Every newcomer will feel a little shy or out of place when faced with a strange environment, and that applies to new HOA board members as well. If you want to learn how to welcome new board members the right way, you have come to the right place.
Steps to Welcome New Board Members in Your HOA
Just as new homeowners are greeted with enthusiasm and excitement, so should new board members be treated the same way. Whereas homeowners usually get an HOA welcoming committee, it’s up to current board members to make new board members feel at ease. Here are some tips on how you, as an existing board member, can welcome new board members.
1. Start With a Welcome Letter
How do you welcome a new board member? Believe it or not, an HOA board member welcome letter can do wonders. This letter sets the tone for the year ahead and, when done right, can encourage new board members in their new roles.
You might be thinking, “How do I write a welcome letter?” Start by making an outline of what you want to say to the new board members. Welcome them to the board and provide any information you think they must know. Let the reader, i.e. new board member, know how excited you are that they are joining the board. The letter should maintain a professional yet positive tone as well.
It doesn’t need to be very long either. Most of the information new board members must know will be in separate documents that you will include in your HOA board welcome packet.
Here is an example of a welcome letter to newly elected board members:
2. Distribute an HOA Board Orientation Packet
How do you welcome a new board member? Apart from writing a new board member welcome letter, it also helps to assemble a welcome packet.
This packet should consist of all the documents and records that new HOA board members need. Some of the items you should include in the new board member orientation packet are:
- A copy of your association’s governing documents (including bylaws, CC&Rs, and operating rules)
- An HOA handbook for new board members, if any
- A written structure of your HOA board
- A summary of board member roles and responsibilities
- Copies of your association’s financial statements
- A copy of past meeting minutes
- A copy of current vendor contracts
- Contact lists
- Information about your community amenities
- A calendar of upcoming events and meetings
3. Help Mentor New Board Members
Many new board members lack prior experience serving on the HOA board. As such, they will need some help from existing board members like you.
Consider setting up an orientation meeting for onboarding new board members. This will give you the opportunity to answer questions that new board members may have. If you have more than one new board member coming in, try assigning them each a mentor from the current board. These mentors can then offer them helpful advice as they transition to their new roles.
New board members will also feel less anxious because they have someone they can turn to for help. In addition, you can somewhat assess the talents and skills of the new board members. With this in mind, you can better delegate tasks and responsibilities.
4. Have Your Management Company Provide Board Training
A lot of HOA management companies offer board education as part of their services. If you’re already employing a management company, it’s worth finding out if they have similar resources.
Even if your management company doesn’t offer board training, your manager can guide new board members by taking them through site inspections and other procedures.
5. Give Them Time to Adjust
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, new board members won’t magically learn everything overnight. It’s important to give new board members some time to familiarize themselves with how your board works. Allow them time to read through the governing documents and adjust to their roles.
A good way to do this is to space out tasks and responsibilities during the first few weeks. Over time, they will start to feel confident in their positions and be ready to take on more work.
6. Let Them Experience Things First-Hand
Although it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the governing documents, a lot of people learn better through experience. If that’s the case, then assign new members to special committees or projects right away. Ask new board members what they feel comfortable starting with.
Of course, you should also provide them with some guidance so that they don’t lose their way. Remember that a single mistake can quickly snowball and become detrimental to the community.
7. Provide Feedback
As with many things, feedback is critical when helping new board members take on their roles. Assess their performance and let them know what you think during closed-session board meetings.
You should offer up constructive feedback, being careful not to phrase them in a way that seems judgmental or overly critical. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t point out their errors. If a new board member commits a mistake, let them know. This way, they can correct it and avoid repeating it. Apart from that, you should also give new board members words of encouragement to keep their spirits high.
Tips to Help New Board Members Adjust to Their Roles
Current board members should make an effort to welcome new board members. But, the same applies from the perspective of the newbies themselves. If you’re new to the HOA board, here are some tips to help you acclimate to your position and become a good board member:
1. Understand the Governing Documents
This should go without saying, and it has already been discussed in the previous section. But, the importance of understanding your governing documents can’t be stressed enough.
