Community Association as Corporation

By Karen Arena, CMCA
Community Association as Corporation

A Sterling colleague and I recently attended one of the Community Association Institute’s (CAI) member educational meetings. As noted on its website, the CAI has more than 33,500 members dedicated to building better communities, and works in partnership with 60 chapters to provide information, education and resources to community associations and the professionals supporting them. Our instructor did a terrific job of representing the group and more importantly, the profession.

There was a moment in the session where a thought struck me like a lightning bolt — community associations are corporations. Now, don’t laugh at me. You say, “Of course they are!” Okay, you already know this. I confess I have for many years been involved in communities as an association member, even as a board member, but, it’s only after working these last few months on the management side of this business that I realize there’s little difference between managing a community and managing a corporation.

What does that mean?

To me, it suddenly became clear that managers are operating mico-corporations. They live inside the “articles of incorporation,” or some might call them “governing documents.” They are coordinating the efforts of people to accomplish the goals and objectives of the community. They are using available resources to their greatest (and sometimes herculean) effect. They orchestrate the plan. They organize, staff, lead and direct the multitude of partners and contractors assigned to a community. They deploy the resources, whether human, financial, technological or natural, to keep the organization (oops, community) operational. And they have their clients to whom they are accountable.

Then I thought of this – a board member is a BOARD MEMBER! I worked many years for large corporations, so hence, the lightning bolt. As a former employee of a Fortune 100 company, I saw and know how much goes into board meetings. Everyone is totally, unequivocally prepared. The agenda is planned well in advance. Calendars are set. Documents delivered. Financials studied. The meeting is run like a machine. The chairman presides. Numbers are poured over. Every presentation is polished. Every minute is accounted for. Board members are super-prepared, attentive, thorough, thoughtful and decisive. Issues are resolved…..

It’s truly dedicated people doing important work to inspire professionalism and effective leadership on behalf of the communities they serve. Together, boards of directors and the community managers are the c-suite of the community. To me, a striking thought.

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