A young executive with a talent for rescuing nonprofits leads the Capital Area Humane Society to stronger outcomes for people and animals.

A young executive with a talent for rescuing nonprofits leads the Capital Area Humane Society to stronger outcomes for people and animals.

Rachel Finney believes that fearless leadership is the key to an effective nonprofit operation.

"In animal welfare in particular, this is life and death," says Finney. People are intensely passionate about shelter operations. "When you make a move, there will be opinions. You're going to hear about it. It will be personal and it will be nasty sometimes. But with all of that, you can't be afraid to do the right thing."

Finney has been managing nonprofits for 15 years. She became involved in animal welfare 11 years ago while she was vice president of programs for Junior Achievement of Central Ohio and living in Marysville. She visited the Union County Humane Society to find the shelter in serious disrepair. One of her Junior Achievement volunteers happened to be president of the Union County Humane Society board.

"I joined the board and quickly came to understand why the organization was in the disrepair that it was," says Finney. She became the shelter's first-ever executive director at age 23.

Finney says she "rolled up her sleeves and got busy." She had the shelter deep cleaned and repainted, making it a fresher living environment for the animals and more welcoming for potential adoptees in the community. She brought veterinary care and structured routines to the operation. She joined the local business association and Union County Chamber board to inspire corporate support.

The biggest lesson she learned from the Union County Humane Society was that passion is not enough.

"Everyone was there for a good reason, they believed in the mission. But if it's all fractured, then it makes quite a mess," she says.

"The trick there was just focusing all that passion and energy to a common goal and streamlining. Once everyone could close their eyes and envision the same success, what do you know? It all came together."

Once the shelter was on its feet, she received a call from the Capital Area Humane Society. The organization was roughly ten-times the size of the Union County shelter. CAHS hired Finney as operations chief in 2008. In 2012, she was named executive director. The shelter had maxed out its line of credit and was operating in the red.

Finney cut executive positions and streamlined the operation. CAHS has finished in the black for the past three years under her direction. Cat euthanasia has been reduced by 75 percent. The adoption rate for dogs has risen from roughly 70 percent to between 80 and 90 percent. Finney credits a board, staff and volunteers who are both realistic and visionary.

Finney has worked hard to convey to community members and corporate donors just how important animal welfare is to society at large.

"Animals, pets in particular, are family members," says Finney. "If you forget to take account for the pet in your social services or for-profit program, you really miss the opportunity to serve that family."

In addition to the 10,000 animals served and the more than 6,000 cruelty investigations CAHS oversees annually, the shelter administers programs like Safe Haven for Pets. Safe Haven provides temporary free shelter for pets of domestic violence victims. The program, which serves over 30 families and individuals annually, fills a gap in local domestic violence services and shelter programs.

"We see a lot of broken: the relationships between people and pets, or the relationships between people and what that can cause when it goes wrong," says Finney. The harsh realities of her job are soothed when she sees a family reunited with a pet, or a child leaving with their new adopted pet.

"That harmony when people and pets are living in balance: When you see that, it is so pure and so good that it quiets the rest of it."

Finalist • Small Nonprofit

Scott Marier,Executive Director

Scott Marier,Westerville Area Resource Ministry

As executive director of the Westerville Area Resource Ministry, Scott Marier oversees WARM's mission to provide food, short-term financial assistance, job assistance programs and spiritual support to Westerville residents living at 200 percent or below federal poverty guidelines.

In 2015, WARM's food pantry marked the largest annual distribution of food in the organization's history. By the fourth quarter of 2015, WARM's food pantry had served 11,477 individuals and 4,030 families. The pantry offers a personal assistant to help clients shop for a healthy, six-day supply of food for every family member.

WARM's financial literary training and employment services fulfill the organization's mission to "offer a hand up, not a hand out." In 2014, WARM helped 69 people find work.

Just over a year ago, WARM expanded into a larger space in Westerville, setting the stage for greater service to its neighbors.

Finalist • Small Nonprofit

Carol Trowbridge Neubauer,President and CEO

Community Kitchen

Carol Trowbridge Neubauer's vast experience in nonprofit management has helped the Community Kitchen provide meals and social support services to tens of thousands of central Ohioans.

Neubauer has previously served as a vice president for YWCA Columbus and vice president for the St. Vincent Family Center. Her fundraising and long-term planning for Community Kitchen have increased the financial stability of the organization.

Community Kitchen serves over 112,000 meals annually through its multi-site operation. Under Neubauer's direction, the organization has expanded and targeted its service towards families and children. In 2015, Community Kitchen has served over 12,000 meals specifically for children.