Your bylaws and CC&Rs tell you exactly what you can and can’t do. They define your authority on behalf of the HOA and spell out the procedures you must follow when it comes to various things such as HOA elections, covenant enforcement, and notice requirements. They even tell you how to conduct meetings, prepare budgets, and collect dues.
As a member of your board, it’s part of your job to resolve homeowner qualms. If a resident has a question about the type of pets they can keep, you should know the answer.
2. Know Your Duties
Your exact duties and responsibilities will depend on your position on the board. The president usually presides over meetings, delegates tasks, and generally leads the rest of the board. On the other hand, the vice president takes on the role of the president if the latter is unable to. The secretary is responsible for meeting minutes and documentation, while the treasurer oversees the association’s finances and prepares the budget.
Whatever your role may be, it’s essential to know exactly what tasks and responsibilities you’re expected to complete. You should never act outside the scope of your authority. Additionally, you must familiarize yourself with the fiduciary duties of the HOA board not only to avoid liability but also because it’s your job.
3. Learn from Past Board Members
One of the biggest mistakes new recruits make is failing to learn from past board members. Your new board member welcome packet should consist of previous board meeting minutes. These should give you an idea of what has worked and what hasn’t. With that in mind, make it a point to review these minutes so that you don’t end up making the same mistakes.
4. Look Over Your Finances
Part of your job as a board member, and even more so if you’re the treasurer, is to understand your association’s finances. Review the HOA’s financial statements, reserves, and past budgets. This way, you can make informed decisions based on the fiscal condition of your association.
Looking through your financials can be understandably confusing, though. Not everyone has the expertise or experience for it. But, you can always ask for help from other board members or your HOA manager.
5. Understand “the Why” Behind Policies
Far too often, new board members make the critical mistake of proposing policy and rule changes the moment they assume office. Sure, a lot of homeowners join the board with the express purpose of making changes. But, you should first understand why these existing rules and policies are in place.
You might propose a policy change only to find out that homeowners are against it or the association doesn’t have the funds for it. Then, when you look at past minutes, you learn that previous boards also made the same proposal and were met with the same reaction. You can save a lot of time and effort if you analyze past board actions and look into “the why” of things.
The same goes for when you want to make drastic changes to the budget or to vendors. When homeowners have gotten used to a certain standard of living, you will naturally encounter some pushback when this standard is threatened.
Communication is the key to harmonious board proceedings. You should always talk to your fellow board members about community issues. Don’t be afraid to bring up a touchy subject either. Discussions can lead to solutions.
Similarly, you must keep homeowners in the loop at all times. Nobody wants to feel left out of the conversation. As such, make homeowners feel included by keeping them informed. It’s worth noting that many state laws and governing documents also establish requirements when it comes to giving out updates and sending out notices.
For instance, in California, Civil Code Section 4360 requires HOA boards to provide a notice of a rule change at least 28 days prior to implementing the change. Similar laws exist in other states as well and for other notices.
7. Be Transparent
Because board members want to curry favor with residents, they often feel the need to hide the community’s issues in an attempt to avoid delivering bad news. But, homeowners have a right to know what’s going on in the association. As a board member, you should maintain transparency, especially when it comes to the association’s financials.
8. Take It One Step at a Time
There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about improving the community, but there’s such a thing as being too zealous. When you try to take things in all at once, you risk making poor decisions and tiring yourself out both mentally and physically. Prioritize your tasks and do them one at a time. There’s also no shame in asking for help, whether it’s from fellow board members, your management company, or other professionals.
The Key to a Successful HOA Board
When you have new members on your HOA board, you should do what you can to make them feel accepted and comfortable. Some of the best ways to welcome new board members are to write them a welcome letter, provide them with all the documents and resources they need, and guide them through the job. Remember that your board can only work in harmony and success when everyone is involved.
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