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Updated: March 4, 2024 / 2024 Business Leaders of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year: Askin has guided Big Brothers Big Sisters through times of great transition

A woman in a suit jacket stands in front of a window overlooking the Worcester skyline Photo | Matt Wright Connie Askin, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Central Mass and MetroWest

The coronavirus pandemic was well underway when Connie Askin was first appointed as the new CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Central Mass and MetroWest.

The lockdowns presented unprecedented problems for all businesses: budget issues, loss of staff, adapting to new regulations, and finding creative solutions for problems never previously navigated. However, Askin came into the role prepared with a business savvy mind and a dedication to serving the families who rely on Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I was a COVID hire, so just stabilizing the organization and putting us on a path to growth. I like to say we have been building a puppy with large paws that we are ready to grow into. We had our first year of program growth in 10 years last year, and we are on solid financial footing,” Askin said.

a bio box for Connie Askin
A bio box for Connie Askin

During her three years at Big Brothers Big Sisters, Askin has overseen some major transitions for the nonprofit including a physical move from the organization’s previous Worcester location in the Denholm Building to its new home on Chestnut Street. The nonprofit generates about $1.2 million in annual revenue, according to its most recent filings with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Askin has reached out and strengthened bonds with her community partners to obtain more wrap-around resources for the families the nonprofit serves, including creating curriculum-based programs like SNACS, a curated weekend program focusing on science, nature, arts, civics, and sports; launching a new partnership with the National Association of Black Accountants; and leading the agency through a recruitment campaign called 60 Men to Mentors, matching 60 boys from Worcester with a mentor in honor of the agency’s 60th Anniversary.

Building relationships between bigs and littles is integral to the mentorship format of Big Brothers Big Sisters, she said.

“Our purpose is, through the engine of mentoring, to empower youth to achieve their full potential. Each child or young adult we serve is paired with a caring adult mentor. Each has their own needs and their own strengths. We are in the relationship business, and each of our matches positivity influences the Little’s educational success, socialization, and mental health,” Askin said.

Askin began her career as a secretary, paid her way through school and worked in marketing, even starting her own marketing consulting firm before shifting gears and entering the nonprofit field as a CFO.

“I have also been a fundraiser and an operations leader – so this role [as CEO for Big Brothers Big Sisters] takes advantage of absolutely every experience,” she said.

Lynette Paczkowski, board chair for Big Brothers Big Sisters and attorney at Worcester law firm Bowditch & Dewey, has overseen Askin’s work for the past three years and was impressed by Askin from the very their first interview.

“First and foremost, she clearly understood the mission of the agency and was passionate about that. She was somebody who also had a good balance of working in the nonprofit sector, but also had a great business sense about her, which is crucial for growing and developing an agency like ours. We have 87 cities and towns across Central Mass and MetroWest, so that can be a bit daunting. So, you need both the commitment to the mission, passion for what you're doing, and then somebody who understands what it takes to grow an organization to be able to service more youth,” Paczkowski said.

Askin has an incredible ability to make genuine connections with others, which is imperative to recruiting more mentors and supporting youths, said Paczkowski.

“She's a great combination of a solid leader in the workforce who can drive what needs to be done for the business, but then she is also somebody who understands that culture involves the human component and the human relationships. She takes the mentoring relationship outside of just the bigs and the littles, and she really tries to have a mentoring relationship with the staff that she is working with. She wants it to be an open-door policy type of environment,” said Paczkowski.

Paczkowski credits Askin with overseeing the agency’s move out of the Denholm Building, which was a complex operation. Through Askin’s leadership and teamwork with others, the move was successful and allowed the agency to expand physically while establishing a rejuvenated mindset of growth and positivity among the staff. Paczkowski calls the relocation one of Askin’s biggest accomplishments as CEO.

“It just was beyond my wildest expectations of what this move could mean for our agency. It was a really big deal for us,” Paczkowski said. “Office space is maybe not the thing you'd expect for me to say, and I could also talk about the numerous new programs that she's created, but I just think that this move sets just the right tone for so many different reasons about what our agency is doing, and where we're headed. We are proud to have gotten that under our belts. Now we can really have a space that we can call home and be proud of.”

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