I write to express my appreciation for Chris Meinzer’s article, “Eternal Enterprise,” in the Spring 2021 issue. As chair of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School Board of Trustees, I know that we, like so many theological schools, face the challenges of working with outstanding boards that come to our efforts with various levels of financial acumen. I appreciate his emphasis on “second- and third-level ‘why’ questions.” As we develop a revised orientation program for new board members, this gives us something to emphasize in both our written and in-person orientation. By identifying the types of questions, and encouraging the use of these deeper “why” questions, we create an environment that keeps all board members accountable to ask and understand these financial issues that are at the core of successful seminary leadership. Finally, it helps all board members understand our shared role in attending to the important fiduciary responsibilities.
Rev. Dr. Michael Ford, Board Chair
Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
Your Spring issue’s focus on seminary financial management is a must-read. Chris Meinzer’s article “Eternal Enterprise” was particularly helpful – an unspoken theme of “Stewardship, stewardship, stewardship!” The questions that he suggested board members ask about financial matters hit the mark. His article helps translate, in a very practical way, the business-oriented approach that it behooves board members to deploy with considerable regularity. Whether a seminary is traversing a post-pandemic “J curve” or on a straight-line trajectory up, Meinzer’s type of advice is always pertinent. Our entire board now has the benefit of seeing this article – thank you. Finally, a special thanks to In Trust Center for the abundant resources it makes available. It has all been helpful in advancing our mission.
Donna K. Alexander, Board Chair
The John Leland Center for Theological Studies
Matt Hufman’s article “What Your CFO Wants You to Know” in the Spring issue offers a great resource and practical advice to board members, pointing to some great questions boards can ask their CFOs in order to understand the finances and make informed decisions. The article is also informative and instructive to members of faculty and staff who can benefit a great deal from understanding institutional finances. I resonate with all the tips that have been shared and especially the first tip – the bottom line doesn’t show everything – as sometimes the tendency is to look at the end of the year surplus/deficit line. What else is going on with revenues and expenses is important, including trends in revenue sources and expenditure lines, to identify patterns that tell more about the institution’s financial trajectory. I also appreciate the note that “there’s no fluff” at many seminaries and cutting costs by reducing staff is not an option as many staff members have two titles on their job descriptions. Rather, asking where else can revenue come from to support the mission is key.
Margaret Mwenda, Chief Operating Officer
Calvin Theological Seminary