One of the unique things that sets co-op, condo and HOA living apart from living in a single-family home, or even a rental, is the buyer’s choice to live in a community-within-a-community. By purchasing a unit in a particular building or development, an owner or shareholder is — consciously or not — signaling that he or she identifies with that community’s personality and overall vibe.
Part of what sets the tone for any given building is its board. Nonprofit organizations like co-op corporations, condominium associations, and HOAs don’t operate on their own. While virtually all co-ops, condos, and HOAs have contacted management, they also have governing boards composed of individual unit owners or shareholders. Generally, these board members are also residents, though owner/investors who may lease out their units can serve, and often have an economic interest in doing so.
Boards are almost exclusively volunteer positions. The question is, why volunteer? Psychology Today lists five reasons on their website why people typically volunteer, whether for something like a neighborhood soup kitchen or their condo board: volunteering is good for your health — those who volunteer live longer, and are healthier than those who don’t; volunteers establish strong relationships with colleagues and fellow volunteers; volunteering is good for your career — it’s a great way to network; it’s also good for society in general; and it can make you feel really good about yourself.
Dana Greco is a board member at her co-op in Riverdale, New York. She is also a therapist who specializes in working with couples. Greco has lived in three different co-op buildings over the years, but didn’t get actively involved as a board member until moving to her current apartment. In part, she attributes it to the fact that in her first two apartments, she was younger and raising children. She notes, though, that when her children were younger, she often stepped up to volunteer in support of events and other activities at their schools. Now that she has more time, Greco actively pursued participating on her board.
“I’ve always been an active volunteer,” says Greco. “I’m always about community, any place where I can do some volunteering. It’s my need to contribute — and by serving on the board, that need gets filled. It’s especially rewarding because it’s the place where I live. That’s the place where I want to build community, so I’m making a personal investment. This is my new community.”