Mario Prozzi, board president at the Neptune House co-op in New Rochelle, has served on his seven-member board for years. There’s a reason for that: “It’s hard to get people to serve,” he says ruefully.
Maybe so, but Steve Greenbaum, the director of management at Mark Greenberg Real Estate, says there are ways to cope with this problem. First, you shouldn’t just sit back and wait for residents to come to you. You have to be proactive, he says, and search for potential board members. “We try to get people who we know have an interest,”Greenbaum says. “Or sometimes it’s a friend of another board member – somebody who has some creative ideas.”
Boards should recruit residents with particular skills. “If somebody’s a financial planner, you ask him to sit in on the budget meeting,” says Greenbaum. “They often say they’d like to be on a finance committee. Or somebody’s a designer and they want to work on the lobby project. Or somebody’s a headhunter, and they want to work on the staffing issues. If there’s a big project or a big assessment and they have expertise in that area, people often speak up. At every annual meeting, we post a volunteer sign-up sheet.”
You can also ask buyers at the admissions interview to sign up for a committee. “It’s always good to do it then,” says Greenbaum. “They’re on their best behavior, and they’re always willing to volunteer to be a board member at the interview. Serving on a committee is a good training ground for board service.”
Boards can also vet potential board personnel by making them “associates” – non-voting members who attend meetings and participate in the discussions. That’s usually an indication of what they’ll be like as a full fledged board member.
When newcomers join the board, says Greenbaum, something remarkable happens. Frequent critics often change their views. “They hadn’t realized that the board was working so hard on behalf of the building,” he says. “They become big boosters of the board.” And they can now go out and get fresh recruits.