“Nonprofits are the heart of the community,” Barbara Burt often said to me. “But to affect that heart, those responsible for nonprofits must show how they use their heads,” she would muse.
Barbara was talking about the governance responsibility of the board members of those organizations.
Barbara knew, and often mentioned, the passion that drove community members to do good things for Allen County. How successful they were in putting that passion into action would determine the lasting impact of their organizations' efforts. Barbara understood that the responsibility lay squarely on the shoulders of the board members.
Barbara Burt, who passed away recently, knew of what she spoke.
Barbara was a former president and board chair of the Foellinger Foundation. She served as president of the boards of directors of United Way of Allen County, Junior League of Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Quest Club and the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance.
In addition, she served on numerous other boards and community committees, all of which were dedicated to advancing the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.
From anyone's perspective, Barbara Burt would be considered an authority on board governance.
Board governance has been a focus of the Foellinger Foundation for more than two decades. Much of that effort was initiated under the watchful guidance of Mrs. Burt when she served as board chair. To honor her, the Foellinger Foundation Board of Directors established the Barbara Burt Innovative Leader Fund. In recent years, the foundation has granted more than $400,000 to this fund.
The purpose of the fund is to encourage nonprofit board members to develop their skills – to effectively put their passion into action. Many community board members have accessed these funds to attend conferences and board development opportunities ... then share their insights with their board member peers.
Other community board members have attended seminars presented by the Barbara Burt Innovative Leader Fund. Recent seminars have addressed topics such as financial sustainability, fundraising, best practices in governance, and strategic restructuring and mergers.
In the very near future, the Burt Fund will support seminars on analysis of strategy implementation, nonprofit board leadership in fundraising, understanding nonprofit financial statements, and nonprofit advocacy and political activity.
In 2019, the Foellinger Foundation created the Barbara Burt Innovative Leader Fund Committee. The committee will assist in identifying topics and speakers for seminars that maintain a focus on strengthening the service of nonprofit board members. We eagerly anticipate the advice and encouragement this committee will provide as we continue to explore how to create the best results through the Burt Fund.
In the meantime, there is an exciting opportunity for Allen County nonprofit board members. In May 2020, BoardSource, the premier national entity that provides training for board members, will hold its annual forum in St. Louis. Organizations that meet the appropriate criteria may apply to the fund for full resources for up to two board members to attend.
My hope is that dozens of board members experience this opportunity to attend the conference and gain useful insights.
Further, I hope they return to Allen County prepared to share that knowledge, not only with their own organizations, but with a wider group of community nonprofit board members.
Imagine the statement we would make nationally if the largest group of dedicated board members at the BoardSource conference came from Allen County, Indiana!
Simply put, I can think of no better way to honor the legacy of Barbara Burt.
Cheryl Taylor is president of the Foellinger Foundation. She was privileged to work with Barbara Burt for two decades.