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The Thankless Job of a Community Volunteer

Volunteering as a board member for your community association is a selfless and often thankless job. The individuals who choose to take on this responsibility are dedicated to ensuring the safety, maintenance, and overall success of their community. Unfortunately, the role of a board member is often underappreciated, leading to burnout, stress, and ultimately, a lack of volunteers to fill these important positions.

One of the biggest challenges that board members face is dealing with difficult residents. Members of the board are often the first point of contact for residents who have complaints or grievances. While most residents are reasonable and understanding, there are always a few who are impossible to please. Board members must navigate these situations delicately, maintaining their professionalism while attempting to resolve the issue at hand. Enter the professional Community Association manager; for many of us a lifesaver when it comes to providing a buffer between disgruntled owners and the board of directors.

Board members also have the unenviable task of enforcing rules and regulations. While the goal of these rules is to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents, they can be a source of frustration for some. Board members must balance the needs of the community with the desires of individual residents, often making difficult decisions that may not be popular. I have joked with many a board member over the years and explained to them that if they truly wish to get off the board all they need to do is pass a special assessment.

Another challenge that board members face is balancing the needs of the community with the available resources. Board members must make some difficult decisions that ensure the long-term financial health of the community, while also taking into account the desires and needs of residents. Unfortunately, many boards are hesitant to raise dues or maintenance fees which ultimately will result in the demise of their community.

Despite these challenges, board members often receive little appreciation for their hard work. They are frequently criticized and second-guessed by residents, who may not understand the intricacies of the decisions being made. This can lead to feelings of frustration and even resentment, especially when board members are volunteering their time and effort without compensation. Serving on a community association board can be a time-consuming and demanding task, and many people are simply not willing or able to take on this responsibility. This can lead to burnout among existing board members, who may feel overworked and underappreciated.

To address these challenges, it is important for communities to recognize and appreciate the hard work of their board members. Several of the boards have expressed their appreciation in a variety of ways, such as public recognition, small tokens of appreciation, like an engraved plaque or a ceremonial gavel for the retiring president. By showing appreciation for the hard work of board members, communities can help to prevent burnout and ensure that these important positions continue to be filled.

Another way to address these challenges is to provide training and support for board members. The Community Associations Institute or CAI has always been a great resource for information and experience. By providing training and support, communities can help to ensure that new board members feel confident and capable in their roles.

In conclusion, volunteering as a board member for your community association is a challenging and often thankless job. Yet for some it has been a rewarding and fulfilling job knowing they've done the best they can to protect, maintain and enhance their community. With proper care, feeding and a little appreciation, serving on the board as a volunteer will not only help your community but in the long run enhance the value of what for most of us is probably the most important and largest investment we will ever make in our life, our home.

by Hazel Siff | Community Associations

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