The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington’s president will leave the organization after a nine-year period during which she helped increase its charitable assets more than fivefold.
Jennifer Rhoads said she decided to step down because the organization is due for a leader with a fresh perspective and different skill sets. The foundation, a community-based organization founded in 1984, holds more than 360 distinct funds that generate growth and income for grant purposes.
“It has been the best working experience of my life, but I also believe in an organization’s development, and now is the time for me to go,” she said. “Leadership is also knowing when to leave.”
Rhoads, who has lived in Vancouver her entire life, said her parents taught her the value of helping others. She didn’t want to have a day job and reserve volunteering to few days out of the week. Instead, Rhoads found a career where she could use her professional background in financial planning and apply it to community service.
In 2012, Rhoads began as the foundation’s vice president of development and president designate and then filled the presidential role the following year. She will continue working as the Community Foundation’s president until the organization finds her successor by next spring.
Under Rhoads’ leadership, the foundation has distributed more than $100 million in grants. She also participated in critical work related to the foundation’s response to the pandemic, which has distributed about $9 million in relief. However, she attributes a huge part of that success to her teammates and predecessors.
“What I do will help the next leader, just as people before me did,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads helped the organization through its equity journey and reinforced its strong connections within the community. However, she said the part of her job that made her heart sing was working with generous donors who wanted to direct their funds toward helping others in Southwest Washington.
Randy Grove, a Community Foundation board member, wrote in a statement that Rhoads naturally connected to people and eagerly tackled challenges. He said her work is reflected in the organization’s expanded presence and community partnerships.
Rhoads said it’s beautiful to celebrate the amazing things the organization contributes to the community, but it feels like it is not doing enough at times. The foundation can only do as much as resources allow, just like any nonprofit. She added that everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed, and this pushes her to persist.
Rhoads will stay in the realm of philanthropy and nonprofit efforts through part-time work and volunteering.
“I’ll still be around because this is my home and my community,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere.”