[SPOTLIGHT] Cheryl Black on the ‘behind the scenes’ work that keeps us running

What is your background before coming to UWATX? How long have you been involved with nonprofits?

I started at Deloitte, one of the Big 8 firms,  on Halloween 30 years ago. It was really great training and a wonderful way to start my career. Over my career, I’ve been involved with nonprofits in every possible way – I’ve audited nonprofit financials, served as a board member and volunteer, trained nonprofit employees – really, any way you can slice it, I’ve been involved.

It may sound cheesy, but it’s because I want to leave the world better than I found it, that’s the best incentive for me. It’s personally rewarding to make a difference.


What’s been your proudest accomplishment?

Well, honestly, it’s raising my son – I was a single mom for 15 years. If you do it to the best of your abilities (and no one does it 100 percent right), then it’s about a lot of personal sacrifice. My son is 38 and still calls to discuss problems – so I think I did it pretty well.

Professionally, it’s creating a financial management training for nonprofits and teaching it for seven years. It has all the basics of how to a nonprofit can be successful financially, all the dull boring stuff that had to happen or an organization can’t exist.

Every once in a while, I will get a call from a nonprofit asking if they can use it. I know of one client who still has her manual from years ago – it’s dog-eared, because she still looks at it. I know that manual and my training made a difference for so many organizations, and I am really proud of that.

“I want to make a difference by doing all the behind the scenes stuff that’s essential to keep an organization going”

– Cheryl Black


What brought you to UWATX?

Before this, I was happily working at the Texas Association for Nonprofit Organizations (TANO), I was consulting for many small nonprofit clients and it was rewarding – but it was a 60-hour-per-week job, and it wasn’t sustainable for me.

So I got a call from Bill O’Brien – I’d met him years ago, he was the CEO of the Austin Museum of Art (now The Contemporary Austin) and my first boss in Texas. We’ve continued our professional relationship for 14 years.

He asked if I would be interested, I said I would need to see some financial documents to understand the situation – he sent them over. I met with 11 people in four interviews in one week – and I got the job. I took the job because it extended what I liked to do – I still get to work with many organizations, I can help fulfil our mission of making Austin greater and I can have a more flexible schedule –  I can make a difference and live to tell about it.


How do you see your role at UWATX? What do you want to accomplish in this job?

I have the best team I’ve ever worked with here – they’re strong, confident and know what they’re doing. My role is to help them get around hurdles, to provide guidance from my years of experience.

My goal, as determined by the Board and our President, is to get us into a financially stable position and then looking into the future. With the recession a few years ago and growing needs in our community, this organization made some short-term decisions to support the community while dipping into our reserves – and now we are working to shift towards more long-term thinking.

This first year has been about building trust with all of our partners – making sure that when we make a promise, we keep it – and I think we’ve done that. It’s also been about making financial decisions with the long road in mind, and we’re doing that as well.

We’ve made some important strides and now we’re talking about what we want the future to look like. We’re in a position to do that because of strong leadership – with Debbie McGee’s expertise in raising dollars and my work in getting the right data to the decision makers, we can have fruitful conversations about the future we can create for our community and how to realistically and responsibly move towards it.


What makes Austin greater?



In her first year at UWATX, Cheryl has lead the finance team to an audit with zero adjustments, positive cash flow every single month and high-quality customer service to all the other UWATX departments in an accurate and timely manner.

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