Top Training Strategies for HOA Board Members  

Date Published : Jun-26-2024

Written By : Abigail Guevara

There are over 2,500,000 community association elected members of boards of directors and appointed committee members in the US., according to the Foundation for Community Association Research.

With millions of everyday homeowners making important decisions about community finances and operations, it stands to reason that HOA members should be both knowledgeable and capable in their position due to the high level of responsibility they hold.  

   

Table of contents

  1. Get the introduction right
  2. Third-party reference materials
  3. Know the role
  4. Collaborate with property management
  5. Introduce and train on HOA software
  6. Tell them what they are doing well…and not so well
  7. Get a grip on financials
  8. Offer a conflict resolution seminar
  9. Fiduciary obligation before self-interest
  10. Review HOA developments and accomplishments

   

Yet, the reality is that between the numerous details contained in HOA guiding documents, understanding current and past HOA operations as well as getting familiar with community homeowners, doing a good job as an HOA board member is often overwhelming for new and even existing board members. They need help to do a good job.

Therefore, good training, orientation and training packages from the onset are not only valuable for understanding, but also necessary to avoid preventable mistakes.

So, let’s take a look at actions your HOA can take to help your board members get properly trained from the start.

   

1. Get the introduction right

HOA board members must engage in certain activities to get started on the right foot. You can start them on the right path with both a verbal and written welcome packet that includes:

   

Reason for being

Newly elected board members may join with a preconceived idea of what their role pertains to and how they will approach it. They may be overly focused on one area, while completely ignoring another. Or they may not have enough insight into what the board as a whole is trying to accomplish.

Share goals and responsibilities of the board as a whole, as well as the details of what their role will be on the board and how they are to carry out their duties. Dispel presumptions right away so they start with the right mindset.

   

Buddy up

HOA board members are voted in every 2-3 years, that is pretty frequent. When a board member leaves, they take the knowledge and experience they’ve gained with them. Consider asking the outgoing board member to be a source of reference for the incoming member so the new person can reach out and get details they may need.

The outgoing board member will be able to shed light on details and context not captured in black and white documents.

Speaking of documents…

   

Read to get up to speed

HOA governing documents serve as the premier guides of how an HOA is to run the community. These documents include:

  1. Laws of the State
  2. Articles of Incorporation
  3. Bylaws
  4. Declaration of Covenants
  5. Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs)   

Each governing document provides important information that board members should be familiar with. At minimum, they should know which documents to go to if they are looking for certain information to help them govern.

   

2. Third-party reference materials

Have your new board member start by perusing the book Robert’s Rules of Order, a manual on parliamentary procedure. This book will give more details that a board member may need about how meetings should be conducted in a fair and orderly way. It will serve as a valuable overview of what to expect in Annual General Meetings ensuring they are legal and structured properly.

Chart source: Board Effect

More specific HOA guidance resources that benefit both new and existing HOA board members include:

  • HOAleader.com – The Practical Guide to Homeowner Association Management
  • Community Associations Institute – An international membership organization dedicated to building better communities
  • HOATalk.com – Community of association leaders learning and sharing ideas
  • HignellHOA.com – An HOA management company that offers educational bundles such as Board Member Bootcamp Bundle, Compliance & Safety Bundle, and Accounting & Reserve Fund Planning Bundle 
  • CondoControl.com – An invaluable resource for all things HOA-related. You can search by specific topics including finance, communication, laws and rules, community living, and property management.
  • HOPB.co – Homeowners Protection Bureau, LLC (HOPB), a private organization that helps educate and support property owners governed HOAs to strengthen communities referencing federal and state laws and statistics.

   

3. Know the role

Some responsibilities within a role on a board are clear. But depending on how your board is structured and the size of the property, roles may include unique activities that are outside of the normal scope of the role.

Standard HOA board member roles include President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer.

