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Giving by governing: The board of governors (part 4)

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Unsplash/Drew Beamer

Of all of the groups related to an institution the “board of Governors” probably wields the most"A school is only as strong as its board wants it to be."  Success demands a strong board. Now while a strong board doesn't guarantee a strong school, every strong school has a strong board.  I addressed this in an article in Christian Post dated: Tuesday, January 14, 2014. 

Board members are in a position where they can see and do like no others can.  They actually have the “say,” possess the control to do what is right, they own the institution!  If the Board doesn’t act it is probable that no one else will.  This is why it is so important to select board members well, presidents and headmasters well, and yes, faculty well.  All of this care needs to be taken while things are still faithful to the institutional mission and under control.  If not it’s a loss!

While there is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke this, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  However, it does ring true and Christian schools and colleges continue doing the same thing over and over again with poor results.  Worst of all losing their school. Violating their mission, losing the battle against an oppositional culture, and in the process grieving God’s spirit!

The Board of Governors, board of director, or board of trustees, whatever you call yourselves, holds a fiduciary responsibility for what is taking place at an institution.  Board giving is at least “twofold;” the giving of capital and the giving of time.  Both of these are extremely valuable.  Make that threefold by adding the fact that the board establishes policy.  If they are doing their job they will recognize problems developing and will swiftly take action to correct things.

Swift action is important.  The fact that college and university boards usually meet three times a year would hardly seem to allow for swift action.  But, if board leadership is well chosen, institutional administration has been carefully selected, and committees are functioning properly swift action is certainly possible.

Corrective action is important for more than one reason primarily solving the problem and maintaining a strong level of board giving.  It is not uncommon for a board to have policy in place requiring an expected gift amount for each members.  Annual “board audits” would certainly recognize and address a drop in a members giving making their philanthropy somewhat different than simple major giving.  Under such a policy any downward adjustment in giving could result in expulsion from the board.

For this reason members will want to be certain of the purpose for their service and that the objective of their support is being maintained.  Board members are hard to recruit.  The right people are usually very busy and expect that they will have a definite function on the board.  Wasting their time is dangerous and threatens continuing service.  Governors take board and committee service seriously!

Alumni, Major Donors, and Board of Governors fill important places in the operation and sustenance of any educational institution.  Mess with any of these and you may face serious institutional consequences.  On the other side of this coin if any one of these three don’t take their place seriously as a center of influence the checks and balances will be out of sync.  Each of these three groups exist for different reasons with equally different benefits and rewards.  If each one understands their place, their function, then all should be well.

Each day I make a point to pray, by name, for six Christian leaders.  My prayer is simple: for wisdom, for courage, to be surrounded by excellent advisors and encouragers, and for strength to hold to orthodox Christian principles.  I make this special prayer because as scripture affirms; “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,…” (2 Timothy 4:3 ESV) The time is here!

The choice of a Christian institution over a secular one is no longer clear!  In too many instances a noticeable difference is not apparent.  Today the pressure is to “go along to get along,” NO!  That can’t happen!  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5&6 ESV)

A bulwark for me has always been, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)  It is up to us to act.  Don’t wait for someone else.  Do it yourself. Now!

Robert F. Davis has 40 years of experience providing counsel for educational and not-for-profit institutions. He previously served as vice president for Advancement at Bryan College in Tennessee and consulting vice president for Advancement and Alumni Affairs at Liberty University in Virginia.

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