How to be a Savvy Board Member

The board is a team of volunteers who have decided, for whatever reason, that they want to be a part of the decision-making process for their community. Serving on the board gives volunteers the opportunity to develop professional goals and improve communication skills. Whether a newly elected member, or one who has served for several years, each board member should come to the table with an open mind and a desire to build consensus.

Understanding Governing Documents

Board members should familiarize themselves with the association’s governing documents. If the community is professionally managed, members should receive a Board Member Handbook that describes, but is not limited to:

  1. Each member’s role
  2. The board member’s fiduciary duty
  3. Specific administrative tasks
  4. How to conduct a board meeting
  5. Proper professional conduct and parliamentary procedure

To learn more about legal obligations and potential liabilities of directors, click here

Come to Meetings Prepared

Board members should take time to read the management report prior to the meetings. If you have questions, ask them prior to the meeting so that your manager (if your association is professionally managed) can have ample time to find the answers. This will help the meeting time be more effective. There is nothing more frustrating to those attending the meeting than for fellow board members to come unprepared and want to discuss issues at great length. The management report and agenda should provide ample information so that decisions can be made in an effective and timely manner.

Understand your Management Company’s Role

It is also important to understand the role of your management company, if applicable. They serve as your agent, not your employee, by acting on behalf of the board in decision making. It is the managing company’s job to provide direction and advice based on their experience, training and education to ensure that board members do not compromise their fiduciary responsibility.

Work to Avoid Conflict

Board members are part of a team and should work to prevent conflict. Although members and/or managers will not always agree, a difference in opinion does not necessitate an argument. Member should present thoughts concisely and respectfully, and then be sure to listen to others. The success of a board depends on the effort members make to work together, no matter how wide the chasm of differences. 

Article adapted from, “Serving on the Board: It’s About Team Building and Leadership” by Sherry Harvey.