Although some Associations don’t implement term limits on Community Association board members, the board does experience turnover. Whether it be a board member who moves out of the community or simply steps down to better focus on responsibilities outside the Association, board vacancies are a reality of community living. However, a fully staffed, functioning board is vital to serve the best interests of the entire Association. But within an entire community of possible candidates, it can be difficult to know which ones are both interested in serving on the board and capable of increasing the Association’s ability to succeed.
Finding the Right Candidate
The Board of Trustees is lucky in that they rarely have to look beyond their community to find a competent member to add to their team. However, the board shouldn’t just pick a person at random and encourage them to consider joining the board. There are certain skills and behaviors that can indicate if one resident is more qualified to serve on the board than others — and if that resident would be excited about the opportunity.
Look out for those residents who are constantly showing up to board meetings and other Association-hosted events. These are individuals who are already involved in the community and invested in the way it is operated. The board should also keep their eyes peeled for those with relevant career experience. An accountant within the community, for example, would be a great financial resource on the board, just as a lawyer would provide a wellspring of legal knowledge to draw from in responding to liability claims or creating bylaws. Finally, if you have residents that are constantly — yet politely — bringing issues to the attention of the board, it could be a sign that that person has the strong level of engagement and concern for the community required to be an effective board member.
There are plenty of other attributes to look for in the ideal board member. This includes making sure that the selected candidate has a good eye for detail and a knack for open, honest communication. Consistency and dependability are other valued traits in a board member. Finally, the ability to look past personal biases and put the community’s interest ahead of individual interests and needs indicate that a resident would make a fine board member.
For the most part, the majority of potential board members are likely to be residents. Therefore, they will not necessarily well-versed in the many responsibilities that fall under the board’s purview and it should be expected that current board members will need to make some kind of educational effort on their behalf — even before that potential member has decided to commit to the position. From managing budgets, to the process of writing and enacting bylaws, to preparing for emergencies, to simple bookkeeping — and many things in between — a board member must be prepared to competently wear many different hats.
Providing educational resources to a potential board member is a great way to start the learning process. Additionally, a board could choose to show rather than tell a potential member what a position on the board entails. Inviting potential members to sit in on Association meetings, appointing them to a short-term appointment on the board when another member steps down, or recruiting them to serve on a committee for a special project or issue within the community. This can be a great, low-pressure litmus test of that person’s behavior, temperament, and leadership skills in a position of power within the community.
Preparing a New Board Member for Success
When approaching a resident to serve on the board, it’s natural to receive a level of pushback from those who feel as though they don’t have the time for board service, for example, or aren’t informed enough to act responsibly. In this case, it helps to prepare some rebuttals for these arguments. However, it’s important to honestly convey what it’s like to be on the board. Underestimating the time it takes to perform board responsibilities on a weekly basis, for instance, will only leave the new board member unpleasantly surprised and possibly resentful should they decide to serve.
Additionally, the board’s job as mentor isn’t finished the moment a potential board member becomes an actual board member. In order to guarantee the continued success of that individual, the board needs to enact a thorough, extensive training process to best acclimate that board member to their new role. Finding and recruiting the resident best suited to serve on the board is the first step in strengthening Association leadership, while guiding that person through their first several weeks or months of board service will ensure the long-term success of the community overall.