HOA Boards: Four Ways to Prevent and Ease Board Burnout
Let's face it. In many condo and homeowners associations, a handful of people carry the load for the rest of the community. Those heavy lifters can sometimes become burned out. What can you do to prevent burnout? And what can you do to ease the burden when HOA board members are feeling drained? Here are four suggestions.
1) Adopt functioning committees. Create many committees, and ask as many owners as possible to participate in the committee system. "A functioning committee system is probably the best way to handle the care and feeding of your members," says Bob Tankel, principal at Robert L. Tankel PA in Dunedin, Fla., a law firm that advises associations. "Have committees that entice people to be involved on the notion that people feel like they're protecting their investment." Through the use of committees, you take some of the burden off your most taxed members. You also develop a farm team of members who understand how your association operates and may be willing to step up when a board member needs a break.
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2) Limit the number of seats to fill. The smaller your board, the more owners you have on deck that you can ask jump in when current board members feel stretched to the limit. "Don't ever go with a bigger board than you absolutely need," says Tankel. "I got a call recently from a board member from a community with 35 units and seven people on the board. I said, 'Are you crazy? In Florida, you can amend your documents down to three board members by law.' Get by on the smallest board your state allows."
3) Where you can, break positions into small pieces. "What scares people away from being on the board is the fact that it's too much of a commitment," says Tankel. "If you can take apart various roles and give everybody a teaspoonful, it's better than everybody having to swallow a gallon."
Here's what Tankel means. "You've often got people wearing two hats—a policy-making hat and a policy-executing hat," he explains. "You may be able to get someone to say, 'I'll be the recording secretary. I'll come to the meetings, take minutes, and leave. I don't want to be tasked with making policy.' Or maybe you've got someone who's willing to be in charge of security but who doesn't want to attend board meetings. That person can just keep an eye out to make sure people are following security rules and then let the board know if there are problems. By taking apart the pieces of what makes the association run and giving smaller pieces to different people, you'll be a lot better off."
4) Hire a manager. "This is going to be a biased answer, but burnout is a huge opportunity for our company," says James Donnelly, president and CEO of Castle Group, a property management company in Plantation, Fla., that manages 55,000 association units. "In Florida, about 80 percent of associations are professionally managed, and 20 percent are self managed. We're constantly looking for the burned-out board to which to offer our services.
"One of the primary reasons you need management is to take the workload off the board," adds Donnelly. "We use the analogy of a corporation where there's a board that flies in once a month and meets with the management to get an update on the company's operations. That's the type of relationship the board can have with a management company. The execution of the day-to-day operations is done by a manager. Then if there's burnout, the manager isn't doing its job."