Principles of Trusteeship

Principle 3:
Be an ambassador for your institution and higher education.

Principle 3 supports the fundamental function of understanding governance by outlining how board members should convey the value proposition of the colleges and universities they serve, and higher education more broadly. In order to be an impactful ambassador, you must:

  • Advocate on behalf of your institution and higher education. Become comfortable articulating the institution’s strategy and priorities in your own voice and be prepared to promote the goals of higher education, as well as the value of a college or university degree.
  • Represent the institution proudly and recognize who speaks for the board and for the institution. While you can dissent within the boardroom, your communication with stakeholders must reflect the board’s collective decision, not your personal position.
  • Engage actively and appropriately. Support the institution you have chosen with enthusiasm and generosity. Fundraise on behalf of the institution and leverage your network to advance its strategic priorities.

“A really strong trustee is someone who is engaged with the institution holistically:
their willingness to learn, their willingness to listen before speaking, their willingness to build relationships, and being engaged in events that the university is holding and being engaged with the faculty.”

Board Professional

Questions for self-reflection.

  1. How do board members support the president and institution in their advocacy efforts? How do you support the president?
  2. Whom do you know who could be helpful to the institution? How can you help the president and administrators gain access to community leaders who might have common concerns and interests?
  3. What do constituents think of the institution? The board? How does the institution look from different points of view?
  4. How would you respond to a constituent who approaches you with a sensitive question? Whom should you inform about these interactions and when?
  5. Have you made the institution or foundation one of your top philanthropic priorities?

This guide conveys the essence of highly effective trusteeship in a concise, easy-to-use format. It defines the attitudes and actions of highly effective board members, and provides insight into three fundamental functions:

  • Understand governance by embracing all of your responsibilities in a structure of shared leadership.
  • Lead by example by upholding the highest standards of integrity.
  • Think strategically by focusing on what matters most to the long-term success of the whole enterprise.
Principles of Trusteeship Guide Cover