President & CEO, Catholic Charities Fort Worth
Heather Reynolds, 38, is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW). With nearly 400 employees and four locations throughout the 28-county service area, CCFW is a $45 million nonprofit that served more than 100,000 people last year, up from $10 million and 55,112 people when she took the helm as CEO at only 25.
Judge Glen Whitley
Tarrant County Commissioners Court
Supporting Business Advancement
Under her leadership, CCFW has continually redefined how a successful nonprofit serves the unique needs of their community. In addition to CCFW’s traditional, client-focused programs and services, Reynolds has introduced for-profit business ventures that not only serve a broader subsect of the community, but also redirect funds back into the organization. This ensures that CCFW is able to continue to provide desperately needed services to the most vulnerable men, women and children in Fort Worth.
CCFW’s largest social enterprise is their Translation and Interpretation network (TIN). TIN is the leading provider of translation and interpretation services in DFW. Designed to bridge the language gap and provide employment opportunities to immigrants and refugees (many of whom are former CCFW clients), TIN makes it easier for those in need to access health care, immigration and social services, education and legal support. In 2017 alone, TIN generated over $900,000 in net profit.
Lack of transportation is one of the largest barriers to employment and the leading cause of missed and delayed healthcare. Under Reynolds’ leadership, CCFW began their Transportation Program in 2011 with four vehicles and a vision. Today, CCFW has a fleet of vehicles and volunteers that provide transportation for employment, medical appointments and public benefit office visits for those who reside outside of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s (The T) service area. In 2016 alone, their Transportation Program provided more than 88,000 trips. Finally, CCFW offers low-cost, high-quality dental services through their full-service Bishop Kevin Vann Dental Clinic. Offered to low-income families, the services provided include exams, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions and root canals.
All of these social enterprises provide much-needed services to vulnerable populations, while providing funds directly back into CCFW so that they can continue to move people out of poverty.
Creating a Vision and Inspiring Others
A 16-year veteran at Catholic Charities Fort Worth, Reynolds has extensive experience in strategic planning, fundraising and social enterprise. Reynolds’ vision is a world without poverty and she has made it CCFW’s mission to move 10,000 families out of poverty in just 10 years. Under her leadership, CCFW strategically challenges the way poverty is addressed nationwide by scrupulously testing their case management methods through research partnerships with the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO), exporting their known solutions to other nonprofits, and serving as a driving force for policy change in Washington, D.C.
In 2014, Reynolds was invited to Capitol Hill by Congressman Paul Ryan to provide congressional testimony on poverty reform before the House Budget Committee. Congressman Ryan later cited Reynolds in his white paper about how to reform welfare in America. Reynolds later returned to Washington to testify to the Committee on Ways and Means regarding reform to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which helps poor Americans find work and escape poverty.
In 2017, Reynolds addressed the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Nutrition where she emphasized that benefits reform must focus on a comprehensive solution to move people out of poverty, encouraging a gradual decline of benefits to eliminate the benefits cliff. In April, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan visited Catholic Charities Fort Worth to see CCFW’s programs and services in action firsthand, meet with their clients and employees and participate in a Town Hall on welfare reform.
Establishing a Positive Image
Reynolds represents CCFW in a myriad of roles in the community and at large. She is a member and holds the Convening Committee Chair for the Catholic Charities USA Executive Committee of the Council of Diocesan Directors. She is a member of the United Way of Tarrant County Council and the Notre Dame LEO Advisory Committee. Reynolds acts as the National Consultant to the United States Council of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Migration and Refugee Services.
In 2012, Vision 20/20 Awards recognized CCFW as the Best Large Company for young professionals. In 2017, under Reynolds’ leadership, CCFW received the Fort Worth Sister Cities International Global Citizen Award.
Reynolds is committed to the success of not only CCFW and its clients, but of her employees as well. In the last few years, Reynolds implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System, Culture Index™ and the CliftonStrengths assessment, leading to a dramatic increase in employee productivity, retention and engagement.
