From category archives: In Trust Blog

Board Chairs

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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Email costs board chair his position

Many people have composed email messages in haste or in anger, or simply without thinking carefully about the content or the recipients.

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What is Resource Consulting?

Resource Consulting is a method of supporting theological schools based on developmental learning models. Its goal is to strengthen the capacity of schools by helping schools to clarify issues and use resources to meet their identified needs.

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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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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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Sustainability: Not just about the green

When I think about sustainability, what immediately comes to mind is green. Green — as a concept and not just a color — dominates every conversation.

As I specifically consider leadership of a theological school, Green raises so many questions.

Questions about ecology and the environment: Is my campus kind to the environment? Are our buildings green or at least getting greener? Are our behaviors on campus environmentally responsible? At the very least, do we recycle?

And always, questions about money: Are our budgets balanced and our financial forecasts realistic? Where does our current financial path lead? Is our cash flow sufficient? How sustainable are our finances?

As leaders, we need our institutions to be sustainable, both financially sustainable and environmentally sustainable.

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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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An elevator speech for board members

A friend finds out
that you serve on the board of a theological school. He is surprised, pleased, and curious. Questions follow immediately, and in rapid fire. “So what are your responsibilities as a board member?” he inquires. “And how does your board work there differ — if at all — from the other boards on which you serve?” You need an ...

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You're probably making this mistake

Have you heard (or even uttered) these statements during meetings? 
  • It would be great if…
  • Someone should…
  • Do we all agree to…?
  • Can you try to…?
  • The chair would like...
Repeat after me: No more weasel words.

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How to make a board handbook

Does your board have a handbook – either online or on paper?
If you don’t, you may be missing out on an important resource to help your board function at the top of its game.  

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Are open trustee meetings a good thing?

In a recent article on the Inside Higher Ed website,
Academic Fantasies: Open Trustee Meetings,” John Lombardi examines a polished pillar of board leadership: the open board meeting (or as Lombardi describes it, that “theatrical forum where talented individuals play ritualized parts according to well prepared scripts”). 

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President/chair relationship key to job satisfaction

Daring to Lead 2011, the third in a series
of surveys of national nonprofit executives, found that the relationship between presidents and board chairs plays a significant role in overall presidential job satisfaction. 


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What happened in Virginia?

Have you been keeping up 
with events at the University of Virginia this summer? The blowback may have been more about perceptions than actual substance. The deeper issues here — the purpose of public university education, the importance of a liberal arts curriculum, the speed at which universities ought to embrace new educational technologies — weren’t necessarily the reason for the ruckus.

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Strategic planning essentials for people with no time to waste

In Trust webinar on strategic planning

How do you allocate scarce resources to achieve your mission? How can you develop competencies to meet new market opportunities? How do you plan based on strategic assessments and insights and not just wishful thinking?

On February 22, In Trust Governance Mentors Robert Landrebe and Randy Thomann will tackle these tough questions and more during a webinar on "Three Strategic Planning Essentials for People with No Time to Waste."

This webinar is designed especially for presidents and board leaders, who can take part either together (gathered around a single computer) or separately (each participant online at home). The presenters are Robert Landrebe and Randy Thomann, both of whom have served as executive vice presidents of large institutions.

For more information, visit

Board chair and president, working together for the mission

At theological schools, as at colleges and universities, the relationship between the president and the board chair is especially critical. In the Summer 2011 issue of In Trust, you can read an interview with one board chair and president in which they explain their weekly phone conversations. In particular, I like the goals that they are trying to achieve: (1) Fostering a culture of trust, (2) maintaining a focus on institutional reality, and (3) achieving the school's mission with economic sustainability. Rebekah Burch Basinger has been examining this topic too. In her blog called "Generous Matters," Basinger (a frequent In Trust contributor) recently wrote a post called "The board chair-CEO relationship is like a pair of chopsticks." Basinger borrows some ideas from a survey conducted by the Canadian consulting firm Odgers Berndtson. The meat of her post is the "10 commitments" that a board chair and a president can make to each other for the sake of the school. Among the commitments:  ...

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