Remember your first day at a new school? Most likely, you didn’t know a soul, had no idea what the students were learning and you probably felt nervous, intimidated or maybe even afraid. In most cases, this is what it’s like to be a new board member. A newcomer walks into a meeting for the first time, may or may not know a fellow neighbor volunteer, has no idea what is or has been discussed and might also feel nervous, intimidated or even afraid. Getting elected to a board is a big job and the members can also find themselves unsure of what they've gotten themselves into.
New Kids on the Block
To help a new student calm their jitters and get them up to speed to the others, a teacher will often appoint a current student to show the newbie around, share books, introduce him to other students and give him the lay of the land. It’s a great concept to follow when new members come on board. “It’s a good idea for veteran board members to mentor newcomers to the board,” says Tom Pahos, president of operations for Cervelli Management Corp. in North Bergen and a former board member. “It’s the only way to go and it practically insures a smooth transition. There are nuances and subtleties in each individual building.”
“It’s been my experience that most veteran board members are accepting of the new volunteers on the board. They were new once too,” says Lisa Hibbs, executive director of Community Associations Institute’s New Jersey (CAI-NJ) chapter in Mercerville. “I would recommend to any interested volunteer considering making a run for the association board to talk with veteran board members. They have historical perspective and knowledge of the current issues facing the community—both are critical to effective decision making. If that volunteer does decide to run for the board, he or she has already established a relationship or two, allowing him or her to hit the ground running once elected.”
In addition to being mentored, Elaine Warga-Murray, CEO of Regency Management Group in Howell also recommends an orientation for new board members. “New board members should have an orientation with management where all board members and managers can come together and meet,” says Warga-Murray, who is a former board member. “At these orientations we generally introduce everyone to each other. We go the building’s website and explain how the minutes, bylaws, house rules and policies are all on the website. During this orientation, new board members should also read and sign a board member code of conduct or a board member code of ethics.”
According to Warga-Murray, every board member in an association normally signs a code of ethics. The document states that board members will act in a professional, ethical manner, the most important thing is the general welfare of the association and that personal agendas are not important.