Community associations are governed by Boards of Directors, which consist of persons democratically elected by their membership. Elections to the Board are held at the association's annual meeting, and members typically serve staggered, multi-year terms. During the initial development of the community, the Board is often composed of members selected by the developer (or "Declarant") to ensure the community is completed as originally planned.
As in other forms of representative government (federal, state and local), the association members elect persons whom they believe will devote the time and will best represent their interests. The Board representatives have a fiduciary duty to use good business judgment and to put the best interests of the entire community ahead of their own personal interests.
The Board is empowered to make all of the operational decisions affecting the community association, with the exception of certain powers which are specified in the governing documents and reserved exclusively for the membership (such as approval of special assessments or increases to annual assessments above a particular amount, or election and removal of directors).
The Board is required to comply with all of the mandates cited within the governing documents, and should also represent the collective needs and desires of the membership. The Board usually has the authority to determine the broad range of quality and quantity of services provided by or for the association. For example, if the governing documents state that the association shall be responsible for the maintenance of the grounds, the Board may either select a contractor to perform a minimal level of service, or hire a full-time on-site grounds crew to provide the highest level of care - choices which result in a correspondingly wide-range of costs to the members.
One of the most important functions of the Board is to establish the organizational structure for the community association. The organizational structure determines a chain of command to specifically assign the tasks and duties of the community association to a management team and committees of the Board. The management team may consist of a combination of volunteers, paid employees or a contract management company like Associa and its subsidiary firms. Once established, the organizational structure should not be changed unless significant improvements or changes are needed.
The Board is ultimately responsible for the oversight of the community association ("the buck stops with the Board"). Although the Board may retain and delegate some of its duties to volunteers, contractors and professionals, the Board is still ultimately responsible for the duties it may have assigned to others.