One of the first steps in making a difference is becoming involved in your community. Because association living is the most noticeable and accessible to most homeowners today, this community involvement will often begin with your association.
So how do you become involved in your community? One way to become involved in your association is to submit your name to serve as a volunteer board member for your association. The first step in this process is to review your association’s governing documents to determine any qualifications for service on the board of directors.
Qualification for service on an association board is often as simple as being an owner within the community. Other qualifications may include being in good standing (i.e. your dues are not delinquent; you are not in violation of any of the association’s governing documents; etc.). If you meet the qualifications for service on the board of directors, you can submit your name as a candidate.
Different associations handle candidate nominations differently. Some associations merely request names from the membership and place all of these names on the ballot. Other associations have a nomination committee that reviews potential candidates and submits the official candidate list. Before submitting your name, you should review your association’s governing documents so that you can follow all of the appropriate steps for becoming a qualified candidate for possible election.
Once you have submitted your name, you might be thinking, “What in the world have I just done?!” Don’t be discouraged! You have taken the first step in becoming involved in your association. Yay!
The next step in the process is to get your campaign going so you can be elected by the membership. This might involve sending out a candidate statement describing yourself or it might involve walking around your community knocking on doors to meet your neighbors and requesting that they vote for you. You should view this process as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors at the same time as collecting votes.
If you are elected to the board you will spend the next year or more serving your community as a fiduciary. Congratulations! If you are not elected do not despair, all is not lost!
Service on the board is not the only manner by which you can serve your community. If you are not elected to the board at the annual meeting you should immediately approach the board and volunteer to serve on a committee. It is often difficult for a 3, 5 or even 7 member board of directors to do everything necessary to run an association. Volunteer board members will likely welcome the assistance you offer. If there are particular issues which concern you, make sure to identify them to the board and offer to serve on a committee designed to address the issues. You will be most effective when working to address an issue that you find to be important.
If the committees are full or the board declines your offer, you can still be involved in your community. Attending board meetings will offer insight into the issues facing the association and will permit you to offer comments (during open forum) to the board and to discuss issues concerning the board with your neighbors. Many owners are unaware of the hundreds of issues facing the board on a monthly basis. By attending board meetings, you will understand that it is not as easy to run the association as it might seem from the outside. Consider attending board meetings as your homework for election to the board in future years.
If you have computer skills, you can offer your expertise to the board by offering to create and/or maintain an association website or draft a newsletter for the association. If you have an accounting background, you can offer your assistance in preparing the association’s budget or serving on a finance or budget committee. If you have a knack for planning parties, offer to organize a social event for the entire community. If you have contracting or landscaping knowledge, you can offer your assistance to review landscaping plans or proposed construction to provide your advice to the board of directors.
Remember that your skills are valuable and offering them to the board will work to the betterment of the entire community. Personal involvement is the first step towards understanding the issues facing your community and making a positive difference in resolving those issues!