Contending with Apathy Towards Board Member Service in Community Associations

Community association living has many advantages and desirable qualities.  Residents share expenses in order to be able to enjoy relatively carefree maintenance of their property and the use of amenities such as pools, fitness centers, meeting rooms, and other appealing features.  However, in exchange for enjoying benefits derived from community association living, such as the pooling of the financial burdens of an association via the monthly maintenance payments, members should be mindful of a vital commitment which contributes to the wellbeing of their community:  serving on the association’s board of directors.

An effective board of directors is critical for the financial and administrative performance of a community and association.  Boards, which are in charge of making very important decisions affecting all unit owners and residents, are comprised of volunteer owners who rise to the call of serving their community in order to make it the best that it can be for all of an association’s members.

Unfortunately, in many cases, we often find that unit owners become complacent when a community’s board of directors is doing its job effectively.  Volunteering for board service is often perceived to be a daunting and thankless commitment by individuals who lead busy lives and do not wish to take on new responsibilities.

Effective remedies to tackle apathy towards board member service typically stem from implementing and maintaining long-term strategies to encourage serving.  It should begin by encouraging all members of the association to attend and participate in the association meetings, motivating eligible attendees to consider serving on the board of directors in the future.   Sharing informational resources on board service from industry groups, such as the Community Associations Institute (www.caionline.org) and other reputable sources, may also stimulate owners to aspire to serve on the board.

Association members who are more likely to become board members are those who take part in the regularly scheduled meetings and wish to have their voices heard, so associations should consider scheduling meetings for the more convenient dates and times for all of the members to attend.

The use of committees may also be an effective tool for creating interest in association matters and board membership.  Seeking a board seat may be perceived as too big of a step for many owners, but serving on an association’s budget, social, fining, architectural review or other committee is less intimidating, often serving as a natural incubator and stepping stone for future board members.

Associations having difficulty filling board seats should also consider using officers who are not board members, to the extent permitted by the association’s governing documents.  Many associations do not require that all of the officers of the association must also be members of the board of directors.  As an example, an owner with bookkeeping experience may be open to serving as association treasurer without serving as a member of the board.

Another option for associations is to consider the size of their board of directors.  Five is the most typical size, and some communities operate very effectively with boards comprised of only three members.  Obviously, the smaller the board, the easier it is to fill with willing and able directors.

Community association members should also bear in mind the consequences of not having a viable board of directors, as this would cost the association significant funds that would need to be recouped by increased fees and assessments.  The ultimate doomsday scenario for community associations that are unable to establish a board of directors is for a judicially appointed independent third-party receiver to assume control.  The receiver and all of the other professionals whom they would hire to serve in the capacities of officers of the association would receive compensation from association funds, which would probably necessitate a special assessment and/or increased monthly fees.