Editor’s note: In 2020 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones. This story is part of a series of stories highlighting 16 women in Kelowna who are leaders in their fields. You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the Feb. 28 issue of Kelowna Capital News.
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When it comes to helping those who are less fortunate, there are very few people who take more pride in their work than Rhonda Zakala.
Dedicated to strengthening the community, Zakala has been a proud employee of the YMCA Okanagan for the past 15 years, working her way up to her current role as a senior leader within the non-profit organization.
As the vice president of fund development and marketing, Zakala actively manages a portfolio of donors to achieve the YMCA’s annual fundraising goals through major fundraisers, annual giving campaigns, and third party events.
She also develops marketing communication materials, writes proposals, grants and donor communication. Despite her busy schedule she makes time to make connections in the community, which she finds the most exciting.
“My very favourite part of my job is literally building great relationships with the (YMCA’s) long-term donors,” said Zakala.
“I meet quite regularly with our donors and share with them how their gift is impacting the lives of the less fortunate. We’ve had incredible support from the community.”
Zakala’s decision to enter this line of work dates back to her days at Eastern Washington University, studying recreation management and majoring in business and marketing. She said she knew if she wanted to get into a management role down the line she would need formal education.
After moving from Vancouver to Kelowna in 2000, Zakala worked at CedarCreek Estate Winery, marketing award-winning wines and managing the company’s wine club. She said she enjoyed the position and learned a lot of leadership skills, prepping her for her biggest professional opportunity.
“A marketing manager position came up at the YMCA and it just aligned better with my interests and my education,” said Zakala.
“My background is health, sport and recreation, so that tied in with marketing and I was really passionate at that point in my life about working for a non-profit who’s mission and values aligned better with my own.”
Since Zakala took over the marketing department 10 years ago, the YMCA has seen significant growth in the community.
The organization now serves over 17,000 members between its centers and over 800 families in its childcare programs.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of that growth,” said Zakala. “But within that growth, we must ensure it’s sustainable and that our doors are always open to everybody, regardless of their income and financial barriers. “
In 2010, she was part of the Kelowna Family Y Expansion, which was a combination of staff, marketing and community members rallying behind the initiative. The initiative raised over $5 million and has transformed the facility into an important hub in Rutland, serving over 7,500 members in the community. One in four children and one in six adults at the center can be members thanks to donations.
In 2019, the YMCA provided just over one million indirect financial support for program developments. Programs such as the Young Parents and Beyond the Bell helps more than 6,000 low-income families, children and seniors.
“In 2020, we are going to try and fundraise more because we’re giving out more than we are taking in,” said Zakala.
“The gap between the haves and the have-nots is wide. There are a lot of people in need here. I’m just excited to continue working towards the goal of making sure everybody can join the (YMCA).”
The YMCA will also be opening a new childcare centre which was approved by the Kelowna City Council on Jan. 27, 2020.