Over the past few years, the board of directors of the In Trust Center has modified some of its practices to improve the effectiveness of our board. We hope that by sharing practices that have been effective for us, theological school leaders might glean ideas for their own boards.
Nothing is more important to the health and sustainability of an organization than recruiting qualified and committed board members.
An organized recruitment process will serve as a foundation for building a strong and diverse board. Clearly defined expectations for board members should be documented and boards should always discern the skills and experiences it needs at that point in time.
What does the In Trust Center board do?
Who are the key players and what do they do?
How can theological school boards apply this to their own work?
Introducing new members to the board’s goals and practices should be a formal and deliberate process that ensures all board members operate within the same framework and with the same instructions.
Orientation should include an introduction to the landscape of theological education; a review of the organization, including its history, mission, programs, and how it operates; the role of the board within the overall institutional structure; and the individual duties of and expectations for board members, including expectations for giving.
What does the In Trust Center do?
The most effective boards are composed of those who show commitment and support not only for the institution they serve, but also for their fellow board members. Boards that make a deliberate effort to build rapport and trust have freer discussions, are better able to speak up, debate and challenge when necessary, and come up with better solutions than those who overlook this important component.
Reading and addressing reports is an essential part of a board’s job. The best boards also spend time educating themselves and engaging in strategic thinking about issues relevant to their work.
The board is responsible for evaluating the institution and the president, and it is also responsible for evaluating its own effectiveness. The best boards conduct self-evaluation regularly.
All boards have designated leaders — a chair and other officers responsible for the board’s direction. Most also have committees, and this is where much of the detailed work of governance takes place. Effective boards take time to examine their committee structures, charters, and practices, overhauling them when needed.
It is important to obtain feedback from both current and outgoing board members. Long-serving outgoing members can share valuable institutional and board history and even outgoing members who have served briefly may have insights that can help the board with suggestions for improvement.
How could a theological school board apply this to its own work?
Amy L. Kardash, Kathryn Glover, and Jay Blossom contributed to this article.
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