Blog

From category archives: In Trust Blog

Governance Best Practices

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.

Read the rest of entry »

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.



 

Read the rest of entry »

In Trust magazine – Spring 2016 issue

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


    Read the rest of entry »

    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?

    Read the rest of entry »

    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.  


    Read the rest of entry »

    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.

    Read the rest of entry »

    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.

    Read the rest of entry »

    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.

    Read the rest of entry »

    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.

    Read the rest of entry »

    The state of the industry, and how to use ATS data for decision making

     

     

     

    In mid-September, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) shared a live webinar entitled 2015 State of the Industry. Daniel Aleshire (executive director of ATS) and Stephen Graham (senior director of programs and services) led a 45-minute presentation on enrollment, faculty, and finances at ATS member schools

    ATS has posted the recording on their website, as well as the slides and text of the webinar and links to further resources.

    Read the rest of entry »

    Back to school: Get inspired with good reading on fundraising

     

     

    Gold-tinged leaves and crisp morning air signal the return of fall. But autumn brings more than falling leaves, shorter days, and pumpkin spice; for many, the end of summer means "back to school." If you cannot return to a real-life classroom for a continuing education course, reinvigorate your inner student by diving into some serious reading.

    The required reading list for the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving’s Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF) course is an insightful dip into the fundamentals of development.

     

    Read the rest of entry »

    Is there a place for young people in governance?

    Nonprofit Quarterly recently published an article that got me thinking about the benefits and challenges of including young people in governance structures. “Preparing the Board Leaders of Tomorrow by Involving Youth in Governance Today” explains how the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania (GSEP) have involved the girls they service into the organization's governance. As a youth development and leadership organization, the the Girl Scouts are well positioned for this. It aligns with their mission and quite frankly, makes sense. 

    Read the rest of entry »

    Resources for your board: Books from BoardSource

    We love to connect our members with information and resources that encourage good leadership and effective governance. So we keep our eyes open for helpful books and articles that contribute to that goal. Some of our favorite resources are published by BoardSource. Here's a rundown of some of the best.

    Read the rest of entry »

    Who is your most strategic partner?

    First, throw out the “M-word.” Mergers scare people, so most schools are approaching partnerships in terms of new models of collaboration. A merger gives people the perception that there are winners and losers, but collaborations open up space for creativity and exploration: “If we were to imagine a future together, what might that look like?” 


    Read the rest of entry »

    Disengaged and problem board members

    The start of a new academic year is a great time to examine board structure and composition as well as board member roles and performance. Do you have board members who are unengaged in their work, or some who are unable to devote the time required to being a good board member? You may want to consider moving them into a different role -- or removing them from the board altogether.

    Read the rest of entry »

    Who influences the board?

    The board room is where the decisions are made, right?

    At my university's recent professional development day, a researcher spoke about his field, which is called “the diffusion of innovations.” He studies how worthy innovations can reach intended users and find wide adoption, and his research has revealed something surprising: When seeking support for an innovation from potential partner organizations, more often than not, the people who hold formal authority do not necessarily have the most influence.

    Read the rest of entry »

    The Strategic Information Report: What you need to know

     

    Because the SIR has been completely revamped, the Association of Theological Schools has provided an overview article that explains how presidents and board members can use it. “Why the Strategic Information Report is an essential tool in every school’s toolbox,” by Chris Meinzer, explores ways to use the SIR as a tool in assessing their institution's overall health.

     

    Read the rest of entry »

    Seeking a say in the naming of a new president, monks sue trustees



    There’s governance trouble brewing at Benedictine University in Illinois
    : The monks of St. Procopius Abbey, which owns the school, are suing the trustees for shutting them out of the selection of the new president. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, the monks claim that the abbey’s leadership has always played a role in the selection of the president -- ever since the first nonclerical president was selected 40 years ago.

    Read the rest of entry »

    From the archive: "True North: Orientation is the key for keeping a board on the right course"

    A few years ago, In Trust published an article about the importance of getting new board members set up for success through good orientation and thoughtful sharing of materials, information, and policies. You can read the article in its entirety here.

    The following checklist is a helpful place to start for new members. And while you’re at it, you might want to ensure that current and seasoned members have this material too.

    Read the rest of entry »

    A deeper look at a new survey of nonprofit boards



    The online nonprofit press is abuzz over the 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations, with headlines suggesting nothing but bad news. However, after digging into the report for myself, I’m here to dispute the board bashers. The survey results (at least as I read them) simply don’t support the sorry soundbite summaries.

    Read the rest of entry »

    Resources for your board: Dashboards



    Dashboards are a great way to track key metrics of your school’s performance. But which metrics should you track? And how do you know if you’re getting -- and sharing -- the numbers that matter?

    Read the rest of entry »

    The board’s responsibility for evaluating the president




    "Regular evaluation of presidential performance is among the top responsibilities assigned to boards of theological schools. It is also a task that many board members prefer not to tackle. So they don't."

    So begins the In Trust Center's resource guide, The Board's Responsibility for Evaluating the President, a free resource written by governance expert Rebekah Burch Basinger. The guide outlines five principles to consider so that the board and the president can approach the presidential evaluation with confidence and competence.

    Read the rest of entry »

    Advice for presidents about boards



    In January, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) gathered theological school presidents for their annual Presidential Leadership Intensive, a conference devoted to teaching the fine art of leading a seminary.

    G. Douglass Lewis was one of the presenters, and he focused on “Ten things the seminary president can do to build a more effective board.”

    Read the rest of entry »

    Get your board off the bus and into the boat



    Although Jim Collins’ caution about getting the right people on the bus is often cited in conversations about board member recruitment, it’s actually a curious metaphor for how to build a strong board. Consider this.

    People on a bus don’t set direction. They don’t watch the road. They don’t worry about maintenance of the bus or the cost of filling it with fuel. They’re not involved in recruiting other riders. And it would be unusual for passengers to advocate for better highways or speak out in support of public transportation.

    Read the rest of entry »

    Shared governance: Resources for your board



    Shared governance is one of the most challenging issues at many seminaries and theological colleges. And it works differently at freestanding seminaries and embedded divinity schools. If shared governance continues to be a challenge at your school, you may want to consider some of these resources.

    Read the rest of entry »