To Volunteer or Not: The Role of Community Association Managers | Stark & ​​​​Stark

Community associations generally depend on the efforts of volunteer board members to ensure their success. These individuals play a critical role in shaping the direction and priorities of the organization, and in ensuring that the organization remains accountable and responsive to its members. But what does it mean to be a volunteer board member for a community association, and what are the main responsibilities and challenges that come with this role?

First and foremost, being on a volunteer board means dedicating your time and energy to the organization. Depending on the size of the association, this could involve attending regular meetings, participating in committee work, or overseeing various projects or initiatives. It can also mean taking on additional responsibilities, such as serving as a liaison with other groups or organizations, raising funds, or managing finances and budgets.

One of the main responsibilities of volunteer board members is to act as administrator, or in legal terms – fiduciary – to the association and its members. This includes managing the association’s budget, ensuring that funds are used effectively and efficiently, making decisions about investment or other financial matters, and ensuring the upkeep and maintenance of physical assets which are common elements of the association. In other words, running a business that lives, breathes and operates… even without the golden parachute.

Another important role for board members is as advocate and representative for community members. This may involve engaging with community members to identify their needs and concerns, communicating with local government officials or other stakeholders to advocate for organizational priorities, or working with other organizations or groups to advance common goals.

It goes without saying that being a volunteer board member is not without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is managing conflict and disputes within the association itself, especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as budgeting or governance. It can also be difficult to balance the demands of the role with other commitments and responsibilities, such as work or family obligations, given the level of commitment and dedication required.

This is especially true for community associations newly established through a transitional period. The transition occurs when the community developer has sold at least seventy-five percent of the units in development. At this point, under applicable law, the developer is required to transfer control of the association to the unit owner. The transition from developer control can be a complex and challenging time for volunteer board members of community associations, especially given the childhood of unit owner controlled boards. During this period, the association shifted from being controlled by the developer to being run entirely by the community members themselves. This can pose a number of challenges that require careful management and navigation to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

One of the biggest challenges during this period was managing the transfer of power and control from developers to volunteer board members. This can involve renegotiating contracts, entering into new relationships with vendors and service providers, and ensuring that all legal and financial obligations are met. This may also involve reviewing and revising the governing documents of the association, such as bylaws and agreements, to ensure that they reflect community needs and priorities.

Another major challenge is managing expectations and communication with the community members themselves. During a transitional period, there may be a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety among community members about the future direction and management of the association, and especially if there are known or obvious deficiencies in the construct disrupting the community. Volunteer board members must work to ensure members that their interests are being represented and that the transition is being managed effectively.

In addition, volunteer board members may face significant financial challenges during the transition. For example, there may be unforeseen costs associated with transferring control, such as legal fees, vendor fees, or even repairs that need to be done. It may also be necessary to establish new budgeting and financial management practices to ensure that the association remains financially stable and sustainable in the long term.

During this most critical period for community associations, it is important to retain knowledgeable and experienced professionals to assist and guide board members to ensure a successful transition, including an attorney. Retaining a qualified community association attorney can provide voluntary board members with valuable support and guidance, helping them manage risk, ensure compliance, and make informed decisions that are in the best interests of the association and its members. However, despite these challenges, being a volunteer board member can be a very rewarding experience. Not only does it provide an opportunity to make a positive impact on the community, but it can also help individuals develop valuable leadership and management skills, and forge lasting relationships with other members of the community. Being a volunteer board member for a community association requires a significant commitment of time and energy, as well as a willingness to take on challenging responsibilities and address complex issues. But for those who put in the work, the rewards can be enormous, both in terms of personal fulfillment and in positive impact on society.

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