Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Education is Power

Those who volunteer to serve on a community Board or committee are truly the work horses, ensuring core activities of the Association are addressed:

·         Business – protecting the assets of the community

·         Governance – interpreting and enforcing the various regulations

·         Community – enhancing social harmony

Without these volunteers, consistency within the community would not be possible. This consistency is important, not only to ensure fairness between neighbors, but also to protect the investment that each homeowner has made within the community!

Unfortunately, most volunteers do not understand the full scope of their duties when first stepping up to serve. It is critically important that training is mandatory and that it occurs prior to or immediately upon joining a Board or committee.  Without a mandatory program, less than 5% of members tap educational opportunities to protect both themselves and their Association.  Whether someone is too busy with “real” work or is a “one-issue” candidate (i.e. they volunteer, but intend on walking once his/her pet project is addressed) the price for not being trained is too high to be ignored.

Some volunteers join the Board or committee knowing the work that the job will require. Others learn once they actually “get in to” their term. For either individual, as we have discussed above, training is vitally important. Most volunteers willing accept training, while others are not as interested – hence the need for mandatory training. Forcing unwilling individuals to attend training sessions can sometimes be a wasted effort. This leaves the Association only a few ways to insulate itself from poor decisions or actions.  Three “must-do” steps:

·         Obtain the best liability and directors & officers insurance possible

·         Require all volunteers to sign disclosure forms about risky actions and consequences

·         Keep the community well-informed on all actions and decisions

As in any elective governance, it is ultimately up to the individuals in the community to be aware and remain involved – a sort of checks and balances system. The price for incomplete or insincere leadership will be paid for by all.

Educational opportunities extend to homeowners, too.  For example, budget season is now in session. By providing the association membership with a comparison of what each home is paying (on an annual basis) for services, as compared to what it would cost if the homeowner lived in a single family residence outside of an association,  the Board or committees can provide perspective on the reasonableness of annual assessments.  In many instances, the savings via collective purchasing power gives owners a new appreciation for the benefits of community living. This is a reminder that doesn’t hurt to be reinforced every once in a while.

Ultimately, it is all about creating a culture and expectation of constant education in the community that will diffuse conflict and give rise to responsible volunteerism.

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