Board Education & Orientation – Starter or Non Starter?

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We recently offered a brief survey on Board education, hoping to learn what associations were doing and what they wanted to do to help train board members. The number of responses we got was encouraging, while what we learned was not. As might be expected, very few associations are investing their resources at all in Board education. Barely 25% of our respondents indicated that their associations have an orientation program for new members. Even few budgeted money for Board education and development. Respondents were generally interested in learning about the usual issues like governance, finances and reserves.

The lack of interest in training and development may be predictable, but it is still hard to understand. How many organizations would take on a new employee and set them to work with no training? If they did, how long would they succeed? Yet, community associations, some with million dollar budgets, do just that every year. A new member gets voted on to the Board, and maybe even into an office like Treasurer, and is turned loose to do their job without any direction. Board members are not mere employees, they are the leaders of their associations, and they need more than a pat on the back to get started and do their jobs. Board members need to know facilities maintenance, budgeting, public relations, association law and much more in order to help their communities. They need to know local details, too, like how things get done in their community. Who are the important vendors and contractors? How do homeowner issues get handled? When are the meetings? How is a new Board member to learn all these things? What happens to the Association if they don’t?

Better practices would see most Boards have their own orientation programs, and support outside education for members. The Community Associations Institute offers a Board Leadership Development Workshop that includes a comprehensive review of the major issues facing most boards. Many law firms (ours included) offer in house programs for clients and can customize onsite programs as well. Online resources abound, as do books on the subject.

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