Does your board communicate how it spends its time?

by: Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq.

At every one of our Board Member Boot Camps, I ask those board members in attendance whether they advised their members that they were spending the better part of their Saturday at an intensive board member training session. In a packed room, only one or two hands typically are raised.

We often surmise why boards don’t communicate the less than positive things they do but why wouldn’t board members share with their members the amount of time they spend performing their duties on behalf of the community?

Boards often assume incorrectly that their members know about the number of hours they spend fulfilling their board duties. Discussions that take place at a meeting don’t often reveal the hours of preparation that led up to that meeting. Moreover, as many of you already know, far too many members don’t attend meetings and even fewer read the minutes of those meetings. How then can most association members have any sort of realistic idea of the time their board spends (or doesn’t spend) to actually operate and administer the community? Why do most boards overlook the power of consistent and timely communication?

There is probably little harm and much benefit that could be accomplished in advising your members about time spent in the following manner:

-Hours spent attending a board member certification class
-Hours spent attending other educational classes designed to give you tools to assist your community
-Hours spent reviewing status reports and communicating with legal staff for matters being handled by association counsel
-Hours spent vetting service providers and managing those relationships to ensure continuing good service
-Hours spent responding to member and resident complaints, inquiries, etc.
-Hours spent directing professional management
-Hours spent researching various repair, improvement, maintenance, security and insurance items
-Hours spent overseeing various repair, improvement and maintenance projects
-Hours planning community events
-Hours spent maintaining the community website, newsletter and other communications portals.

Some boards do choose to send out a year-end summary and have been criticized for “electioneering activity”. My recommendation is that boards should be communicating how they spend their time year-round and not just when elections are around the corner. Serving on a highly functioning board of directors requires quite an outlay of time and energy. Boards shouldn’t assume that members know the amount of time being spent on their behalf. The fact is that most members don’t spend much time thinking about the board or its activities unless something is terribly amiss in the community or the members are being asked to write a check.

Of course, if your board does start communicating about time spent, it goes without saying that your communications must be factual rather than boastful and designed to keep your members informed rather than simply to keep you on the board.

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