This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education features a special report on the results of a survey of college and university trustees. This includes two articles written by Jeffrey Selingo that highlight the importance of the recruitment and orientation process for boards.

It is clear that while trustees complain that giving expectations for board members are unrealistic, especially during today’s billion dollar campaigns, they are giving more and more to institutions. It is equally clear that board members feel unprepared for the many responsibilities of trusteeship—ranging from fundraising, to policy decisions in higher education, to financial responsibilities.

These articles may be an important opportunity to open another round of discussions at the president’s executive staff level or with the development committee of the board. Now is the time for senior advancement officers to consider three steps:

  1. Plead again for improved recruitment and orientation. While very few development offices have control over the process, you can be an important voice in reminding presidents, board chairs, and nominating committee chairs of the importance of clearer expectations for board members and better orientation into the broad issues of higher education, as well as the specifics of your institution.
  2. Find ways to educate new board members about your institution and its fundraising agendas. While orientation at the beginning of service is important, ongoing efforts to educate board members is also important. Your board needs to be able to articulate your philanthropic agenda, not just during a campaign launch, but at any time. We recently created a monthly backgrounder e-newsletter for a client, as part of their board building and education efforts. It includes three sections.
  • Big issues facing colleges and universities nationally and globally
  • Updates on the institution’s key factors (admissions, endowment growth, graduation rates, etc.)
  • A short article on one topic from a key leader—a dean, faculty member, fellow board member, chief financial officer, or other important person

This is just one example of the many tools that are available to stay connected with your board and keep them informed.

3. Encourage your board members to get involved with the groups devoted to educating trustees and helping develop stronger boards. Two organizations that provide a wealth of information and resources for boards include the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) and BoardSource. To learn more about board management issues and action steps, download our research study on Managing the Governing Board for Fundraising Success.

Share This