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Tara Reardon

10 survival tips for ROC leaders

By Tara Reardon

ROC consultant (and former ROC-NH team member) Marcia Sprague shares secrets and strategies that any cooperative leader can use to cope with stressful times.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," says ROC consultant (and former ROC-NH™ team member) Marcia Sprague. In this guest blog, Marcia shares secrets and strategies that any cooperative leader can use to cope with stressful times.

By Marcia Sprague

Let’s face it, serving on a cooperative board of directors of a multi-million-dollar corporation can be a daunting task.

I watch volunteers join their boards with visions of creating a caring community, stabilizing rents, and starting social events. Their vision includes residents getting to know each other and helping each other out. They see residents getting along and having community events.

Then reality hits―the board deals with complaints about rules not being followed, lot rents not being paid, and residents expressing themselves with anger instead of with productive or caring conversations. Only a few people show up for an activity.

When these things happen, board members can feel defeated.


Unfortunately, many ROC boards experience this at some level. What can board members do to deal with these stressful times? Here are 10 ways I’ve seen board members cope.

1.Take an “I Can’t Co-op Day.” Take Monday (or any day) off from co-op work. Know those boundaries and “just say no.”

2. Go on the ROC-NH Facebook group page and ask other board and community members for advice on how to handle a situation.

3. Start a “Have you thanked your board?” day once a month. Hand out index cards as a reminder.

4. Call your Regional Co-op Director for support and suggestions. Don’t know who your Regional Director is? Find out at

5. “Walk, Knock, Talk.” Go to your neighbors’ homes, knock on the door, and talk. Ask what they have to say about their cooperative experience. (COVID ALTERNATIVE: Walk, Call, Talk. Walk to the phone, pick it up and call your neighbor. Ask what they have to say about their cooperative experience.)

6. Seek small successes. Collect and create a monthly review of those successes. Share and celebrate them with the board at a board meeting.

7. Do team-building exercises with your board. Start each meeting by going around the table (or Zoom screen) and asking a question, like, “There are now 25 hours in a day. How do you spend the extra hour?” or “If you could immediately gain one new skill, what would it be?”

8. Make a flyer describing the ROC USA Mall Discounts and give it to every household.

9. If a resident yells at you, calmly respond by saying how their tone affects you. “When you raise your voice that way ... (I want to walk away, I don’t want to listen, I just shut down, etc.).”

10. Create a regular “Coffee with the Board,” chat and question-and-answer session an hour before the board meeting.

If any of these coping ideas work for you, continue using it, try another, and feel free to share them with other board members!

Tara Reardon is Director of ROC-NH.

ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
ROC-NH is a registered service mark of ROC USA, LLC.