Each role should have a formal, shareable role description associated with it, indicating:

  • Definition of the role
  • Specific purpose of the role
  • Activities expected to be undertaken
  • How the role functions within the board and within the community
  • Any additional activities the role may be expected to undertake outside of the usual scope, especially if it’s a smaller community and doesn’t have as many volunteers.    

Drilling down to this level of clarity will give individuals both a broad and detailed understanding of their role on the board and in the community.

   

4. Collaborate with property management

Property managers are tasked with a number of responsibilities such as:

  • Managing finances
  • Enforcing community rules
  • Coordinating vendors and suppliers
  • Managing administrative tasks
  • Overseeing the property
  • Communicating with members

Therefore, your property manager is an excellent resource for information and helpful details. When a new board member joins, ask your property manager to spend a couple of hours with the new individual sharing information with them at a high level.

This is an excellent orientation technique, to get the big picture  and the new board members will also know who to go to, to ask questions and get answers.

   

5. Introduce and train on HOA software

Many HOAs use some kind of property management software, so board members should get trained on how to use HOA software to help them manage their property with added:

  • Efficiency
  • Accountability
  • Effectiveness

For example, board members often use their property management software to:

  • Improve communication
  • Streamline security
  • Make, track and collect fees
  • Increase community engagement and much more

While it’s true a property manager may use property management software the most, if you are a smaller HOA then board members may be very hands on and will use the software directly and daily.

And every board member should be able to HOA files and documents through the software when they need to, regardless of whether there is a property manager on site.

   

6. Tell them what they are doing well…and not so well

Often times a board member will contribute to decision-making and work on various projects on behalf of the community. Always acknowledge what they are getting right and the positive outcomes as a result of their volunteerism.

Positive feedback encourages them to take more of those actions, and then if there is any less positive feedback they need to hear, it will be better received once they the know what they are doing right.

   

7. Get a grip on financials

All new board members should have an understanding of their HOAs current budget, reserve funds and financial statements. This helps the new board member understand the financial health of the association and why some decisions have been made and how HOA finances impact future decisions.  

Even if they do not have a treasurer role, introduce them to the following standard financial statements:

  • Balance sheet
  • Income statement
  • Cash flow statement
  • General ledger
  • Accounts payable report
  • Account delinquency report
  • Cash Disbursement

A basic understanding of the HOAs financials is necessary for a new HOA member to make helpful decisions.

   

8. Offer a conflict resolution seminar

If you live with even just one other person, conflict is bound to arise, far less when living in a planned community of many people and backgrounds. The opportunity for conflict can take place even within the board, among members and vendors etc. Therefore, participating in a conflict resolution seminar is a good idea.

It should provide some basic tools a new board member can use to address conflicts should they arise. This will help the board member be more capable in difficult situations and intentionally de-escalate conflicts.

   

9. Fiduciary obligation before self-interest

There can be an inherent conflict between what the HOA intends to achieve and what homeowners want to achieve. As both a board member and homeowner, the new board member must understand and accept that their role on the board supersedes their own personal interests.

Explain that their fiduciary responsibility is primary and that as a director on the board the need to see the HOA as a business and set aside personal agendas. Maintaining privacy goes hand in hand with fiduciary responsibilities too. Because they are privy to sensitive information, remind them that their discretion is of the utmost importance.

   

10. Review HOA developments and accomplishments

Depending how long the new board member has been a homeowner in the community, they may or may not recall the many activities the board has undertaken. It would be a great reference point to go over some of the major goals and accomplishments made by the HOA in the last five years.

This will give the new board members an understanding of how long some things may take to accomplish and the review will serve as an excellent resume of how the association looks after the community.

   

HOA Training for New Members is Part of Their Success  

No matter the size of your HOA, small or large, when a new member joins the board, never assume that just because they are interested in the role, or that they’ve been a homeowner in the community for a long time that they know all that they need to.

There is a lot to learn and understand, so doing your due diligence to ensure their success by orienting and training them properly is important.

When a board member is properly trained and brought up to speed, they will do a better job fulfilling their role as well as meeting the needs within the board structure and on behalf of the community they volunteer to serve.  

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