Heroes: Board Member of the Year
After more than 25 years of national and international business experience, Barbara Burnette wanted to give back. She had already taken in a homeless youth who had aged out of the foster care system, so when she heard about a board chair opening at Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based HANDY Inc., she signed on to the volunteer position.
It just made sense.
HANDY was founded in 1985, starting with a $1,000 donation from JCPenney. Since then, the nonprofit has provided life skills, independent living and foundation building support, education and employment to more than 50,000 abused, neglected and disadvantaged children and young adults in foster, relative and non-relative care.
Since taking the role of board chair, Burnette has helped the organization make major strides. She brought in new, positive contributors to the board of directors and helped consolidate the board into a cohesive, tight-knit team. She guided the board in completing an exhaustive candidate search that led to the hiring of new CEO Evan Goldman. And she leaned on her corporate background to develop and implement HANDY's first-ever training manual for incoming CEOs, and conducted weekly one-on-one training sessions with Goldman to ease the transition.
While Burnette's steady guidance has shaped HANDY's internal affairs and streamlined its leadership structure, it's also led to measurable, positive change elsewhere. Burnette helped develop and implement an all-hands-on-deck procedure that's gotten the entire staff involved in fundraising, and HANDY saw record attendance and results at its largest fundraising event of the year, the annual Scholars Breakfast. And the nonprofit is now serving, mentoring, tutoring and graduating record numbers of disadvantaged youths.
Burnette doesn't just believe in HANDY's mission—she lives it. She devotes hours at home preparing for board meetings, chairing events, planning staff meetings, emailing, making calls, texting and working social media on HANDY's behalf. "She is the most engaged board chair I have ever seen, and many who recognize her dedication and contributions have said the same thing," said nominator Ken Burnette. "Ultimately it is the children to whom HANDY ministers that reap the benefits of the tireless work Barbara puts into her role. And that is what matters most."
Related story: Heroes: Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Nonprofit Professionals of the Year Awards