Service At The Center
Earlier this week, CEO of Rotary Charities Becky Ewing's plans to retire in June 2021 after 14 years of service were announced to the public. “Becky’s tenure as CEO has been a real gift for Rotary Charities. Her organizational leadership with people and process, her caring enthusiasm for the work of Rotary Charities and its impact on our region, and her wonderful disposition have made a lasting impression. She is leaving some big shoes to fill for her successor," commented Jeff Hickman, Board Chair.
Before Becky's departure, we wanted to hear more from her perspective on how service has shaped her career, her personal life, and the community.
How is Rotary Charities different than when you started?
It’s a very different organization, both from the time I joined the organization in 2008 and just in the last 3 years since becoming CEO. One major difference is that the organization has taken the evolutionary steps towards realizing that our resources could be more than just funding, and the recognition of the importance of capacity building for nonprofits. So we started offering multi-year capacity building grants, we formed the Northsky Nonprofit Network, and created a support system for nonprofits that hadn’t previously existed.
Another transformational change for Rotary Charities happened when we put learning at the center of what we do. We made a commitment to learning, whether that was evaluating our grantmaking programs, or looking outward to the world of philanthropy to see what the emerging trends were, which led us to the systems change work we focus on today. We've begun to shift the outcomes of our investments towards more lasting change.
What about our region, are there signs of change?
In our grantmaking, we're asking people to be more collaborative, more resourceful, and to approach their projects with a systems-based mindset. In the 5-county region we serve, we're seeing people working better together to solve complex problems. Communities are coming together to define their future and find resources to support that vision. We also know systems change doesn’t happen overnight, so the role of patient capital to enable change is important.
Speaking of impact, how has your work impacted your personal life?
Before my work with Rotary Charities, I co-owned an environmental consulting firm, and it just was not work that lit me up. I realized that what I most wanted to do was to be able to give back to the community. The planets aligned when I was asked to assist with fundraising for NMC’s Great Lakes campus, and I met Marsha Smith when Rotary Charities invested in the Freshwater Studies Institute. Several years later, I applied for the position of Programs Officer at Rotary Charities and got the job. It was because I was making decisions in service to the community that I was led to Rotary Charities. So here I am, almost 15 years later, and feel just so thankful for what this job has given me in personal and professional challenges and satisfaction. I work with such amazing people — our grantees, board, and staff — people who all have service at the center.
What advice would you like to offer to aspiring leaders?
I would say, "Start where you are with what you have". My advice for young people is to take the time to reflect on your core values. What lights you up? What gives you energy? And then look for opportunities to offer your special gifts. It may be a volunteer opportunity, an internship, and it may manifest in a way that you don't expect. Be open to possibility and serendipity! And then, find a mentor in someone whose leadership style you respect. A mentor can provide so much more than advice and a listening ear. They can provide connections to the work you are inspired to do.
Reflection and service encapsulate what I intend to do going forward, and that is to continue to learn in alignment with my core values, and to see what's next. I want to continue to be of service to the community and am excited to learn what’s next.
With Becky’s retirement planned for June 2021, Rotary Charities seeks a dynamic, skilled leader who can inspire, connect and mobilize others, foster a positive, productive workplace culture, and keep the organization strong, nimble, and visionary. Applications for the position will be accepted through February 28, 2021. More details can be found at rotarycharities.org/hiring
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