By Kathleen Stauffer
For The Bulletin
Nonprofit mergers hold no fear for Linda Rhodes.
For the last decade or so, Rhodes – mother of three and grandmother of five – has served on the Board of Directors of The Arc Eastern Connecticut. Currently, she is Board president. The retired Colchester assistant principal started her career in Illinois as a speech language pathologist. “There was a large, active Chapter of The Arc in Illinois. I have always known about The Arc.”
Perhaps because she needed speech therapy as a child, for a mild lisp, Rhodes enjoys championing children’s rights. “I found myself in an advocacy role all along,” she says. “People would say, oh that child will never speak.” Time and again, Rhodes saw kids surpass expectations. “Any individual will have areas where they need support,” she says. “That’s true of everyone. I love that work!”
“I had no idea about mergers,” Rhodes says, laughing, of her early years on the Board. “That was a whole new area.” Now, Rhodes advises nonprofit leaders to be open-minded.
“I’m not afraid of mergers at all,” she says. “I’ve had two great experiences, and the benefits for the people we serve have been great. You have to know the company that you are merging with, know their purpose and mission and vision. We always do our due diligence. You do mergers for a purpose. And the other organization needs to be looking to merge for a purpose. There needs to be mutual benefit.”
Rhodes recommends Board service, too. “It’s very fulfilling. If you’re willing to learn and put the time in, you can do it.”
Recently, the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments and The Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce joined with The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut to create a Board leadership recruitment initiative aimed at matching community leaders with nonprofits seeking Board members. Dominion, Electric Boat, TVCCA and The Arc Eastern Connecticut championed the idea.
Mentoring is key to nonprofit Board success, says Rhodes. Local residents interested in learning about the Board Leadership matching initiative can contact the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut by emailing info@ChamberECT.org
Kathleen Stauffer is chief executive officer of The Arc Eastern Connecticut. For information on The Arc, go to www.TheArcECT.org. For more articles by this author visit www.kathleenstauffer.com.