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From category archives: In Trust Blog

Governance Best Practices

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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How can you foster board engagement?



“No school can afford a board that is unaccountable, uncreative, and uncooperative.” This was the driving idea behind Eugene F. Roop’s article “Board governance can be accountable, creative, and cooperative: three ways of understanding the board’s work,” published in a 2011 issue of In Trust.

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Five core functions of effective presidents

The business section of the bookstore abounds with titles that promise new approaches to better leadership and management. For leaders in graduate-level theological institutions, however, there are only a handful of organizations dedicated to your particular niche. 

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Practical implications of board diversity



With the exception of schools that primarily serve people of color, most theological school boards do not reflect the diversity present in their schools. Many schools have made great strides in serving their diverse student populations by hiring faculty and adjusting their curriculum to better serve a variety of student experiences. However, this diversity has not made its way into the makeup of school boards.

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Special section on mergers, partnerships, and alliances in Autumn 2016 issue




The Autumn 2016 issue of In Trust, recently sent out to subscribers, features a special section on mergers, partnerships, and alliances. This special section features an interview with Tom Ingram, president emeritus of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, on how to conduct a merger, plus eight case studies of mergers and partnerships.

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If your fiscal year ended June 30, your 990 is due in November -- if you must file at all




To remain in compliance with IRS reporting requirements, theological schools and seminaries must know exactly what is required of them by law. This can sometimes prove difficult, as tax laws can yield ambiguous answers to common questions trustees have.

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Saying "no" to a donor gift




Sometimes it makes sense to turn down a gift. That's what Dorothy Ridings warned in a 2010 article titled "Recipient beware!" that appeared in In Trust.

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The standard in academic governance



“Shared governance is a long-time feature of American higher education, yet it remains a frequently misunderstood and often maligned aspect of academic life,” states Rebekah Basinger in a 2010 In Trust article. In her article, Basinger acknowledges that board members, administrators, and faculty of theological schools often express doubt or confusion about shared governance and the way it works. However, if done properly, shared governance allows theological institutions to further their missions and “advance God’s purposes for the church.” 

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Will someone state that as a motion?



Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's excellent blog, Generous Matters. Read her original post here

Motions are the primary means by which a governing board provides directions to the CEO and other staff, so you’d think considerable care would go into shaping them. But think again. Many board motions are created on the fly, and that can lead to problems for the CEO who later tries to implement the board's actions.

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Assumptions underlying board culture



The latest issue of Trusteeship magazine features an article by Richard Chait on the topic of board culture and how it affects board efficacy. In the article, “The Bedrock of Board Culture,” Chait argues that, too often, boards do not examine the underlying assumptions that define their board’s culture.

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Selecting an effective leader



What are the qualities that make an effective seminary leader? Auburn’s Center for the Study of Theological Education set out to answer just that question in their study titled Leadership that Works. In this study, the research team found that the essential characteristics of high-performing leaders are personal strength, humility, interpersonal skills, and discipline. But in selecting a new president, how do you know whether a candidate possesses all of these qualities or whether a candidate will fit in with your institution’s culture and values?

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Good board hunting




Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's blog, Generous Matters. Read her original post here

Topping the list of frequently asked board-related questions that come my way is how to fill empty board seats with quality recruits. With nonprofits proliferating at breakneck speed, competition for board members is keen. Throw in expectations like competent, committed, and/or generous and you might as well be chasing Bigfoot. There ain’t no such creature out there — or so seems.

Fortunately, there is.

 

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Developing and maintaining effective dashboards




 

A dashboard is a display of key indicators that help institutions steer their activities towards their declared strategic outcomes. The imagery, of course, is obvious to anyone who drives a car. Just like the dashboard on your 1981 Ford Fairmont, it’s critical that indicators be visible and the data easy for a user to assimilate. This typically necessitates graphic displays such as graphs, pie charts, or something more creative.

