So You Want to be a Board Member...

Every member of an association has something unique they can contribute to their Board.  Board members with backgrounds in insurance, landscaping, law, and construction often provide expertise most people don't have and become invaluable to an association.  Even without relevant experience, your unique perspective can help your association function better.  You may be considering taking the leap to become a Board member.  We always welcome interest from new and past members, but recommend you do a little thinking before you submit your name for Board consideration.

Objectivity

Can you objectively govern your association?  Can you set aside petty differences?  One of the hardest things about membership on the Board of Directors is remembering you are no longer an individual person - you become the office.  You need to be able treat violators equally, regardless of whether you dislike their politics or decor.  You also need to know you can't give friends special treatment.  The minute anyone brings up Association business, put your Board Member hat on and suggest they write to the Board or Management company, or attend the next Board meeting.

You also need to be objective when making decision for the association.  Don't make decisions that will result in a personal benefit to you, unless that decision also benefits the association and all its members equally.  Membership on the Board is not your opportunity to manipulate the association to your personal benefit.  Sometimes, you may be faced with a decision that will harm you personally - for example, a decision to mandate certain homeowners replace perimeter fences.  When a decision harms you personally, but is in the association's best interests, you must remember that your obligation is to act for the association, not for yourself.

Time

Well-functioning associations can have efficient monthly or quarterly Board meetings that do not take away from the rest of your life.  At certain times, however, you may be obligated to meet more often, for longer, or spend more time reviewing documents and contracts to prepare for a meeting.  If you work long hours, have young children, care for an aged parent, or have other significant time commitments, consider whether you can add the commitment of Board membership before nominating yourself.

Humility

You are not always right, and you need to accept when you are wrong.  You also need to be willing to obtain and accept professional advice when appropriate.  Most people don't know the first thing about association governance when they join a Board, and they aren't expected to.  Your managers, attorneys, and contractors have the experience you may lack, but you should still pay attention, ask thoughtful questions, and work to understand how associations work (and what kinds of actions don't work in the association context!).

You are responsible for providing the vision and direction for the association; the professionals you hire are responsible for implementing that vision.  I always tell my clients that Board membership is a thankless job, but it's a great opportunity for those who want to improve their communities.