Filling open HOA board seats is a vexing and discouraging problem for some associations. However, there may be some reasons why neighbors are not interesting in serving. Could any of the below describe your association?

Volunteer Managers

Do directors spend many hours each week on HOA business, inspecting the property, observing vendors, and otherwise dealing with the HOA’s daily matters? The well-intentioned sacrifice of so much time and energy may deter others from board service. Some neighbors may be retired or have the energy to spend 20-30 hours each week on association matters, but many don’t – and they are frightened of that level of commitment. Let the manager manage, or hire a better one. If the association does not have a manager, hire one. People need to know they are not signing up to be free association co-managers.

Fire and Brimstone in the Clubhouse

Some associations seem fraught with conflict and low standards of behavior. Few are interested in joining a board in which members display open hostility toward each other, or serving an association which seems to be always in litigation.

Chaotic Meetings

Disruptive and uncomfortable meetings filled with hostility between directors and the audience will repel most volunteers. Many prospective volunteers will decide that life is too short to deal with unpleasant people and will avoid meetings and not volunteer. Elevate professionalism and civility in board meetings, and consider adopting board meeting rules promoting civility and order.

Fear of Liability

Volunteer directors should not fear liability, even while making important association decisions. The Business Judgment Rule, corporate process, and directors and officers errors and omissions insurance provide protections to volunteer directors. Stay within those protections and within the director’s role – directing –making decisions. Leave actions and recommendations to managers and consultants. Directors should be continually trained on these important protections.

El Jefe

A president acting as the HOA’s “boss” misunderstands the shared power in nonprofit corporations and discourages volunteers. Who wants to join a board where their contribution is apparently unnecessary and where their views seem unimportant? If the president plays the dictator, and disrespects opposing viewpoints, don’t be surprised at the short list of applicants for board seats. Homeowner associations act through the board, not the president. Presidents which inhibit reasonable discussion and make decisions without board votes are disrespecting the role of the other directors. HOA presidents should be leaders and not bosses of their associations.

Ignorance is Not Bliss

Some associations suffer from poor member participation because members have no idea what their board is doing. Find additional methods to keep your neighbors informed about the goings-on in their association other than just posting the minutes. Better communication leads to greater confidence in association governance and a greater willingness to volunteer.

Major Projects

It is difficult to find volunteers during a major renovation or repair, governing document overhaul, or even lawsuit. Find volunteers before the major project begins.

Huge Board

Some boards are unnecessarily large for the size of the association. For example, does a 25-member association need 5 directors, 20% of the membership? A 3-member board may be adequate and much easier to fill. Changing the size of the board to a more appropriate number probably will require a membership vote to amend the association bylaws.

Adjust, and get those seats filled!

Written by Kelly G. Richardson

Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Principal of Richardson|Ober PC.

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