From category archives: In Trust Blog


Growing your next board chair

You may stumble onto a good, or even great, board chair by luck, but it’s not likely. Schools and other nonprofits typically get the chairs they have “grown,” but when there is no advance development, schools tend to get board chairs who are unprepared, untested, and weak. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 president or the board: Who decides?

Noses in, fingers out.” That’s what we’ve suggested to boards in the most simplistic way when discussing the board’s role and responsibilities – a perennial topic for In Trust magazine, In Trust Center webinars, and our Resource Consulting work. Considering a board’s continual development cycle, board education must always include attention to the clarity of roles and responsibilities.

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Strategic framework resource available from BoardSource

Does your school have a strategic plan? Or have you chosen a less formal planning strategy? BoardSource has recently released an infographic that explains the differences between strategic plans and strategic frameworks -- and why boards are increasingly moving towards the more flexible framework model.

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The board's role in cultivating generosity


When institutional mission and individuals’ calls converge, the miraculous happens,” says Rebekah Burch Basinger in her 2010 In Trust article, “Giving as a response to God’s call.” Basinger was referring to the role theological school boards can play in reframing giving as a calling from God.


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Presidential evaluation resources

Is your board planning a presidential evaluation soon? In any evaluation process, it is important to consider what you hope to gain -- including the board's (and the president's) priorities and plans. Are you unsure of where to start? The In Trust Center can help!


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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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New members of the board of directors

Voting-eligible member schools of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools recently elected three new members and re-elected two members to serve on the In Trust Center’s board of directors. The new and re-elected members include (above, from left) Marsha Foster Boyd, Charisse L. Gillett, Kathryn Glover, David Jennings, and Msgr. Roger E. McGrath.

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A financial vocabulary lesson for board members

Are you a board member with fiduciary responsibilities but little experience with financial matters? Do you find yourself lost or confused by the financial jargon that comes up in budgetary or investment discussions? Have no fear. 

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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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Recently published from CHEA: A board member's guide to accreditation

Accreditation for institutions of higher education is a multifaceted and often confusing process. For governing boards in particular, it can be challenging to learn the ins and outs of accreditation and what the role of the board is in that process. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has recently published a resource to address this challenge.

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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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Protect yourself from cyber threats

Staff of the In Trust Center recently attended a webinar on cyber security for nonprofit organizations. The webinar was provided by the Delaware Small Business Development Center and presented by Michelle Wang, assistant director of information security administration for the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church. Although the webinar was presented for an audience of Delaware nonprofits, the information provided is pertinent to any organization that would like to improve their cyber security efforts.

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Tips, strategies, and things to avoid as you plan your next board meeting

Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's blog, Generous Matters. 

“If it weren’t for the meetings, serving on this board would be a joy. I’m all in on the mission, but one more rambling, mind-numbing agenda and I’m out of here!”

I hear variations on this lament too often from board members bored out of their minds by meetings to nowhere. Perhaps you’ve said as much yourself, which is unfortunate considering that a board is only a board when the members gather in official session.

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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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Influence of presidents rises

The influence of seminary presidents in decision making has substantially increased over the last decade, while that of faculties and denominations has decreased. At the same time, board influence remains unchanged. 

These findings were discussed in “Who’s in Charge? Effective Decision Making in a Time of Crisis and Fundamental Change,” a January 21 webinar jointly sponsored by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the In Trust Center.

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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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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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The value of classroom tech: A professor chimes in


Technology has made every area of human endeavor better, or at least more productive, and it seems downright curmudgeonly these days to say otherwise. We all agree with that. . . right?

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