Fate in finances
CFO has lifelong connection to Boys & Girls Clubs
Virginia Business’ 2023 Virginia CFO of the Year award winners represent large and small businesses and large and small nonprofits.
Large Nonprofit | Jim Barker, chief financial officer
Delta Dental of Virginia, Roanoke
Some might call Jim Barker’s journey to becoming chief financial officer of Roanoke County-based Delta Dental of Virginia kismet.
Barker grew up the youngest of seven children in Bristol, Virginia. His father died unexpectedly when Barker was 2, and Barker’s mother took a janitorial job with the local school system to provide for her family.
To ensure he was cared for in the afternoons, his mother enrolled Barker at the local Boys & Girls Clubs, a nonprofit organization that provides homework assistance and after-school activities for kids ages 5 to 18. Growing up “not in the best of neighborhoods,” he says, “it was good to have a good place to go.”
He couldn’t know he was forging a connection that would lead him to the executive position he’s held for the past 20 years.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from Virginia Tech, Barker worked as a senior manager with Big Four accounting firm KPMG in Roanoke. When he moved there, he found out it was the largest city east of the Mississippi River not to have a Boys & Girls Clubs chapter. Delta Dental of Virginia’s then-CFO, Michael Wise, invited Barker to join a board that was in the process of starting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia, which now has 11 locations from Roanoke to Christiansburg.
As he got to know Wise, Barker learned more about Delta Dental of Virginia and its philanthropic efforts like Smart Smiles, a program providing dental care to children from low-income families.
Barker joined Delta Dental of Virginia as corporate controller in 2003, working his way up to vice president of accounting before being named CFO in 2015. Delta Dental of Virginia is a member company of the Delta Dental Plans Association, which provides dental coverage to more than 83 million people nationwide. Employing about 330 people, Delta Dental of Virginia reported $765 million in 2022 revenue.
As one of the longest serving board members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia, Barker has also helped maintain deep ties between Delta Dental of Virginia and Boys & Girls Clubs. For example, he helps fundraise for the annual Delta Dental Pro-Am for Kids charity golf tournament, which has raised more than $2.1 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia. Wise, who died last year, helped Barker establish a college scholarship fund for local Boys & Girls Clubs teens. Named for Barker, the scholarship fund has so far raised about $350,000 of its $1 million goal.
Since the very beginning, Barker has found Delta Dental to be like a “big family,” he says. “If you know somebody and you know they care about you — and you care back — you’ll work a lot harder for them.”
While it could be a challenge to move from a major accounting firm to a smaller nonprofit, Barker brings the same mentality of focusing on efficiency and competitiveness. “We have the adage, ‘No margin, no mission,’” he says. “If we don’t make a margin, we don’t support our mission of foundational oral health. But at the same time, I think that our biggest asset … [is our] people.”
One of Barker’s main focuses has been on diversifying Delta Dental of Virginia’s offerings. It used to sell only dental insurance, but the organization expanded into vision coverage in 2020, and in 2021 began licensing proprietary software to other Delta Dental member companies.
“We were a one-trick pony, so to speak,” Barker says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have some wonderful leadership and mentors ahead of me, and I want to leave this organization on a strong footing as well. That’s with certainly adequate financial reserves and stability, but also already being on a glide path to long-term diversification.”
Read more about Virginia Business’ 2023 Virginia CFO of the Year award winners:
- Large business | Cindy Yao, executive vice president and CFO, Markel Food Group
- Small business | Jason Chesky, CFO, Logenix International LLC
- Small nonprofit | Clyde Cornett, CFO, Virginia Community Capital
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