From category archives: In Trust Blog

Money & Mission

Your school is likely at risk. What can your board do?

Higher education in North America – all higher education, not only theological education – is in trouble. How can your board be prepared? 

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What should your board be asking?

Reducing expenses, decreasing enrollment, increasing costs, and shrinking revenue. These are the current realities of higher education. Are your board members asking the right questions in response?

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Are your board members active fundraisers?

In 2014, Karen Stiller asked Elizabeth L. Visconage and Joseph Molyneaux to share their thoughts about a resource from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members by Julia I. Walker. Their years of experience with boards and fundraising are readily apparent as Visconage and Molyneaux comment on some of the major points in Walker’s book. A key question that guided the conversation: Is it realistic to expect all board members to be active fundraisers?

 

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Abandon your past to create your future

Robert S. Landrebe, who has just retired as senior vice president at Asbury Theological Seminary, offered advice for finding clarity in your school’s future in the Spring 2014 issue of In Trust. In his article titled “To create the future, selectively abandon the past,” Landrebe offers blunt but empathic advice to schools facing shrinking enrollment (in other words, most schools): “Let me describe theological education as an ‘industry.’ We are part of an industry that has a vital mission that serves the church. But, over the last decade, our student market has been in decline. During this decade we haven’t adjusted our expenses in response to a shrinking market. Rather, expenses have risen even faster than the consumer price index." 

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Abandon your past to create your future

Robert S. Landrebe, who has just retired as senior vice president at Asbury Theological Seminary, offered advice for finding clarity in your school’s future in the Spring 2014 issue of In Trust. In his article titled “To create the future, selectively abandon the past,” Landrebe offers blunt but empathic advice to schools facing shrinking enrollment (in other words, most schools): “Let me describe theological education as an ‘industry.’ We are part of an industry that has a vital mission that serves the church. But, over the last decade, our student market has been in decline. During this decade we haven’t adjusted our expenses in response to a shrinking market. Rather, expenses have risen even faster than the consumer price index." 

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Two to tango: Insights from a partnership

In the May issue of Colloquy, the online newsletter from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), two representatives from Andover Newton Theological School and Yale Divinity School offer some reflections on Andover Newton’s transition from a freestanding theological school to an embedded seminary.

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Maneuvering through crises and disruption

When an issue of Trusteeship magazine has the theme of “Institutions in Crisis,” you know you’re in for some great articles on board governance. Handling crises — whether postponing them, mitigating their effects, or managing the fallout — is a big part of leading an institution. And there are all sorts of events and circumstances that may qualify as a crisis.

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Four questions for your enrollment team

Enrollment is critical. You might have a wonderful vision, an outstanding strategic plan, and top-notch personnel in all the key spots – but without enough students, your school will struggle.

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The ministry of fundraising

I once heard it said that board members find fundraising to be the least appetizing of their responsibilities. Few people are comfortable asking another for money, but without fundraising, few of our theological schools would survive.

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Resource roundup: Institutional financial health

The fiscal responsibilities of seminary boards, presidents, and administrators are vast and complex. And for those who want to maintain or improve their school’s financial health, it's sometimes hard to know where to start. Here are resources that may offer some guidance in tending to institutional financial health.

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College-age population expected to decline dramatically

 

The number of college-age young people is predicted to fall by more than 15 percent within the next decade. The potential effects on theological education are obvious — and daunting.

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Leveraging the power of Facebook

By now, we all know the vast reach that Facebook has across the globe, and many are aware of how powerful a tool Facebook can be for nonprofits and educational institutions to engage with constituents and potential donors.

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The right school, the right time, and the right CFO

How does a school find the chief financial officer (CFO) it needs?

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Communicating hope amid disruption

The illustration and type on the cover of Fuller Seminary's magazine pretty much says it all. Rather than an evocative photographic portrait, as usually graces the cover, this one sports a photoshopped bird – gold and in flight – which forms the first “I” in the 200-point Century Bold italicized title that reads: DIS RUP TION.

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Difficult but necessary decisions

“The board has to insist on financial sustainability.” Lee Merritt, retired vice president for finance at Fuller Theological Seminary, sees this obligation as one of the most essential responsibilities of any school’s governing board.

 

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Sobering statistics, paths to the future

In the New Year 2014 issue of In Trust, Greg Henson and Gary Hoag provided data on charitable giving. Their conclusions, and their advice to schools, are still timely.

 

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Sobering statistics, paths to the future

In the New Year 2014 issue of In Trust, Greg Henson and Gary Hoag provided data on charitable giving. Their conclusions, and their advice to schools, are still timely.

 

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Must you let people know that you're closing?

Every institution runs on confidence. Startups need investors to believe that their money won't be wasted. Banks need customers who trust that their savings won't be lost. Schools need students who are confident that the school will be around long enough for them to graduate. And the donors to these schools need to feel confident that their contributions are not being tossed into a black hole.

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How can a seminary react to financial stress?

Unanticipated financial setbacks sometimes become little deficits. And the response to little deficits can shape the course of a school’s future. What are the options? 

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How can a seminary react to financial stress?

Unanticipated financial setbacks sometimes become little deficits. And the response to little deficits can shape the course of a school’s future. What are the options? 

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Learning from the past: Schools that thrived during the lean years

In 2014, the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education published Through Toil and Tribulation: Financing Theological Education 2001-2011, an analysis by Anthony T. Ruger and Chris A. Meinzer of revenue and spending of theological schools during a period that encompassed the Great Recession as well as declining levels of formal religious affiliation. The fifth in a series of studies of revenue in theological education, this report told a tale of hard times and the ways in which some schools were able to strengthen their financial position in spite of a poor economy and changing religious environment, and it outlined best practices in the institutions and leaders who saw improvements during these years.

