Good Governance Models Are Essential to Elevating and Advancing Mission
By Mathew A. Pinson, Georgia United Methodist Foundation President and CEO
Take a few minutes to think about the best volunteer experiences you have had in your lifetime. These outstanding experiences were likely the direct result of leaders’ unwavering focus on the organization’s mission. This focus, careful planning, responsive evaluation, and a carefully cultivated volunteer and donor base are a few elements that lead to healthy and sustainable nonprofits, including churches. Importantly, all of these elements are the direct results of a good governance model.
Good governance models are essential to elevating and advancing the mission of all organizations. Because of this, I spend time each week focused on the governance model of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation. On any given week, topics related to governance are front and center. But what exactly do I mean?
The Foundation’s purpose is to partner with churches, nonprofits, individuals, and families in direct support of the ministries and mission of the church. In this way, the Foundation is a ministry partner as we seek to live out our mission to provide faith-based financial solutions for investing, lending, training, and planned giving. Undergirding the Foundation’s purpose and mission is a governance model that is key to the organization’s overall success. Below are a few examples of how I focus my time on topics related to governance that directly elevate and advance the purpose and mission of the Foundation:
- Direct dialogue with colleagues is inspiring. I do my best to spend time with colleagues talking about their work, projects we share, and life in general. These times almost always give way to moments of gratitude for the work we share as the staff team of the Foundation—work that is entirely focused on elevating and advancing the mission of the church. A strong and cohesive staff team is essential.
- Routine, direct engagement with members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees is equally important to the time spent with staff colleagues. For me, this includes a weekly conversation with the Chair of the Board and regular communication with Committee Chairs. I also do my best to send regular communications to the entire membership of the Board of Trustees. These engagements (some by phone, some in person, and some via email) deepen relationships through the sharing of ideas, hopes, concerns, and aspirations. I find time spent with members of the Board of Trustees to be vital to the work I do each day. It is important to make time for direct, regular engagement with volunteer leaders.
- Budgets, financial controls, and audits make the list of what many think about when the topic of governance is introduced. Each week, my colleagues and I review and discuss all aspects of the Foundation’s financial life. We accomplish this work in partnership with a strong Finance and Audit Committee and a trusted external audit firm. The Foundation continues to be financially sound and is experiencing growth largely because of the attentiveness of the expert staff and Board members. The routine work of staff is reviewed annually through an external audit process overseen by the Board of Trustees. This audit process confirms that there are no management, governance, or material accounting errors. In addition, the Foundation always publishes the Independent Auditors’ Report and Financial Statements online. Budgets, financial controls, and the annual audit should be among the categories at the top of the list of key governance themes.
- The ultimate beneficiaries of good governance models are the people served by the mission of the organization. For the Foundation, this means that we are able to deliver trusted investment solutions for churches and nonprofits through the work of the Board’s Investment Committee. The Investment Committee stewards funds entrusted to the Foundation by churches, nonprofits, families, and individuals who establish managed fund accounts, endowments, donor-advised funds, charitable gift annuities, or charitable remainder trusts that provide funding for scholarships and ministries across the State of Georgia and beyond. Likewise, the work of the Foundation’s Loan Committee makes possible a trusted Certificate Program, which provides an investment option that earns higher returns than similar instruments and enables the Foundation to underwrite loans to United Methodist churches and nonprofits in Georgia. In addition the Foundation’s unique Loan Program offers expert counsel, lower costs, advantageous terms, and competitive loan rates. These positive missional outcomes are the direct result of a good governance model.
It is essential to make time to consider the governance model that supports the missional aims of an organization. By focusing appropriate amounts of time on topics and activities related to governance, leaders will build a strong and cohesive staff team, establish, deepen, and grow relationships with volunteer leaders, and ensure that the organization’s reputation is strong. Most importantly, a good governance model will elevate and advance the mission of any organization.