Top 10 ways for Community Association Boards to Increase Effectiveness and Productivity
By Salvatore Sciacca – Chicago Property Services
Are you feeling overwhelmed and overworked as a board member of a community association? Do you feel underpaid? Do you feel like there is not enough time to address the never-ending issues that keep popping up within your community? Do you wish there was a way to become more productive and spend less time as a volunteer board member for your association? The good news is that there is such a way. And I am about to reveal exactly the top 10 best ways to do so. So sit back, relax and read ahead.
- Plan all board meetings and the annual meeting before the beginning of the calendar year (set all your meetings prior to December 31st of this year for next year’s 2020 meetings). This will help ensure that there will be enough attendance for all the board meetings, and will minimize the amount of cancellations due to a lack of quorum.
- Hold the meetings at a business appropriate environment which has chairs for all the attendees including the homeowners, Wi-Fi, a conference table for the board members and community manager, a projector, screen, etc. This will ensure the meetings are more productive. Food and drinks are okay but preferably not until after the board meeting.
- Request a board packet from your management company at least 5-7 days PRIOR to the board meeting. The board packet should have an agenda that clearly states the decisions that the board should make, as well the related proposals, old business issues and new business issues. In addition, the agenda should state any matters that the board needs to take up in executive session. If there are multiple proposals for a particular project, the packet should contain a spreadsheet analyzing the bids in an apples to apples comparison so that the board can make an informed decision.
- As a board member, take adequate time to prepare for the board meeting. This is essential to having a productive board meeting. Each board member should take the time to review the agenda and review bids so that the board meeting goes smoothly. Don’t wait until the board meeting to open up the board packet.
- Invest the necessary amount of time required to review the draft budget submitted by the management company (if you have a management company) and ensure that there is enough money in all the budget line items. The entire board should carefully review the initial draft budget and adjust as necessary. The board should take into account the capital plan and/or reserve study when finalizing the daft budget that will be presented at the budget approval board meeting.
- Prepare your annual budget to include an expense contingency line item of around 5% of the annual assessment income. This will ensure that the budget will withstand moderate unforeseen expenses which will in turn prevent time wasted by the board scrambling to fill budget gaps and holes if the expenditures exceed the budget.
- Board members should spend the time getting to know the governing documents such as the declaration, bylaws, rules and regulations as well as the management agreement. The board should clarify any questions about the management agreement. The management agreement should be very detailed and should document exactly which services are included and which services are not included. If there are ala carte services offered, the agreement should detail the exact cost. If there is no ala carte fee schedule, there should be no ala carte charges incurred by the association. Alternatively, the management agreement should detail the amount of time included in the monthly fee and what the charges are for extra effort or time for services expended by the management company above and beyond the base services.
- The rules and regulations should by carefully reviewed and brought up to industry standards if applicable. The rules and regulations are one of the most important lines of defense when it comes to conflict between homeowners and between the association and homeowners. A lack of rules and regulations and/or weak rules and regulations cause an excessive amount of effort expended by the management company and board members. Comprehensive and detailed rules and regulations can significantly reduce the amount of challenges and time spent dealing with conflict.
- Determine the most effective way to communicate with the management company. Find out how the management company works most effectively. Is there an online communication platform that the management company utilizes? If so, use that and avoid sending emails if possible. If the management company doesn’t have a ticket tracking system, ask if they are planning to use one as it is a much more effective method of communication versus emailing back and forth. Setup a regular phone conversation between the board president and the community manager.
- Switch management companies. If you are spending so much time chasing your community manager for responses or if you are consistently unsatisfied with the level of service provided by your management company, make a change. There are significant differences between community management companies. They are not all the same. Take the time to research the different firms that serve your particular type of community. If you live in a small condo association, don’t hire a management company that manages high rises or large-scale communities. You should work with a firm that specializes in small sized communities. And the opposite is true.
Don’t settle for mediocrity. Your time is very valuable as a board member. You are serving as volunteer and you deserve to get the best support available from the professionals that serve your community. Invest the time necessary to perform as a highly effective board member and you and the rest of the homeowners in your community will notice the difference.