If you are a new member of your community association board of directors, you are in for an educational experience. Among the many subjects that you will deal with are architectural review, contracting, communication, meeting conduct, insurance, financial reports and taxes. Most new members of community association boards of directors do not have a broad knowledge of these topics. So how does one get up to speed about these subjects? In a word, education. Many educational opportunities exist for both new and experienced board members; the important thing is to avail yourself of these opportunities.
Community Associations Institute
One of the best sources of information is Community Associations Institute. CAI is a national non-profit organization that provides education and resources to community association homeowners and the professionals who work in this industry. The CAI website (www.caionline.org) has helpful resources online, like a Board Member Basics course, available to CAI members and to nonmembers. There are also publications on a wide variety of topics geared toward community association volunteers. CAI members are eligible to take in-person and online classes, attend programs and receive Common Ground magazine. A CAI membership can be a great investment if you want to know more about community associations and best practices in community association operations.
Another educational resource for board members is the person who serves as your community manager. He or she is a generalist who is familiar with a wide array of topics encountered every day in community associations. Need to know about the different kinds of grass that grow in your area? Do you need help conducting a productive meeting in the shortest time possible? What are the different types of federal tax forms that are filed by community associations? Ask your manager. He or she should either know the answers or be able to get them for you. Your manager can also help you avoid reinventing the wheel. He or she is likely to be knowledgeable about how other associations have successfully dealt with problems that your community is experiencing.
Some management companies present educational programs from time to time on subjects of interest to board members. Topics may include free legal advice, how to read a financial statement, tips on taking minutes, and suggestions on how to run a board meeting. They will often call in local industry experts knowledgeable in fields like finance and law. At times, they may even call in national experts to discuss board best practices and conflict negotiations.
Yet another source of educational information is the Internet. Answers to many questions are available online. For instance, if you have had a soil sample done and want to know the significance of the pH level, there’s a lot of information about this subject on the Web. Or if you want to educate yourself on the state statutes governing your community, a copy of the law is just a few clicks away.
More than ever before, there are educational opportunities for board members who want to enhance their knowledge. If you want to do your best for your community association, take advantage of CAI, your manager, your association management company and the Internet. You’ll be glad you did.
Stewart Wise, PCAM®