When Kathy Collinsworth came on board as the Monadnock Humane Society’s (MHS) executive director six years ago, the 145-year-old organization was in dire financial straits, facing the very real possibility of closing its doors, according to MHS Board Treasurer Valerie Starbuck. Within two years, because of Collinsworth’s leadership, Starbuck says MHS was running a surplus budget.
Collinsworth rallied the staff, cultivated new donors, researched grants and negotiated lower expenses to turn a long-standing annual deficit of $300,000 to a net profit in each of the last six years, while increasing operating reserves by 300%.
Collinsworth credits her staff for much of the turnaround that has taken place financially over her tenure at MHS. “I’ve never seen in my career a group of people who work so hard, where the motto is ‘We got this,’” she says. “I want them to take ownership, and they teach me on a daily basis.”
Collinsworth’s leadership played a critical role in that turnaround as well. “Hiring Kathy was one of the best decisions the board has ever made; maybe the greatest decision of all time considering where we were in terms of needing financial help,” Starbuck says. “She was our saving grace.”
Starbuck says she knew Collinsworth before her tenure as executive director through work the pair had done for a food pantry in Chesterfield and adds that her entrance as director couldn’t have happened at a better time. “We really needed a new leader, and I gave [Kathy] the search committee list asking for advice about who to hire,” Starbuck says, adding that she eventually recused herself from the search committee when it was clear Collinsworth was interested in the job. “In the end, it was unanimous. We wanted [Kathy] and she was coming into a position at an organization that was very uncertain financially. But she came on, and she wasn’t afraid; she jumped in with two feet.”
Collinsworth tapped into her experience working in social services at Cheshire Medical Center, serving as president of the Monadnock United Way, as well as with home health care hospice community services to help grow the ways MHS serves the community. “Coming from the social services world to animal welfare was eye opening,” Collinsworth says. “It showed me the importance of strengthening the animal-human bond.”
She implemented the Animal Safety Net program that takes in animals, free of charge, for those facing domestic violence, homelessness, drug treatment programs, illness, eviction and other situations that put their animals at risk for harm or surrender. “There has been an uptick in people needing to rehome because of the housing crisis, and they’re having us care for their animals,” Collinsworth says. “It’s such an emotional and difficult part of some people’s lives, and we’re often the first point of entry for people asking, ‘what am I going to do with my beloved animal?’, because shelters are not equipped to take them in.” MHS is also recruiting volunteers to provide foster care for animals.
Collinsworth also launched a mobile pet-food pantry with Community Kitchen to provide pet food to rural areas where people are experiencing food insecurity for themselves and their pets. Under her leadership, MHS was also able to increase the usage of its pet-food pantry and added low-cost pet vaccinations and wellness clinics to help pet owners who cannot afford vet care. “Eighty three percent of people on aid don’t have a veterinarian,” Collinsworth says. “We don’t believe people should have to sacrifice their relationship with an animal because of financial realities.”
She also doubled the number of feline spay/neuter clinics to once per week and added a full-time humane agent that handles cruelty cases in the 40 towns served by MHS and collaborates with local and state police.
Collinsworth is currently partnering with Red Rover, a national nonprofit, to implement the Readers Program curriculum in NH classrooms, libraries and homes to help children, ages 5 to 11, build connections with animals as well as empathy, self-awareness and social awareness.
Collinsworth’s leadership in the community goes well beyond MHS. As a Rotarian, she has served at the local food kitchen, volunteered in El Salvador for seven years building houses in impoverished villages and is recent past president of Keene Elm City Rotary Club. She serves on the board of trustees for Savings Bank of Walpole in Keene and is the president of the NH Federation of Humane Organizations. Collinsworth, who graduated from the Leadership NH program last year, is also a member of 100+ Women Who Care - Cheshire County, an organization whose members commit to making donations quarterly to support local nonprofits.
Starbuck describes Collinsworth as a motivational leader who inspires others to do great work. “She makes people feel valued, and that is so needed in a leader, especially in times of turmoil,” she says.
Meet Kathy Collinsworth, and all of the Business of the Year Award winners from 2021, 2022 and 2023 at the Business of the Year Awards Luncheon on May 25, 2023 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Downtown Manchester. Register today at businessnhmagazine.com/events/2023-business-of-the-year.