The In Trust has presented a webinar on how to use dashboard effectively. Here's a summary of it, along with a few helpful hints to get you started.

 

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A guide to board portals



 

Conducting board business requires organization and collaboration. Board members receive a vast amount of information in anticipation of board meetings, and often they have to take care of additional business between meetings. Some boards are turning to digital options for organizing, collaborating, and disseminating information.

Boards may need tools for assisting in this move to digital business. 

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Special event fundraising, ugh! But if you must . . .


Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's excellent blog, Generous Matters. Read her original post here

A flood of emails urged members of a ministry’s Outreach Committee to round-up prizes for the spring bike/walk fundraiser. We’re talking a veritable fundraiser’s dream team — networked, talented, and unafraid to ask big — being “challenged” to chase after everything from free movie passes and ice cream coupons to a $5-$10 gift certificate.  “Or whatever the owner is willing to give.”

It’s a toss-up whether I cry or scream about the colossal waste of volunteer time and connections.

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Creating an effective mission statement



The mission statement of a nonprofit organization is an invaluable tool. It relays the purpose and values of the organization to stakeholders and serves as a reminder to the board and staff of what they are trying to accomplish. As such, it’s important for an organization’s mission statement and its purpose to align.

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The priority of governance in really tough times


 

The In Trust Center recently presented a webinar on governance strategies for difficult times.

Barbara Wheeler and Daniel Aleshire shared some best practices and areas of improvement that can lead to institutional stability: setting terms and term limits for board members, evaluating and orienting boards, selecting board members with the appropriate skill sets, and attracting new members of different cultures and ages. Wheeler stressed the importance of engaged governance, balancing support of the president with prioritizing the institutional mission.



 

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In Trust magazine – Spring 2016 issue

The Spring 2016 issue of In Trust was recently mailed to subscribers. Here are some of the highlights.


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    Facing your board’s flaws


    A well-meaning board can easily drive off course. Whether bogged down by endless meetings or rattled by disgruntled members, how can a board right itself and get back on track?

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    Understanding the graduate programs that shape faculty


    In a 2011 In Trust article, Helen Blier addressed the need for boards to understand both their own graduate programs and the programs from which their faculty come. This was in response to the economic recession that resulted in rising student debt and a grim job market. Although we are five years out from this article, and the economy has gradually improved, the point that Blier makes is still significant — boards should understand the programs that shape faculty.  


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    Are you recruiting new board members?

    If your board is recruiting new members, you may be wondering: Who would make a good candidate? How will new members fit in with existing members? How can I bring in new blood while also maintaining my institution's identity?

    On her blog Generous Matters, Rebekah Burch Basinger addressed board recruitment in three blog posts, offering advice and resources on the topic.

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    Student data, shared governance, and seminary finances: Upcoming webinars




    The Association of Theological Schools and the In Trust Center are presenting or co-presenting three webinars in upcoming months that will be of interest to leaders of theological schools. The webinars cover student data, shared governance, and seminary finances and are designed to educate members of the board, faculty, and administration of theological schools on these essential topics.

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    Need to know: Explaining board governance

    In conversations on campus, Ithaca College trustees were surprised that many of the people had no idea how the board fits into the governance of the school. In response, the trustees penned an article.

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    From our Resource Library: The Nonprofit Board Answer Book

     

     

    Here at the In Trust Center, we talk boards and governance all day, every day. From fielding calls from member schools, to researching and writing articles on boards, board policy, and governance, and even in our work with our own board, we are constantly talking, thinking, reading, and writing about governance and policy.

    Over the years, we have developed a library to assist us (and our member schools) in our work. We have many books on boards: board policy, shared governance, the roles of board members, etc. Of all of these, the book that we turn to most often for questions about these topics is a book from BoardSource: The Nonprofit Board Answer Book. Arranged by topic in a Q and A format, with an index at the back, it is easy to find the answers for which we're looking.

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