Community associations by and large rely on the efforts of volunteer board members to ensure their success. These individuals play a critical role in shaping the direction and priorities of the organization, and in ensuring that it remains accountable and responsive to its members. But what does it mean to be a volunteer board member for a community association, and what are some of the key responsibilities and challenges that come with this role?
First and foremost, being a volunteer board member means dedicating your time and energy to the organization. Depending on the size of the association, this could involve attending regular meetings, participating in committee work, or overseeing various projects or initiatives. It may also mean taking on additional responsibilities, such as serving as a liaison to other groups or organizations, fundraising, or managing finances and budgets.
One of the key responsibilities of a volunteer board member is to act as a steward, or in legal terms – a fiduciary – to the association and its members. This includes managing the association’s budget, ensuring that funds are being used effectively and efficiently, making decisions about investments or other financial matters, and ensuring the maintenance and upkeep of physical assets that comprise the common elements of the association. In other words, running a living, breathing and operating business…albeit without the golden parachute.
Another important role for board members is to serve as advocates and representatives for the community members. This might involve engaging with community members to identify their needs and concerns, communicating with local government officials or other stakeholders to advocate for the organization’s priorities, or working with other organizations or groups to advance shared goals.
It goes without saying that being a volunteer board member is not without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles can be managing conflicts and disputes within the association itself, particularly when dealing with sensitive issues such as budgeting or governance. It can also be difficult to balance the demands of the role with other commitments and responsibilities, such as work or family obligations, given the level of commitment and dedication required.
This is particularly so for newly constructed community associations going through transition. Transition occurs when the developer of the community has sold at least seventy-five percent of the units in the development. At this point, under the applicable laws, the developer is required to transfer control of the association over to the unit owners. Transition from developer control can be a complex and challenging time for volunteer board members of community associations, particularly given the infancy of the unit owner-controlled board. During this period, the association shifts from being controlled by the developer to being run entirely by the community members themselves. This can bring about a number of challenges that require careful management and navigation to ensure a smooth and successful transition.
One of the biggest challenges during this period is managing the transfer of power and control from the developer to the volunteer board members. This can involve renegotiating contracts, establishing new relationships with vendors and service providers, and ensuring that all legal and financial obligations are met. It may also involve reviewing and revising the association’s governing documents, such as bylaws and covenants, to ensure that they reflect the community’s needs and priorities.
Another key challenge is managing expectations and communication with the community members themselves. During the transition period, there may be a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety among community members about the future direction and management of the association, and especially so if there are known or apparent construction deficiencies plaguing the community. Volunteer board members must work to reassure members that their interests are being represented and that the transition is being managed effectively.
Additionally, volunteer board members may face significant financial challenges during the transition period. For example, there may be unexpected expenses associated with the transfer of control, such as legal fees, vendor costs, or even necessary repairs to be made. It may also be necessary to establish new budgeting and financial management practices to ensure that the association remains financially stable and sustainable over the long term.
During this most critical period for community associations, it is essential to retain knowledgeable and experienced professionals to assist and guide board members to ensure a successful transition, including an attorney. Retaining a qualified community association attorney can provide valuable support and guidance to volunteer board members, helping them to manage risks, ensure compliance, and make informed decisions that are in the best interests of the association and its members. Despite these challenges, however, being a volunteer board member can be a highly rewarding experience. Not only does it provide an opportunity to make a positive impact on the community, but it can also help individuals develop valuable leadership and management skills, and forge lasting connections with other members in the community. Being a volunteer board member for a community association requires a significant commitment of time and energy, as well as a willingness to take on challenging responsibilities and navigate complex issues. But for those who are up to the task, the rewards can be substantial, both in terms of personal fulfillment and in the positive impact on the community.