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Henry L. English empowering others as CEO of Black United Fund


Henry L. English

President and CEO, Black United Fund of Illinois Inc.

Please describe your leadership style as CEO.
I am a leader who hires capable people and expects to have tasks done. In no way am I a micromanager. I build relationships with staff and management that in the long run deliver results.

What is your mission statement?
To work to support and empower others.

What three skill sets are critical for the future executive that you hire for your organization?
A commitment to self-help and the community. Some level of independent thinking is required to do so.
A cultural competency that is steeped in their sense of purpose, mission and love of our culture, heritage and resiliency.
Integrity and strong management skills. Our organization has a 29-year history of service and integrity, which is something on which I do not compromise.

How does having an advanced degree benefit you and your clients?
The advanced degree is an essential requirement today. However, more than the advanced degree an understanding of technology and experience in corporate America, has provided me with the insight and wisdom required to lead and to support our clients.

How do you utilize technology to benefit your organization?
We have a 29 -year history of growing our technology with that of city, state, county, federal and corporate entities, as our main function has been to be the fiscal agent for many nonprofits, grants and for the management of payroll deduction campaigns. Precision is expected and is what we deliver. The services and deliverables and funding are tracked via the most advanced technology systems and we are expected to constantly step up our operation in that regard. New means of communication are always being sought to reach our donor base as well as the community.

Finish the sentences:
Team work is important because … Silo mentality has no place in our organization.

The best way to recruit great talent is … We look at the skill level and whether the person understands and has a commitment to our mission. The commitment to work toward that mission is all important.

Speaking a second language is important because … First, let us not forget that there is a cultural language we speak to serve our community, just as there is a cultural corporate language in industries and organizations. We are multilingual. Regarding languages of the world, we operate on a global playing field.  We take our work with the South Shore International College Prep very seriously. BUFI is very involved in education and was part of the team that fought to have an International Baccalaureate high school here. Our youth must be exposed to the world to become the leaders we expect them to be.

What social media platforms do you engage in the most?
BUFI is in social media. Daily messages to the public help tell our story which has been under the radar for many years. We service our donors mostly employees that give through payroll deductions with social media updates and are often features on radio and TV with social media extensions that help provide further penetration. Of course there’s Facebook and Twitter and use those, email blasts and our website each and every day. Today these are essential.

What professional organizations do you support?
Blacks in Philanthropy and The National Association of Health Serviced Executives

Describe your networking style.
Laid-back, but highly aware and respectful.

If you were giving a graduation speech to college students, what would the title of your speech be and give three reasons for choosing that title.
“Believe in Who You Are”
If you know who you are and feel proud of it you have a solid foundation, which gives you an edge in business and the professions.
You must understand organizational behavior, formal and informal systems and not confuse that with your value system and your identity.
With this level of self-awareness you will be motivated to help someone else who comes from the same background or one less fortunate than yours.

Name your two favorite vacation destinations to relax and recharge.
Anywhere that is warm and sunny in the winter, preferable with a body or water nearby.

What are you reading? What are your two favorite books?
I am currently reading Strategies for Business Leaders.
My favorite books are:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The New Jim Crow

Name three business or political leaders who inspire you.
Robert Sengstacke, now deceased
Living are: Tim Black, Manford Byrd and Elzie Higginbottom

Favorite sports team and hobbies?
Bears and Bulls, of course

Two favorite quotes that motivate you?
“To be successful in business you must make a profit. As long as you make a profit you will be successful.” Elzie Higginbottom Sr.

“As a nonprofit you must generate a surplus and maintain reserves. Without reserves you can’t ride out the storm. And there will be storms.” Henry L. English