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Managing a Community Association Takes a Volunteer Village

March 20, 2019 | Nancye Kirk

Managing a community association is not a one-person job. It truly takes a village - including a village of volunteers. Putting together a strong team of volunteers, from the board president to committee members, can keep things running efficiently. The challenge, of course, is in recruiting volunteers and keeping them involved in a meaningful way.

 Vickie Gaskill, CPM, ARM, speaks to this in the recently released second edition of Community Associations: A Guide to Successful Management. She points out that “From time to time, every community board needs to find new leaders. Two important ways to accomplish that goal are to be sure everyone knows you are looking and to work to ensure future continuation of leaders once you find them.”

For managers who think only those who have lived in the community for a long time are potential volunteer candidates, Gaskill debunks this. “When looking for leadership volunteers, remember to approach anyone who is just moving into the community. Yes, new residents are a great source. Their enthusiasm for the neighborhood is high, thus the rationale for moving in. Capitalize on their positive spirits and invite them into the leadership environment.

“Letting a need be known within the community via word of mouth is valuable. Each current leader has friends. What better way to find someone than mentioning the possibility of being part of a team with people who have similar traits and interests? Using these connections is a plus when seeking volunteers.” Posting notices in common areas, using the annual meeting for getting people to sign up, and making announcements at board meetings are obvious but often overlooked ways to “get the word out” within your community, she says.

To ensure a continuum of future leaders, Gaskill issues a gentle reminder that “Publicly acknowledging a volunteer’s contributions to the community is vital. The volunteers among the community’s committee members will be tomorrow’s board members.” As she points out, “The volunteer approach works as long as volunteers continue to enjoy their jobs and do not neglect their responsibilities. A wise board will nurture this need, never forgetting the spirit of volunteerism.

“An association must build a great community and assure sound, perpetual future leadership through its daily management processes. Bringing new members into the management arena at staggered intervals is vital to carrying forward a continuum of the community’s history, principles, philosophy and stability.”

Gaskill also points out the importance of preparing volunteer leaders to fill their roles. “One good way to do this is for the management firm to implement a board training function,” says Gaskill. A board governance workshop might consist of the following:

  • Showing CID industry videos on board management processes
  • Explaining the importance of using Robert’s Rules of Order for controlling meetings
  • Covering the legalities and responsibilities of being a director or committee member
  • Expressing the importance of community building
  • Discussing the board’s role in community building within the association

Reinforcing the significance of enthusiastic, committed volunteers, Gaskill stresses that “The perceived attitude of the association’s governance team can create harmony or discord among the residents,” noting that “A happy association will yield many years of productive, willing volunteer leaders.”

To get more insights from Vickie Gaskill’s approach to community association management, check out the second edition of Community Associations: A Guide to Successful Management.

About the Author
Nancye Kirk is chief strategy officer at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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