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From category archives: In Trust Blog

Governance Best Practices

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.

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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.

 

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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. 

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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.

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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?” 


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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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In Trust magazine -- New Year 2015 issue


In Trust's New Year 2015 issue was sent to subscribers last week. If you haven’t already received it, it should be arriving soon.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights:

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Personality types and problem board members



Recently, the Nonprofit Quarterly posted a classic article on how personality types affect boards. The article lists six “desirable qualities” in a board member, including “commitment,” “common sense and good judgment,” “respect for group process,” “centeredness,” “openness,” and “sense of humor.” But there’s also a helpful list of five kinds of board members who can derail the board’s work. They get nicknames: “Johnny One-Note” . . .

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For Halloween: The headless endeavor



For a couple years, the student garden club at my daughter’s elementary has been an amazing success. Nearly eighty students from grades 1–5 spent time after school last year to design, create, and maintain a stellar garden with flowers and vegetables. The local newspaper and television station came out several times to record the kids in action. Parents volunteered and businesses donated supplies and money. There was even a club song! And all of this was due to the efforts of one woman . . .

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What does it mean to govern?



Q: What does it mean to govern? 
[Careful – this is a trick question.]
        a.) to supervise
        b.) to manage
        c.) to donate
        d.) to advise

The correct answer, according to the 2004 governance classic, Governance as Leadership, is e.) none of the above. To govern is “to lead.” And yes, leading includes supervision, management, fundraising, and advising, but leading also supersedes them.  Let me explain.

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Giving thanks: A formula for success



My wife often travels for work.
It’s one of the sacrifices we accept in exchange for the ability to work together from home. Trips usually take her away for no more than two or three days, but this month a huge project demanded that she be in New Hampshire for nearly two weeks.

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A call for board members to step up



The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review best summed up a recent report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) with this headline: “Scathing report says college trustees fail in mission.” The gist of the report is that higher education is mismanaged, and the buck stops with the board. The public’s image of the country’s institutions of higher education is not the most positive. High on the list of complaints. . .

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Should you fire underperforming board members?



Should you fire underperforming board members? The author of "Firing Lousy Board Members" thinks so, and she outlines the process for doing so in her post. Of course, it's not as easy as saying "So-and-so is a lousy board member." No, a board needs to ...

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Is your board's culture entrepreneurial or risk averse?




What is your board’s relationship to risk? Does its work reflect a culture of risk taking or risk avoidance? 

The question surrounding board culture and its engagement with risk seems to arise more frequently these days as boards are increasingly encouraged to travel two seemingly conflicting roads of risk -- the entrepreneurial road of risk taking and the security-conscious road of risk management.

Which road do you prefer to travel? Given your institution’s situation, which road must you travel?

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Shared governance is flawed but fixable



Few people appear happy with the state of shared governance at American colleges and universities.”

That’s how Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, begins a thoughtful essay on how to reform shared governance in higher education.

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