As laws have changed over the past few years and more information has become available online, community association governance has been forced to evolve to new, higher standards. Now more than ever, volunteer board members must understand their role as leaders and decision-makers for their communities, and they must have the tools to communicate effectively with their owners. When it comes to effective communication, we see a good mix of exemplar approaches (many of which were learned from experience) and communities that could benefit from proven strategies. If your community is looking for ways to improve communication, or struggling with a contentious issue and wondering what may help, consider the following options for increasing transparency, educating owners, and fostering community within your association:

Hold regularly scheduled board meetings. If owners do not have access to the business of the association, they may get suspicious of what the board is doing. Unfortunately, all too often, perception is reality for owners. You may meet for months without other owners in attendance, but that does not eliminate the need for meetings that owners can attend if they so choose. Set the time and location of meetings at the beginning of the year and stick to that schedule.

Allow owner access to board members. The community manager often serves as the primary contact person for owners with questions and problems to report. Managers then communicate with the board and take action where appropriate. But the manager should not serve as a substitute for the owner-elected board. Board members must make themselves accessible, typically at board meetings, so that owners can feel more assured that their voices are heard and considered in the board decision-making process. Remember that, under the new records law, owners have a right to obtain board member email addresses, so owner contact with board members is a part of board member service to the community. But remember, too, that all board members must have access to information used to make decisions—so individual board members should avoid secret conversations and promises to owners.


Continue Reading Good Governance and Communication Go Hand-in-Hand

I love the fresh start of a new year. Like many people, I use the last few days of the year to reflect on accomplishments, identify areas for improvement and growth, and set goals for the next twelve months. The last week of the year often slows down enough for reflection and planning, and I can chart my course for things like client relations activities, changes to internal business practices, and training for that three-day bike ride I want to complete in July.

How does your community association plan for the year ahead? If you’re a new board member, perhaps you’re eager to begin addressing concerns that led you to volunteer in the first place. If you’re a seasoned director, you may have a project underway that you intend to see to completion. But what are your goals as a board? Is your board approaching the New Year with a unified vision and voice?


Continue Reading Better Communication in 2013

Technology expedites the work of community association board members, managers, and attorneys. Technology allows us to fully consider detailed documents before convening for in-person meetings and, in some circumstances, to request board decisions in lieu of meetings. With a few clicks, we can send project bids, opinion letters, and summaries of accounts by e-mail, and post important announcements on association websites. For these and other purposes, technology can positively serve your community associations. But community association leaders must tread carefully when using technology, particularly e-mail, for association business. Board members must keep in mind their fiduciary duties to their community associations before hitting “send” to avoid getting themselves and their associations into heated disputes and potential legal binds.


Continue Reading Board Disputes: If You Won’t Say It in Person, Don’t Say It by E-mail