Fund Raisers’ Role

Rebekah Burch Basinger’s “Asking as Teaching” (Spring 1999) addressed concerns that have bothered me since beginning my present work. I have been a development officer at a seminary for three and a half years, before which time most of my development career had been in a research II state university. In that setting I was a fund raiser. In my current seminary position, I am not a fund raiser but rather an advocate of theological education, giving individuals an opportunity to extend their stewardship by being partners with us in the formation of leaders for the church. Basinger identified four issues for trustees’ attention. These issues need to be understood and embraced by others as well.

If development officers or anyone else have mistakenly thought that involvement in seminary life is not a necessity, they indeed have been limited in telling the story of their institutions. The scant amount of time such activities take works well into planned schedules. Oftentimes the foundation for a working relationship among the faculty, administration, students, and the development personnel must be cultivated over a period of time. 

Who better than faculty members and the theologically educated to help with interpreting our biblical understanding of stewardship? Even with incredibly busy schedules, faculty members where I serve have been more than willing to help when asked. 

One of the real challenges of development officers is not to become too zealous in telling the story to potential contributors so as to be perceived as being insincere or “holier than thou.” The same is true in the hiring of development officers. Too much emphasis on stewardship comprehension without the balance of basic development knowledge and experience could be disastrous. The balance can be achieved when all are committed to lifelong learning.

Development with stewardship emphasis must surely be supported by trustees, but seminary personnel must be committed to the concept. Trustees who do not think of themselves as fund raisers are relieved to learn that they are not asked to be one, only to be able to tell the story and invite individuals to assist in the education of clergy and lay leaders.

The jargon needed for seminary development must therefore be different from that of secular development if we are to convey our understanding of stewardship. We are advocates and channels for giving. Basinger was correct: we are all teachers. We merely need to know our discipline.

Mary Ann Shealy
Columbia, South Carolina

 Mary Ann Shealy is vice president for development and seminary relations at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina.

Information Source
As both an alumnus (’93) and board member (’95) of Tyndale College and Seminary (formerly Ontario Bible College and Theological Seminary), I read the ten-year retrospective of In Trust ("Ten Candles for In Trust") in the Spring 1999 issue with great interest. In the three years that Tyndale has provided In Trust to its board members I have grown to depend on your attempts to demystify the language, structures, and relationships of academia for the layperson. I came onto the board at Tyndale at age twenty-three after our schools experienced what the business folks called a financial “exigency.” To say that my training and experience as a youth pastor did not prepare me for the highly specialized language of the academic, financial, and theological worlds is a gross understatement. While I could run an “icebreaker” with the best of them, I couldn’t read a balance sheet or understand our debt amortization to save my life! In Trust has provided a consistent source of information that has saved me from asking many an embarrassing question. In addition, In Trust has provided me with a window into the larger world of theological education that I use to evaluate and understand what is going on at Tyndale. In the future I would love to see issues, articles, or letters published on what alumni think is their special role, if any, on the board of their alma mater. I would also like to read some dialogue from relatively young board members (under thirty-five) about what special issues surround their full participation in their institutions.

Jacob Birch
Chatham, Ontario

Jacob Birch is associate pastor of Gregory Drive Alliance Church in Chatham, Ontario, and a trustee of Tyndale College and Seminary, Toronto, Ontario.

Coming in the Fall
In response to requests from a number of readers, the Autumn 1999 issue of In Trust will offer a guide to evaluating the performance of a governing board and a bibliography of resources. If your board has recently had a noteworthy experience in assessing its work, we would like to hear about it—by letter, phone, fax, e-mail. You choose. Don’t be shy!

Top Topics
Roles & Responsibilities
Board Essentials

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