HOA board orientation sessions can go much more smoothly when you prepare for them. Thus, it really pays to put in some prep work for your HOA board member orientation meetings. Here are a few steps on how to really maximize the benefits of your homeowners association board orientation. Also, read on for some ideas on what to add to your new board member orientation checklist.
We have all seen the “trial by fire” training that many volunteer board members receive. It’s starting to be a familiar routine at this point. So, they attend their first meeting, receive a large notebook or envelope containing the association’s contracts and documents. Then right from the get-go, residents expect them to begin to address the current events facing their homeowners association.
In many of these instances, the amount of information provided is staggering. Thus it can lead to a board member feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume. Or in some cases, they may even feel “under-qualified”. In a few instances, it’s sometimes because the document language is not user friendly. Thus, the board member may not get the information they need. Or worse, they might just ignore the information altogether.
Everyone needs a bit of help starting out, whether they are new to the board or new to an executive position. So, there should be a way to convey information on the important aspects of a board member’s role. At a minimum, this information should be accompanied by an in-person orientation.
The HOA manager often leads this training. They are in the best position to review the documents, provide a brief history of current events, review the current reporting processes, and provide a general financial review.
Orientation should be offered as soon as possible after the board member is seated or takes their new role. Remember to include or reference:
The laws and documents that provide the board and the association with its authority. This is a good chance to introduce new HOA board members to any recent updates when it comes to state laws and local regulations.
The role of the board and an organizational chart. How does the board communicate? Who oversees whom? Remember to let new members ask questions at this point.
The role of the manager, and a few reminders on good property management practices as needed.
A financial overview and outline of the basic processes currently in place (payment authorization, violation, collection, maintenance, and investment policies).
An annual plan, maintenance calendar, and interface with professional team members can also be added. Let new members know of important quarterly and annual meetings ahead of time.
If there’s a time to really drive home the concept of fiduciary duty, this is it. The HOA board orientation should tackle the fiduciary responsibility of board members. That also means teaching new members how to balance their obligation as board members and their needs as a resident at the same time.
Vendors, service providers, insurance policies, and other matters get covered here. Your HOA board will be dealing with maintenance issues all the time. So, make sure the new board members know the vendor contracts active at the moment. Also, make sure everyone has what they need to look up the information on these contracts anytime.
Some people may think this is something everyone is already familiar with. But keep in mind that your HOA volunteers can come from a wide range of backgrounds and fields. So, make sure to lay down the meeting procedures you have in place.
All HOA board orientation sessions cover the rules. Not all of them cover enforcement adequately. Make sure that your new HOA board members know which rules need to be directly enforced by the HOA members. Also, cover the details of what is involved when enforcing rules as well.
HOA board orientation is most effective when you plan for it. How do you get it to the next level? Quality HOA board orientation materials certainly help.
Information can be summarized in a handout or presentation and should be customized per community. This way, everyone who gets to present to all new board members has a common point of reference. Thus, using several of the community’s professional teams will not lead to conflicting information. So, you can feel free to include the manager, regional manager, accountant, attorney, experienced board member, and others to the discussion while keeping the confusion to a minimum.
Even better, a board orientation is most effective when it is used as a means to get both seasoned and new board members bonding. So, they face their new year as a cohesive group with the same goals.
The presentation should allow for group questions along the way of encouraging interaction. Consider offering light refreshments to help set the tone.
At the conclusion of these presentations, even the experienced board member will have learned something new, and new board members will now have a solid foundation that they can use going forward.
Managers will reap the benefit of these presentations as well. They will now have a knowledgeable board member working from the same base of information as other board members, which reduces the “learning curve” at future meetings. Plus, senior management will have had a chance to connect with a client in the best possible way – education.
Scheduling an HOA board orientation is a recurring item in many communities. Training sessions can even be expanded to committee leaders as well. What better way to get committee chairpersons “in the know?” Start working with board and committee members on how best to work this into an annual event. Use your company’s FAQs for board members or post orientations in available board access areas of websites. Be consistent. Be creative. Also, be sure to customize the information to the community.