Before Blue and Co. director Lindy Karns became an accountant, she spent four years working as a social welfare caseworker. It’s a skill set that still comes into play for her, she said, both in her service to clients and her volunteer work on roughly a dozen nonprofit boards.
“When people have financial problems, you’re trying to put other tools in their toolbox to help them solve their financial issues,” Karns said. “What you are hopefully doing in board service is the same thing you do in your job, which is to help people get the tools they need to solve their problems.”
Karns formerly served as treasurer of the United Way of the Bluegrass, and her current board service supports a wide variety of social, professional and political missions. But having been a single mother herself, her work on behalf of women and children in central Kentucky, as president of the Chrysalis House and treasurer for the Salvation Army, lies nearest to her heart, she said.
For Karns, the value of board service is not only about those you serve, but also about the people with whom you interact in life.
“I’ve met some of the best people I know from my board service,” Karns said. “The community of people who are engaged and interested in improving their community are the most interesting people of all.”
While most board members are passionate about the cause, that fire doesn’t always carry over to the organization’s financial matters, Karns said. Boards tend to rely heavily on members who bring financial expertise to the table.
“As a CPA, you often have to be the ant at the picnic,” Karns said. “People come up with great ideas for the organization, but without the money, you can’t do them.”
Karns said it’s a good idea for all board members to check the group’s annual filing (form 990), and even if they aren’t serving in a financial capacity, they should always ensure that the organization is paying its bills and expending grant money responsibly. Most importantly, Karns said, board members shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.
When young staff members at Blue and Co. come to Karns for advice on where they can get involved in the community, she advises them to start where their hearts are, whether it be their church, their child’s school, or their favorite charitable mission. If your motivation for service is simply to spruce up your company bio, she said, your passion for the position is likely to wax thin quickly.
While balancing board commitments, job responsibilities and a personal life can feel like a juggling act, Karns said that in today’s fast-paced environment, the challenge lies mostly in setting priorities and determining where her own skill set can be put to the best use.
“Life is about choices, and you are the only one that gets to pick what you do with your life. For me, service is more important than many other things,” Karns said. “And I was blessed with abundant energy. I don’t sleep much.”
About Lindy Karns
Employment: Director, Blue and Co. Prior to her current position, she started her own firm, Dulworth Breeding Karns & Pleasants LLP, in 1989.
Hometown: Fairfield, Iowa. She has lived in Lexington for a total of 29 years.
Education: B.A. in English literature from the University of Kentucky, M.S. in accounting from the University of South Carolina.
Current Board Service: Treasurer, Salvation Army; president, Chrysalis House; treasurer, Kentucky Executive Mansions Foundation; treasurer, Divine Providence Inc.; treasurer, First Saturday in May, Inc. (governor’s Kentucky Derby corporation); board member, Kentucky Equine Humane Center; board member, Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board; KYCPA tax committee member and member of the board of directors; board member, Emerge Kentucky; Bluegrass Committee, Frontier Nursing University; committee member and 2012 chair of the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon; and treasurer of multiple political campaigns. Karns also serves as an administrative law judge on the Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals.