Arizona HOA Boards 101: What They Didn't Tell YouSo, you want to be an Arizona HOA board member. There's nothing more rewarding than volunteering time to serve your community and making a difference. Armed with industry knowledge and the right perspective, you and your board can preserve and enhance your community's reputation and potentially increase property values in the process. 
But what are some things they didn't tell you about being a board member? 
As we all know, good things don't come easy, and being on the board of a thriving association will require some patience, effort and tough skin on your part! Read our article to learn four lesser-known tips for brand-new or seasoned board members.
  1. Understanding Your Role on the Board and Avoiding Blunders

    You may have thought that a board member's duties are limited to their title. However, it's important to note that you share equal responsibility when it comes to your fiduciary duty and commitment to acting in the best interest of your association. Below are five general titles and responsibilities of a board and committee member to give you an idea of where to start.

    As a board member, your responsibilities exceed your mere designation. It is crucial to recognize that you bear equal accountability in fulfilling your fiduciary duty and wholeheartedly serving the best interests of your association. To help you commence your journey, here are five key positions and their accompanying responsibilities that every board and committee member should be familiar with.
    1. President
      • The role of the president in your board includes managing board meetings, handling legal matters, and being the representative when necessary. The extent of their decision-making authority could be determined by the association's code of conduct, allowing them to make final decisions or follow a majority vote approach. 
    2. Vice President
      • The vice president is a crucial role, providing essential support to the president and stepping in to govern if necessary. They play a key role in facilitating communication between the board, committees, and management company.  
    3. Secretary
      • The secretary plays a crucial role in handling association documents and serves as the primary contact for newsletters and communication materials. 
        • NOTE: Keep in mind that your management company should have a robust solution for recording meeting minutes and drafting agendas and should be looking to your board to review those documents rather than create them from scratch. FirstService Residential uses its proprietary Meeting Management System to create meeting packets, agendas and minutes in a 100% digital and interactive format.  
    4. Treasurer
      • Responsibilities of the treasurer include managing the finances of the association, including both incoming and outgoing funds. This role involves close collaboration with the association's CPA and the accounting department of the management company. 
    5. Committee Members
      • Committee members play a crucial role in supporting the board of directors. They offer valuable input and dedicate their time to various specialized areas, including finance, architecture, landscape, maintenance, and events. 
    Did you know? Seeking counsel from your spouses or family members regarding official board business can be a serious violation.

    As an Arizona HOA board member, it is important to understand that your governance responsibilities are exclusive to you and your fellow elected board members. It is crucial to refrain from involving your non-board member spouses or family members in any official business. Instead, kindly request them to adhere to the suggestion or feedback protocol established by the board or community manager. By doing so, you will uphold your integrity as a fair board member and avoid causing any discomfort or conflict. 

    What other board blunders should you avoid? Read our article, 5 HOA Board Blunders to Avoid, for more information.
  2. Leading by Example, Fairness and Transparency

    As a volunteer board member, your role goes beyond decision-making for the community. It's crucial to understand that not everyone, including your fellow board members, will always be completely satisfied. Nonetheless, your contributions will make a valuable impact.

    Achieving board alignment is crucial for making impactful decisions in your association. An effective board member sets a strong example, prioritizes fairness, and maintains transparent and regular communication. It's important to note that board alignment does not mean agreeing with every decision or having the same collective thought. Effective communication and consensus are key in making decisions that benefit your community. By clearly conveying the rationale behind these decisions to owners and residents, you will foster unity and encourage their cooperation, especially in challenging situations like increasing assessments or introducing new policies.

    "The challenge of alignment is that you're not going to keep everyone happy. Instead, you want to act in the best interest of your community – that's the key."

    —Gary Turner, Board President of Trilogy La Quinta Maintenance Association

    Arizona HOA board members, including you, play a vital role in ensuring a harmonious living environment for residents. To achieve this, it is critical to adhere to all rules and regulations set by your association and management company.

    While exceptions may arise where alternative solutions need to be explored, it is crucial that this decision-making process is fair, unbiased, and transparent. Documentation of these exceptions and clear communication with residents is essential for building trust and avoiding any potential animosity among residents.

    By maintaining transparency and upholding the principles of fairness, board members can uphold the integrity of the community and foster a positive living experience for all residents.

    To learn more about board communication and the benefits of uniting on important decisions, read our article, Is HOA Alignment a Unicorn? 3 Boards Share What It Takes.

  3. Avoiding Burnout and Tackling Social Media Woes

    "Some board members face ongoing challenges on social media from individuals who have their own opinions of what's going on behind the scenes or may not understand the decision process. Some people will go as far as knocking on the board member's door to make themselves feel heard."

    – Christina Brown, Regional Director, FirstService Residential

    Being a board member involves more than just posting event updates on social media. You may also have to deal with negative comments, including personal attacks, on both community sanctioned and unsanctioned social media sites. 
    Dealing with feedback from unhappy residents is a major cause of board burnout that often gets overlooked. Whether it's on social media or in person within your community or high-rise, it can be tempting to engage and respond to these confrontations. However, it's important to remember that your responses will reflect not only on yourself but also on the entire board and association. 
    Effective board members can efficiently handle negative feedback by proactively and transparently communicating with the entire community. While proactive communication cannot prevent unhappy residents from expressing their opinions, it does improve the board's reputation and standing within the community. When faced with criticism from individuals who have differing perspectives, a unified board and a clear message emphasizing the "why" and the benefits to the community can aid in response. As board member Gary Turner mentioned, it is essential to prioritize the best interests of the community, even if it means not pleasing everyone. 

    If any situation gets out of hand, involve your community manager and consult with your association management company to best handle these situations. FirstService Residential has a communication cadence and best practices in place to help board members navigate negative feedback. For more communication best practices, read our article, 9 Ways to Improve Board Communication (Hint: It Starts With You!).
  4. Finding Strength and Support in Your Team

    "It takes a village! Our community managers, general managers and board members have access to a full range of HR support and resources from our in-house accounting and finance department, legal and risk team to take their association to the next level."

    -Ivana Komljenovic, General Manager, FirstService Residential

    Being a board member doesn't mean you have to do everything alone. Your community or general manager is there to support you and help carry out the decisions and vision of the board. In fact, successful associations often have specialized "policy boards" that focus on creating policies and keeping up with market trends, while leaving the day-to-day responsibilities to the manager and their team. Speaking of teams, your community manager will rely on a strong support system in accounting, IT, human resources, legal, and risk management to ensure they can effectively carry out their job. 

    As board members, it's important to assess whether your association or community manager has adequate support or not. Here are some questions to consider:
    • What's the general response time for any questions or requests?
    • Does your manager have additional administrative support?
    • Are homeowner statements arriving on time with footnotes from accountants?
    • Does your manager have access to training and technologies that allow them to do their job more effectively?

    The truth is, supported managers equal successful communities. To that end, FirstService Residential arms community managers and associates with specialized training and extensive support in all departments because we know that a supported manager means a successful board and association.
To learn more, read our article, Is Your Association Manager Equipped for Success? 3 Questions to Ask.

Final Thoughts

Building a successful association relies on the dedication and hard work of a robust board, management team, and satisfied residents. Whether you're new or experienced, it's important to foster a collaborative environment, seek guidance when needed, and stay updated on industry trends for the betterment of your association. Embrace a mindset of constant improvement and always aim to enhance the community you serve.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Wednesday September 06, 2023