The issue of residents approaching Board Members outside of Board Meetings is two-fold: 1) As an individual Board Member outside of a Board Meeting where quorum of the Board is present, you’re a resident. You are unable to speak on behalf of the Association or your fellow Board Members, and oftentimes messages conveyed to residents outside of meetings are interpreted as Board or Association approved messages. 2) You will unintentionally set a precedent where residents will feel it is appropriate to approach you or other Board Members in the common areas or at your private residence regarding non- urgent Association matters, impacting your right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of your home and the community’s common areas. Protect yourself by not engaging in Association related discourse outside of properly noticed Board Meetings.
9. Host Community Events
Never underestimate the power of a party to bring neighbors together, and friendly neighbors lead to a stronger, more aligned Association. While common area amenities may vary from one Association to the next, there’s always an opportunity to host a community event. Some Associations host an annual summer pool party, while others may host a pizza party the night of the Annual Election. Either way, it is important to make an effort to get the community together at least once annually. One of PMP’s valued clients recently held a homeowner budget forum where the Board could address the newly adopted budget and the assessment increase. Food and beverages were provided and it was a well-received community event, combining a social event and association business.
10. Hire A Professional, Accredited Management Firm
While we may be bias, we can declare with certainty that Associations are only as good as their community partners, and an Association’s most important community partners is their management company. Not all management companies are created equal. There are thousands of property management companies in California, but not all property management companies specialize exclusively in the management of Homeowners Associations or Common Interest Developments, as they are often called. At PMP we are experts in Common Interest Development Management. We do not manage individual homes/units or rentals. We do not manage retail or commercial space. We focus exclusively on HOA management and this has allowed PMP to become true experts in the field of Common Interest Development Management. In fact, PMP is one of only a handful of management firms in the State of California that is accredited through the Community Association Institute, earning the coveted AAMC Certification. PMP’s commitment to extraordinary customer care, revolutionary innovation and Board Member support and education has come to define our organization.
Keep these Board Member Best Practices in mind to aid you in your success as a diligent and effective Board Member.
Questions or feedback can be submitted to PMP’s own DR HOA at DrHOA@pmprollc.com