In 2011, Virgil Roberts and Yvette Chapell-Ingram co-founded the African American Board Leadership Institute (AABLI). With other corporate, nonprofit, and philanthropic executives, they came together to develop a pipeline of qualified African American candidates to serve on nonprofit and for-profit governing boards as well as public commissions. Their reason was compelling: African Americans continue to be underrepresented on the majority of governing boards. Currently, trustees all across the country are engaged in important discussions about how best to deliver services to communities of color. However, the absence of African American professionals on these boards affects the quality and efficacy of policy decisions, program designs, and program implementation.

Boards with memberships lacking diversity tend to elect individuals who share the same personal networks, potentially limiting opportunities to reach beyond their boundaries and examine other means of recruitment. Having discovered that many organizations did not know where to search for qualified African American candidates, AABLI has stepped up to the task. Taking responsibility for connecting forward-looking organizations with excellent African American professionals, AABLI has now placed 2,218 candidates onto appropriate governing boards.

Besides these organizations themselves, African American professionals who wish to engage in board leadership also need thoughtful counsel. Where should you begin? What are the expectations? Since our inaugural 2012 class, AABLI has provided answers to these questions and invaluable mentorship. Over the years, AABLI has trained hundreds of talented African American candidates for board service. Thousands more have been reached through AABLI’s workshops and digital communications.