The Women's Fund Executive Director: Linda M. Rhodes
Linda M. Rhodes brings more than 35 years of volunteer and staff management experience to her role as Executive Director at The Women’s Fund for Health Education and Resiliency. Rhodes joined The Women’s Fund in 2014 and under her leadership, the organization has exponentially grown its community outreach footprint, annual revenues, and number of staff employed.
With Rhodes’ passion and dedication to educating girls and women in the Houston area,
The Women’s Fund serves close to 12,000 women and adolescent girls and distributes 9,913 publications each year. Using her strength in bringing individuals and teams together, Rhodes has been able to collaborate with community partners to provide The Women’s Fund programing and resources free of charge to the communities with limited access to health information. As a dynamic leader, Rhodes has extensive experience in negotiations, strategic planning, event coordination, management, marketing and promotion, fundraising strategies, and recruiting and cultivating volunteer leadership.
Rhodes has held several leadership positions for nonprofits including Vice President of Corporate Development for the American Heart Association where she managed and grew the Houston Heart Ball revenue by 51 percent from 2009 to 2011 landing the no. 3 position nationally for both overall revenue and special appeal revenue in 2011.
From 1995 to 2008, Rhodes held local, state, and national positions at the March of Dimes. As the State Director of March for Babies, their largest fundraising event, Rhodes was responsible for prospecting, creating and selling state-level and multi-market sponsorships, managing, developing and implementing fundraising strategies with 20 Statewide teams, developing and writing strategic plans and budgets and development and training of division staff in 18 field offices. Under her leadership, the Texas Chapter revenue grew from $8.8 million in 2003 to $12.3 million in 2007 representing a 39.7 percent increase.
Prior to joining March of Dimes, Rhodes held various positions as a buyer, manager and in marketing as an independent bookseller for both local retailers and wholesalers. She served on the board of the Houston Area Booksellers for more than 10 years. During her tenure as President of that board, she served as a member of the executive planning committee for the Houston Chronicle Book and Author Dinner assisting with volunteer recruitment and author selection and assisted with the planning and execution of the Mid-South Bookseller’s Trade Show.
Rhodes has been a member of Sterling Group since 2011 and served as the Programing Chair on the Board from 2016 to 2017. She recently served as a member and on the Board for the American Heart Association Guild of Houston. In 2015 she served on the Auction Committee and as the Heart Card Special Events Chair in 2014. Rhodes has served as Décor Chair for the Houston Symphony’s Magical, Musical Morning in 2013. Additionally, Rhodes served as a member of the Board of Directors for Waymaker Life Strategies/H.Y.P.E Freedom Schools.
A native Houstonian, Rhodes has been married for 20 years and enjoys playing golf, reading, painting, and traveling. At home, her time is spent with her husband, grandchildren, and their Cocker Spaniel named Cooper.
PWH: As an influential leader for women, what is it that motivates and drives you?
LR: My motivation and passion over the years have been to help others. Throughout my career in the not for profit sector, I have worked for national voluntary health agencies that provide much- needed awareness, information, and research whether it be on having a healthy pregnancy and baby or preventing heart disease. However, since being chosen to lead The Women’s Fund for Health Education and Resiliency, I feel my impact has increased dramatically.
The Women’s Fund is a local grassroots organization that provides free health education classes, lectures, and workshops as well as publications to nearly 12,000 of our area’s most vulnerable, underserved, and at-risk women and adolescent girls each year. Working for a local organization has given me the freedom to make changes to our programs based on the communities’ needs, which is something you cannot do at many of the national organizations.
The opportunity to make a change also applies to all aspects of running an organization including but not limited to the day to day operations. As the Executive Director, I touch all aspects of the organization’s operations and while I love donor and volunteer relations, I understand the importance of making sure the organization is fiscally sound. Since joining The Women’s Fund in 2014, I have been able to double and sustain our income, increase the number of staff that we employ and consistently keep our expenses under budget annually even during crises such as Hurricane Harvey and the Covid-19 pandemic. During both crises, The Women’s Fund has weathered the storms well financially. I am proud to say we have not had to cut staff or reduce salaries and have been able to continue providing our services.
However, the thing I take the most pride in is our ability to create, develop, and implement our programs. That is what I am most passionate about, watching our programs grow and flourish! Since 2014 we have grown our program footprint from an annual average of 1,500 to close to 12,000 women and girls today. Additionally, we have added new programs such as our Power Up the H.E.A.T. sessions, Doc Talk conversations, and Women’s Health Lecture Series. With the onset of COVID- 19, we had to pivot to an all-virtual platform, which we did in a two- week time frame and plan to continue once we are back to our new normal.
The cornerstone of all of our materials and programing is teaching women and girls resiliency skills. Resiliency is not a trait that we are inherently born with, however, it is a skill that can be learned and developed. Resiliency is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant source of stress such a family & relationship problems, health issues, and financial stressors.
On a personal level, I am passionate about helping other women in the non-profit sector grow professionally. I have often been sought out by junior colleagues to mentor them. I believe strongly that the knowledge and experiences I have gained over the years are something that should be shared with others. I was fortunate to have strong women who willingly provided the same type of guidance, knowledge, and opportunities that have allowed me to grow professionally and personally.
PWH: In one word describe your work with the Women's Fund?
PWH: How did you get your start with the organization?
LR: I was invited to several Women’s Fund events while still working for a national agency by a former board member, but it wasn’t until I was working as a fundraising consultant that I learned more about the organization. When my predecessor’s husband was transferred to the Virgin Islands, she encouraged me to apply for the position. Luckily, I got the job, however, I was fearful and overwhelmed. Throughout my non-profit career, I had focused on fundraising, managing staff, and budgets and had the support and resources from a local, state, and national team, but here at The Women’s Fund, I was on my own with the exception of one full-time and one part-time program staff. My biggest fear was being able to lead our program team as I had zero, zip, no experience in that category.! I was able to overcome that by surrounding myself with the right team members.
PWH: What has been the most rewarding part of your role with the organization?
LR: My fear of and lack of knowledge of programs as turned out to be the thing I am most proud of. I have learned a lot about our programs and still continue to surround myself with the right team members, but that fear has allowed me to be fearless. I embraced change and new ideas which has allowed our program footprint to grow exponentially.
PWH: What are your future plans for The Women's Fund?
LR: We just started developing two new six-week curriculum for a program called Mindfulness, which is a mental health initiative for women and girls. We are currently researching the six sessions for adolescent girls with the goal of implementation in spring 2021. We will then move to the women’s sessions. We also have been tossing around the idea of creating a five 5 to 6-week curriculum on aging for women 50 and over, but that will be down the road once we finish the Mindfulness project. I do think that both programs could lead to new publications for us, but all in due time.
PWH: Bonus: Describe your definition of a Pretty Woman Who Hustles?
LR: Embrace Fear. If I would have given in to what I didn’t know about managing a non-profit and not applied for this position, I wouldn’t be where I am today. By stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing and learning all I could about our programs and publications, I feel I have grown tremendously as a woman and leader. Leading The Women’s Fund has been challenging, however, I can honestly say I feel like I am home!
To learn more about Linda and her work with The Women's Fund visit them online: www.thewomensfund.org