Under Reynolds’ leadership, the organization has also developed an internal pilot program called Beyond Belief to empower employees to increase liquid savings and decrease negative debt. She is providing employees with a confidential opportunity to enroll in a program comprised of personal budget planning, goal setting and ongoing coaching. She believes in truly de-stigmatizing poverty, and is investing in her own employees through this revolutionary program.
Innovation is at the forefront of every program and service that CCFW provides. Without risk, without being told that certain ideas and strategies were failures, CCFW would not be the leader they are today in providing services to clients that actually work, services that are being expanded and replicated across the nation.
CCFW is not afraid to do things differently. Tired of guesswork, every program that CCFW implements is subject to assessment by their Research and Evaluation department, where it undergoes rigorous evaluation, testing and adjusting to ensure that CCFW is investing in poverty-ending solutions that truly work.
Always seeking fresh solutions, Reynolds has partnered with Catholic Charities USA and the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities research team at the University of Notre Dame to launch two rigorous randomized control trials, the Padua Pilot and Stay the Course™.
Padua is a bold research initiative aimed at demystifying assumptions about poverty and rigorously evaluating the effectiveness of poverty ending practices. Padua focuses on innovative long-term case management, outside of the current poverty funding silos and preconceived notions. CCFW’s early internal data analysis shows that on average, clients in the 6-month reassessment stage have increased their income by more than $6,100 per year, and those at the 12-month reassessment increased income by an average of $7,500 per year.
Stay the Course™ is a research project to evaluate how case management can help low-income students persist in school and ultimately graduate with in-demand credentials, moving them forward on their path out of poverty. There is a community college completion crisis in our nation. Less than 12% of Tarrant County College students who start college complete it within six semesters. After four years and almost 400 students, the results from the study show that Stay the Course™ students were 2.7 times more likely to complete an associate degree. Stay the Course™ is currently in the process of expanding to all five Tarrant County Colleges by the end of this year and will be fully replicated in 4-6 sites across the nation by 2019.
Without the willingness of Reynolds and her employees to take risks, these poverty-ending solutions would not exist.
Giving Back to the Community
Heather has a true heart for Fort Worth. She moved to North Texas from Ohio in 2001 to attend TCU and never left. Beginning with her undergraduate study of social work, Reynolds’ personal and professional goals have always been centered on making a positive change in the community. Her entire career has been one of service and she lives and breathes CCFW’s mission to end poverty, one family at a time. Leading CCFW is not simply a job to Reynolds – ending poverty is her passion, her drive and her daily focus.
Aside from her sixteen years of giving back to the community at Catholic Charities, she is also passionately involved in her daughter’s Montessori school and local Catholic parish.
Reynolds also encourages her staff to give back to the community through their time and talent. Each year, more than 100 staff volunteer their time through both internal and external nonprofit programs and events. For example, after Hurricane Harvey destroyed the coast of Texas in August 2017, CCFW immediately responded with deployment teams to Port Arthur, Texas. In January 2018, staff volunteered with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition’s Homeless Count. This annual event is a community effort to locate, count and understand the nature of homeless in the Fort Worth community. Additionally, staff have also volunteered their time as mentors with International Foster Care and as assistants in Street Outreach Services.
Reynolds frequently gives speeches to universities, leadership groups and foundations centered on her strategies for success. She’s passionate about cultivating young leaders, and sharing the results of CCFW’s programs with other organizations. In a recent talk with young professionals, Reynolds humbly shared that her greatest leadership lesson has been to surround herself with people who are more skilled and talented than her, in order to create an environment for innovation and forward movement. In addition, Reynolds is also committed to mentoring her CCFW staff and cultivating future leaders in her 400+ workforce. Each week, Reynolds intentionally sets aside time to lead senior leadership coffees. In a packed room full of agency leaders, Heather provides an opportunity for professional development and staff enrichment.