Nonprofit Boards in Arkansas Give Leadership

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  

CEO Phyllis Haynes stands near the fruit of the Arkansas Foodbank's board-led capital campaign: a new, nearly $11 million distribution center in Little Rock. (Photo by Mike Pirnique)

Volunteer board members manage and serve as key decision-makers for Arkansas nonprofits of varying size and scope, from organizations like Blackbird Academy of Arts in Conway with its $300,000 annual budget to those like Heifer International, which pursues global missions and oversees revenue of $127.6 million.

The nonprofits tap the business and social connections, finances, skills and time of their board members to function as organizations and accomplish their goals, whether their goals are education, service or arts-oriented.

As part of being a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, nonprofits must have an unpaid board of directors to govern them.

“The board’s responsibility is really to represent the public,” said Doug Smith, chairman of the board of Heifer International, based in Little Rock. Heifer works to eliminate hunger and poverty globally through agricultural programs and, in 2011, managed about $78 million in individual donor contributions, in addition to grants and other funding.

“Our role is to make sure the organization is really fulfilling the promises and mission that it says it is going to do,” Smith said. “We do that through monitoring and evaluating, visioning at a very high level and working [to ensure] the CEO and president, Pierre Ferrari, has what he needs to implement the vision.”

Heifer’s board also hires the organization’s CEO and president, who is the only employee who reports directly to the board.

Stephanie Meincke, executive director of the Arkansas Coalition for Excellence in Little Rock, which is the state’s nonprofit that works to support other nonprofits, said board members are legally and fiscally responsible for the organizations they lead.

“They’re responsible for setting policy, raising money and acting in the interest of the organization in their lives,” Meincke said.

Amy Rossi, an administrator for the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care in Little Rock, sits on the board of the Arkansas Foodbank, a local hunger relief organization.

A nonprofit’s executive director oversees daily organizational management, but the board is financially responsible for what occurs within the food bank, Rossi said.

“The final decisions rest with us, and we’re held accountable for those things,” she said.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences surgeon Dr. Larry Kim serves as president of the board of Ballet Arkansas in Little Rock.



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