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Boards: Not Just for Big Businesses, Significant Influence

by Genevia Gee Fulbright, CPA

Excerpt from monthly column – Not Just Your Business

According to the IRS there are over 200,000 non profits filing returns annually.  In addition non profits have become a source corporate America uses to help develop leadership skills for promising staff members, boost public image in the community, network/gain market share and improve employee moral.   Another use of non profit boards is for companies to test out prospective statutory or advisory board members.

What better way to provide a common cause for the entire worker team to rally behind.  Whether it’s the Special Olympics, United Negro College Fund, United Way, Chamber of Commerce or a local charity, many executives and line staff members are being encouraged to give back through non profit service.  Many deals being negotiated in the executive suites have come together through affiliations with non profit boards.

"As part of your research to determine whether to affiliate or allow your staff to affiliate with any board, you should perform due diligence to determine if corporate governance practices are in place and functioning," says Attorney David Harris, recently elected Vice President of Frances Dyer, PA and former US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division trial attorney and former Executive Director of the NC Land Loss Prevention Project.

So how do you attract the attention of a high profile board? 

Listed below are tips gathered from conversations with several seasoned professionals  including Ron Hall, NABA’s most recent CEO of the year awardee and a Director for the Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee 2006; Derric Gregory, Chair Executive Leadership Development Institute NABA:

–          Identify at least 3 non profits that have missions that agree with your
           hobbies, passion and/or strategic stretch goals
–         Visit the websites, tax return filings, annual reports, recent articles and
           marketing materials
–          Identify who is on the board, review their bios (compare to your own)
–          Be caught “doing good” in all your endeavors whether at work, home,  
–          Identify what you bring to the table as well as how your skills, contacts
            and resources will benefit the organization
–          Identify how you will benefit personally from being affiliated with the
–          Identify what is expected of the directors and what key performance
           measures will be used
–          Network to find out more about the structure and operations of the
           organization before you get your contact to introduce you to key
           directors and/or internal staff members.  Remember, you can use your
           local and national contacts to obtain an introduction.
–          Interview some of the existing directors you know to understand their
           experiences concentrating on key challenges, accomplishments, goals
–          Understand the time commitment and donation levels required, if
–          Identify the relationships among the directors (i.e. who recruited Johnny
           or Mary to the board, where do they work, what other companies or
           non profit boards are they affiliated)
–          Understand the market/climate (i.e. is the organization under scrutiny,
            are there qualified key staff members on board and are they happy, is
            there an active board providing direction)
–          If you don’t know anyone currently affiliated with the organization,
            volunteer on strategic committees or affiliated groups to interact with the
            leaders of the organization
–          If necessary reinvent yourself developing new skills, network groups and
           affiliations that would support your nomination to the board
We hope that after you have performed the necessary "homework" and met with the appropriate leaders within the organization you’ll receive that exciting invite to the Board of Directors of an influential non profit board that will help you boost your career and allow you to perform critically needed services for the community.

This Entrepreneurship article was written by Genevia Gee Fulbright, CPA on 10/20/2005

Genevia Gee Fulbright is VP/Marketing Director for Fulbright & Fulbright, CPA, PA and a Senior Small Business Advisor for the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). She holds a Certificate of Director Education, a nationally recognized designation for corporate directors issued by the Corporate Directors Institution of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). She is also the author of Make the Leap: From Mom & Pop to Good Enough to Sell and Make the Leap: Shift from Corporate Worker to Entrepreneur (Infinity Publishing). For more information, call (919)544-0398, email or visit or