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Seminaries struggle to build community with affordable dining services

 

Declining enrollment and increasing numbers of distance education and off-campus students are making the economics of providing food increasingly unsustainable for theological schools. Yet everyone agrees that shared meals build community. What's a seminary to do?

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When it comes to development, the personal touch might just be the Midas touch

What can board members, who have a big role to play in development, do to make fundraising more productive and, dare we hope, less onerous?

 

 

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New Year 2018 issue is now available


The New Year 2018 issue of In Trust magazine was recently mailed and is now available to read online.

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New Year 2018 issue is now available


The New Year 2018 issue of In Trust magazine was recently mailed and is now available to read online.

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Small religious colleges are struggling

A recent Religion News Service article chronicles the struggles of small religious colleges, saying that lacking substantial endowments, many are teetering on a financial cliff.

 

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When do you declare a state of emergency?

What is "financial exigency"? This is one of those phrases a board would rather avoid, even when declaring financial exigency is the responsible next step for a school in trouble. 

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Fundraising is too important to leave to the amateurs

With less financial support for theological education from churches and denominations, theological schools have come to increase fundraising to balance the budget. School presidents and board members are expected to play a big role in raising funds for their institutions.

 

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Financial woes across the pond

The Church Times, a London-based Anglican newspaper, recently published an article about the apparent financial crisis facing Anglican theological education in the United Kingdom.

 

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A case study in mission-driven publishing

 For seminaries, coming up with sustainable revenue-generating ventures is often imperative. But schools must consider whether those venture support their mission and values.

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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.

 

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Highlights from In Trust's Autumn 2017 issue, available now

The Autumn 2017 issue of In Trust was recently mailed  to subscribers and is now available online. Click "Read the rest of entry" for highlights.

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Board members talk finances

In August 2009, In Trust emailed more than 1,800 board members (excluding board chairs) with a short survey on school finances. Of the board members contacted, 293 responded. In a summer 2010 article, Mary Catherine Bolster shared responses to this survey and offered her insights about what these responses said about the role of the board in financial matters. 

 

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Tips for ensuring the show goes on, despite a smaller cast of characters

The North American nonprofit sector is no stranger to getting by on less. But these days less is edging toward subsistence, with budgets and personnel close to the breaking point. What’s a leadership team to do when the show must go on but with a smaller cast of characters to cover all the roles? Create a plan.

 

 

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Tips for ensuring the show goes on, despite a smaller cast of characters

The North American nonprofit sector is no stranger to getting by on less. But these days less is edging toward subsistence, with budgets and personnel close to the breaking point. What’s a leadership team to do when the show must go on but with a smaller cast of characters to cover all the roles? Create a plan.

 

 

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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. 

 

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Where did the phrase “Mission fulfillment with economic vitality” come from?

We recently asked consultant Rebekah Burch Basinger about the origins of the phrase "Mission fulfillment with economic vitality." She explained that it's a summary statement about economic equilibrium.

 

 

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Calculating the "public value" of your school

Sometimes a theological school must communicate its worth to a larger community -- perhaps as part of an outreach effort or in an appeal to donors. In these instances, it’s helpful for school leadership to make the case for the institution's value to the community. A few years ago, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary conducted an economic impact study and was subsequently able to quantify its value after local residents expressed concern that the seminary was not giving enough to the community. In addition to actual dollar amounts given, the seminary also calculated the value of residents employed by the school, hours volunteered, and benefits not easily quantified, such as diversity. As a result, not only was the school able to communicate its worth, but they also developed stronger town-gown relationships.

 

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Calculating the "public value" of your school

Sometimes a theological school must communicate its worth to a larger community -- perhaps as part of an outreach effort or in an appeal to donors. In these instances, it’s helpful for school leadership to make the case for the institution's value to the community. A few years ago, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary conducted an economic impact study and was subsequently able to quantify its value after local residents expressed concern that the seminary was not giving enough to the community. In addition to actual dollar amounts given, the seminary also calculated the value of residents employed by the school, hours volunteered, and benefits not easily quantified, such as diversity. As a result, not only was the school able to communicate its worth, but they also developed stronger town-gown relationships.

 

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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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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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Pacific School of Religion withdraws plans for senior living community

Back in October, we shared the news that Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, planned to develop senior living housing on campus. Since then, the school has announced plans to withdraw their application for developing the proposed senior community. 

 

 

 

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Transformational philanthropy means engagement with prospective donors

“Transformational philanthropy” was the focus of a December 6 webinar sponsored by the In Trust Center and presented by Aimée Laramore, director of advancement at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and owner/lead consultant at ALlyd Solutions.

 

 

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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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6 things you need to know about fundraising


Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's excellent blog, Generous Matters, where you can read her original post. 

 

“How can we get more people to support our organization? We’re working hard but not seeing the results we need.”

The caller’s frustration was palpable — and familiar. Over the years, I’ve been asked variations of his question by countless CEOs and board members. Short on cash and time, ministry leaders are on the hunt for the answer to their organization’s fundraising woes.

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Theological school plans to build senior center on campus

Written by Stephen Butler Murray

Our friends at Pacific School of Religion (PSR) have announced plans to build 265 apartments for seniors on their campus in Berkeley, California. Here are my thoughts.

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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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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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You, too, can learn to love fundraising

The theme of the Harvard Business Review article is networking. However, the quoted comments from reluctant business schmoozers ring familiar to the way fundraising-adverse nonprofit folk talk about asking for money.

Uncomfortable, phony, distasteful, a necessary evil, feels slimy.

I’ve heard them all, including from ministry leaders who claim to have accepted the good news of fundraising as ministry.

 
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