Why They Won’t Volunteer

board members h o a homefront hoa homefront volunteers Apr 05, 2024

By Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. CCAL, HOA Homefront Column

Filling open HOA board seats is a vexing and discouraging problem for some associations. However, there may be reasons why neighbors are not interested in serving. Could any of the below characteristics describe your association?

Volunteer Managers. Do directors spend many hours each week on HOA business, inspecting the property, observing vendors, and otherwise dealing with the HOA’s daily matters?  The well-intentioned sacrifice of so much time and energy may deter others from board service.  Some neighbors may be retired or have the energy to spend 20-30 hours each week on association matters, but many don’t – and they are frightened of that level of commitment.  Let the manager manage, or hire a better one.  If the association does not have a manager, hire one.  Volunteers need to be reassured they are not signing up to be free HOA co-managers. 

Fire and Brimstone at the Board Table. Some associations have meetings fraught with conflict and low standards of board behavior. Few volunteers want to join a board in which directors display hostility toward each other, or serve an association that seems to be always in litigation. 

Chaotic Meetings. Disruptive and uncomfortable meetings filled with hostility between directors and the audience will repel most volunteers, who decide that life is too short to deal with unpleasant people. They will avoid meetings and not volunteer.  Elevate professionalism and civility in board meetings, and consider adopting board meeting rules promoting civility and order.

Fear of Liability. Volunteer directors should not fear liability, even while making important association decisions.  The Business Judgment Rule, corporate process, directors’ and officers’ errors and omissions insurance all protect volunteers.  Stay within those protections and the director’s role, which is directing - making decisions.  Leave actions to managers and vendors.  Directors should be continually trained on these important protections.

El Jefe. A president acting as the HOA’s “boss” discourages volunteers by not recognizing that the board actually is the boss. Who wants to join a board where their contribution seems unnecessary and their views unimportant? If the president plays the dictator, regularly squelching differing viewpoints, don’t be surprised at the short list of applicants for board seats.  Homeowner associations act through the board, not the president.  Presidents inhibiting reasonable discussion and unilaterally making decisions without board votes are disrespecting the role of the other directors.  HOA presidents should be leaders but not bosses of their associations.

Ignorance is Not Bliss.  Some associations suffer from poor member participation because members have no idea what their board is doing.  Find additional methods to keep your neighbors informed about the goings-on in their association other than just posting the minutes. Better communication leads to greater confidence in association governance and a greater willingness to volunteer.

Major Projects.  It is difficult to find volunteers during a major renovation or repair, governing document overhaul, or even a lawsuit.  Find volunteers before the major project begins. 

Big Boards.  Some boards are unnecessarily large for the size of the association.  For example, does a 25-member association need 5 directors - 20% of the membership?  A 3-member board may be adequate and much easier to staff. Changing the board size to a more appropriate number probably will require a membership vote to amend the association bylaws.

Adjust some things, and get those board seats filled!