Blog

From category archives: In Trust Blog

Governance Best Practices

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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. 

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

The good governance journey


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

Read the rest of entry »

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?

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.”

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.”

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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. 

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.” 

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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?

Read the rest of entry »

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.

 

Read the rest of entry »

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.

 

Read the rest of entry »

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. 

Read the rest of entry »

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.

Read the rest of entry »