Nonprofit Insider: Why Board Service is Crucial to Fundraising - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Akira Barclay, associate director at Youth I.N.C., knows that board members are a nonprofit's most valuable volunteers.

If someone approaches you to sit on the board of a nonprofit organization, you might ask yourself “What’s the point? How will being on this board actually translate into some sort of recognizable change in the community?”

“The organizations that are the strongest, the most sustainable, and the most successful in executing their missions are the ones that have board members who are involved,” says Akira Barclay, associate director at Youth, I.N.C., where she coaches small nonprofit organizations on fundraising and development. The organization harnesses the energy and talent of the brightest minds in business to help New York City’s most promising grassroots organizations better serve the city’s most vulnerable children.

Their board is comprised of Wall Street and A-list business leaders, including Ronald E. Blaylock, vice president of GenNx360 Capital Partners. High-profile board members like Blaylock are influential in helping organizations raise money, among other things. In this Nonprofit Insider, Barclay takes time out to explain what board members need to do to help fulfill an NPO’s mission.

Raise the NPO’s profile. All of the best organizations have strong, powerful, well-known boards. When people of this caliber choose to sit on a board, it helps strengthen the long term sustainability of the organization, because it is like they are ensuring that the organization is being run the right way. When out and about in the community talking about the Nonprofit, board members demonstrate that they are confident about the organization, that they know it is financially stable, and that they have confidence in the staff since the staff and directors report to the board. It is an endorsement and a vote of confidence.

“That goes a long way because there are so many nonprofits out there. If you are in the business community, you get constant appeals for donations. But if you have a colleague who is involved in the leadership of a board, [then] that makes that particular organization stand out,” says Barclay, a member of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and an ambassador for the Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Brooklyn Do Gooder Award Campaign. “Those are the ones who are going to survive and fulfill their mission over time and really make the biggest impact in the community.”

Give. To be a good board member, it isn’t enough to just literally sit there. You really need to give at the leadership level and not be afraid to go out and ask others for their support. “If you’ve donated your own money, you are going to pay attention,” says Barclay. Some people will sit on a board and not give. Those organizations don’t fare well. Many of them fold and cease to exist because fundraising is an NPO’s lifeline. Although some organizations have specific amounts that their boards are required to give, it’s not a requirement. Giving starts with the board because they set the pace for the individual donor base. One hundred percent board participation is a sign of good governance and speaks to the general strength of the organization. “If the body of people who serve in a governance function don’t give, why would anyone else give?” says Barclay. “It sends a bad message. I don’t give anywhere the board doesn’t give.”

Open doors to new resources and provide business skills and acumen. Board members are your most important volunteers. They help to connect the bridge between the nonprofit community and the business community. “You can encourage employees and colleagues to serve on a committee [and volunteer],” says Barclay, who donates her time and resources to the New York Women’s Foundation where she serves as workgroup volunteer coordinator for the Circle of Sisters for Social Change. Those with finance, public relations, human resources, and legal backgrounds can help provide an area of expertise when a small nonprofit might not have a dedicated person. These professionals can help pull together the documents for an audit, make sure the financial statements are done in a way that portrays the organization in the most favorable and transparent light, assist with hiring, reduce turnover, or make sure the legal language on a consent form is correct and consistent. It makes a difference to have that resource on your board.

For more information on nonprofit boards:

Nonprofit Insider: Choosing a Board for Your Nonprofit

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.