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From category archives: In Trust Blog

Governance Best Practices

   
                

How (and why) to do board assessment

           
         

As part of the ongoing work of the In Trust Center’s Wise Stewards Initiative, participating schools are completing board self-assessments, which their faculty coaches are using to create board development plans. Conducting a board assessment is something that every school should consider doing.

   

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Diversifying your board

           
         

As the diversity of students entering theological schools continues to grow, many school leaders are challenged with mirroring that diversity within their administration, faculty, and board. 

   

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Your top strategic issues

           
         

When your board meets, how much time do you spend focusing on strategic issues facing your school? If the answer is less than half of the meeting time, then your board is like many others. 

   

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Visualizing governance systems

           
         

The dashboard of a car can tell you a lot — fuel level, speed, air temperature, tire pressure. The one thing it can’t tell you is where you’re going. For that we need another metaphor. Randall Basinger at Messiah College has just the thing: GPS, or governance positioning system.

   

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Tending shared governance

           
         

“Effective shared governance is hard work.” That’s how a new article focusing on shared governance in this month’s Trusteeship magazine begins. This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the practice of shared governance, but it’s certainly nice to read the words and appreciate that others struggle with the practice too.

   

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Tools for board improvement

           
         

Do you have new (or existing) board members that require orientation? Interested in conducting an assessment of your board's efficacy? Feel as if your board could be communicating or collaborating better? 

   

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The importance of the executive session

           
         

Executive sessions should be a regular agenda item for every board meeting. Are they at yours? If your board is like many others, perhaps your honest answer is no. Why have an executive session if no pressing issues need to be addressed?

   

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Embedded seminaries: How they thrive

           
         

An "embedded" theological school is a seminary or divinity school that is part of a college or university, as contrasted with a "freestanding" seminary, which is an independent graduate-level institution. Embedded schools face unique challenges, according to Mark Markuly, dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. One of these is that “you’re kind of off the grid in the ways people traditionally look at governance boards."


   

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Accreditation: What board members need to know

           
         


Some board members may think that accreditation is for the administrative office, but boards play an important role.

   

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The value of successful interim presidencies

           
         

According to a 2014 In Trust article by Heidi Schlumpf, "...interim or 'acting' presidents...can be valuable to a seminary, offering stability and continuity, achieving specific – often financial – goals, and providing time to reexamine mission and vision while searching for the most appropriate permanent leader." 

   

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An American icon that fell victim to the “competency trap”

           
         

The New York Times has run an obituary of sorts for Xerox, the American corporation that is merging with Japanese behemoth Fujifilm Holdings. The company prospered and innovated for decades, but then they began to fall behind. What lessons could we in theological education learn from their example? 

   

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A good example of a presidential search update letter

           
         


When a school is looking for a new president, rumors fly and questions abound. The search process takes many months, and often confidentiality is paramount.

   

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Leading with Intent: BoardSource report available now

           
         


At the recent BoardSource Leadership Forum in Seattle, there was a lot of discussion about the results of a recent report, Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. The report highlights findings related to the composition, culture, responsibilities, and impact of nonprofit boards. BoardSource collects data from chief executives and board chairs and breaks the data down to reveal the differences in responses. 

   

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Do you need a search firm to find your next president? Maybe not

           
         



What’s your process for hiring a new president? Many boards these days rely on consultants or executive search firms to identify candidates, vet their qualifications, gauge their interest, and make recommendations.

   

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Anonymous donors: What’s a board to do?

           
         


For seminaries and theological institutions, how a school fulfills its mission is as important as its financial health. As such, issues of transparency and accountability should be considered when deciding whether to accept an anonymous donation.

   

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Who understands your school’s financial statements?

           
         



Who understands your school's finances? The answer should not be "just the CFO." Or even just the CFO, the president, and the finance committee chair. Ideally all board members and senior administrators should have a solid understanding of a school's finances -- and perhaps the faculty and staff as well. 

   

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Orientation is the key to keeping a board on the right course

           
         



To stay focused on the mission, a school's board members must be guided and redirected as a school's needs change in response to a shifting environment. Using the metaphor of a ship, Tracy Schier likens board orientation to the compass guiding a seminary toward “true north” -- the school’s mission. If a board is going to avoid getting lost at sea, orientation is vital for new and continuing board members alike.

   

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Policies are powerful tools for effective governance

           
         



“Sometimes boards are the last to acknowledge that policy making is the environment in which they operate,” says Rebekah Burch Basinger in a Spring 2010 In Trust article. Nevertheless, boards rely on policies to govern their own work, as well as the work of their administration and organization. As such, having clearly defined, well-organized policies is essential for any board to function successfully.

   

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Caring for our leaders

           
         


How can you care for your school’s president or dean? You may think of things like benefits, salary, onboarding, and board support. But you're probably not thinking of yearly evaluation, contracts, or succession planning.

   

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The good governance journey

           
         


In Trust Center president Amy Kardash shares ten governance lessons from a joint project with the Association of Theological Schools. 

   

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Need a succession plan? The In Trust Center can help!

           
         


In an ideal world, institutional leaders know well in advance when they plan to step down from their positions. After a long, successful presidency, boards and administrators have ample time to plan for the departure of a leader and the arrival of a highly qualified successor. But what if a president unexpectedly takes another job or falls gravely ill?

But what if a president unexpectedly takes another job or falls gravely ill?
But what if a president unexpectedly takes another job or falls gravely ill?
But what if a president unexpectedly takes another job or falls gravely ill?

   

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Technological solutions for board collaboration

           
         



At your school, how do board members communicate between meetings? How are board documents relayed and important decisions made ahead of meetings? Is it sometimes challenging to collaborate with your board members, who are busy and scattered across the country (or globe)? If so, take heart -- there are technological solutions that may help.

   

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Board leadership for rainy days or sunny skies

           
         



During tough economic times, theological school boards may wonder what they should be doing to weather the storm. According to Rebekah Burch Basinger, the answer is “what you should have been doing all along.”

   

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Executive committees and governance

           
         


 

Executive committees can serve a useful purpose in board governance, but they have the potential to create division within a board. Executive committees, writes Rebekah Burch Basinger, can become overly powerful and cliquey, keeping all important decision making for themselves and expecting the board at large to approve any decisions they make. And that can cause trouble.

   

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The “whys” and “hows” of strategic planning

           
         



Robert S. Landrebe wonders: “Is strategic planning a waste of time?” And then he answers with a resounding “no.” The Association of Theological Schools and other accrediting bodies require strategic planning, but they're only required because they're essential. Good strategic planning practices “ensure that all parts of a complex institution are aligned and moving ahead.”

   

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