Boards Formed in the 19th Century Now Operating in the 21st Century
Boards and governing bodies of country clubs and sports facilities, along with home owner associations, often point to the Articles of Association or Club By-Laws during their meetings. Often overheard is “Well, what do the rules say?” Club and community rules can be quite lengthy and, over the years, have been amended, added to, and deleted. But they are there to move the club forward each year within the club or association’s remit.
It’s interesting to note that country club by-laws can be over 100 years old – many of the clubs we have worked with were established long before 1919 and those by-laws and club regulations might be in need of some updating. Even condo associations which have by-laws dating back to the time of Presidents Nixon or Ford might look at updating their governing rules. But why? Is there a new method out there for governing bodies to review?
With technology and reporting being updated almost monthly on software platforms, it is much easier for a Club or HOA Board to stay in touch and in fact, stay more inspired, motivated and enthused about their role at the facility. This being said, it can create a Board which, in reality, may be too hands on. With the best intentions, in fact, given the wonderful advancements in communication technology, a board can micromanage the general manager or the community association manager. This in turn, applies pressure, either directly or indirectly, on the Directors of Tennis and Fitness.
Challenges of Board Composition and Effects
Firstly, boards like every other grouping in business and life, find safety in numbers. However, in our experience, the larger the board, the harder decision making becomes. “Too many cooks spoil the recipe” is often heard, but we believe that this is sincerely true when looking at the number of board members for clubs and HOAs.
In looking at composing a board, the board must first define it’s role within the Club. What it the club’s long-term intent and goal? Does the club have a mission statement and is that statement adhered to or even applicable in the present time? Is it a profit-related club or a home-owners association concerned with falling property prices? The board should ask itself annually: Where do we want the club or HOA to be in 5, 10 and 20 years? Often, boards get caught up in the minutae of the daily accounting, marketing, hiring and terminating and neglect the bigger picture of steering the club or association into a new era while staying in touch with heritage, history and original intent.
Turnover is perhaps the most important aspect in creating strong, stable boards. In order to maintain consistent leadership and focused governance, we find that perhaps one-fifth to one-sixth of any board should be replaced on an annual basis. So, for example, if you had a board of 15, perhaps each year three board members should be replaced, meaning that a board member would serve 5 years. Too much turnover on an annual or bi-annual basis creates perhaps too much change too frequently and leaves the board without a consistent goal. A nominating committee, or advisory board in charge of choosing members of the board, is essential. And the appointing of this committee should be carefully weighed, whether by the membership or homeowners, or by the existing board itself.
Executive Committees and Standing Committees
Standing committees are the smaller bodies that get into the nitty gritty of running any club or association. They should act as a breeding ground for new board members and appointments to these committees should take that into account. On another note, perhaps an appointment of a former president or board member can bring stability to a committee. Tennis and fitness committees are usually the bodies in charge of either a search for a new Director or appointing a search committee under its supervision. Too often we see certain groups overly represented on such committees. For example, a tennis committee comprised of 9 members has 5 of those members all on ladies teams. Composition of standing committees should be reviewed on an annual basis to continually create equality among membership groups. This can be done also by creating positions for certain types of membership categories: Full, associate, junior, honorary, etc.
Executive committees are perhaps the most vulnerable to inconsistent thinking. Usually comprised of just four or five members, they can easily fall into the hands of a small, opinionated group of members who desire change that’s not always in agreement with the membership as a whole. Carefully reviewing the nominations for board members, after having those members serve on a committee, can help to avoid problems in the future.
Constant self-evaluation of a board is not only prudent, but should be required. But, as we all know, to be objective when criticizing one’s self can be quite difficult.