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Updated: October 16, 2023

Outstanding Women in Business: Dawkins turned a rape crisis center into a national model

Photo | Christine Peterson Kim Dawkins, president and CEO of Pathways for Change

Kim Dawkins did not start her professional career expecting to lead a nonprofit. Her work in the corporate world, in the field of architecture and design, was fulfilling. Creating physical spaces for people made her feel like she could make a difference through impacting environments.

Eventually, however, she wanted to do more.

“I got to a point where I decided I wanted to have a deeper, more long lasting impact,” she said.

Now as president and CEO of Pathways for Change, a leading rape crisis center in Massachusetts, Dawkins’ work directly impacts the lives of those impacted by sexual violence. Also providing educational resources, Pathways for Change and Dawkins have the aim of creating real societal change.

A bio box on Kim Dawkins

“When you meet somebody and they emanate genuine sincerity, that’s Kim,” said Michelle Smith, CEO of AIDS Project Worcester, where Dawkins has been treasurer on the board of directors for nearly a decade.

“She will roar as loudly as needed in order to make sure people are taken care of,” said Smith.

For Dawkins, a passion and pull to make a difference and a belief that every problem has a solution is what propels her forward.

“I’m working to change my small corner of the world,” she said. “It’s more of a vocation than a profession. I feel called to do this work.”

Dawkins has been with Pathways for Change since 2005 and has brought the organization to a level of financial stability she did not originally think was possible. She has obtained for the organization more and more funding to provide services to increasing numbers of clients and has done so with an eye towards future sustainability.

She inherited the organization’s finances in a state of crisis, she said. In the years since, Dawkins has grown government grant funding, which makes up approximately 90% of the organization's revenue, to nearly $2.5 million annually, according to Guidestar, more than double what the figure was a decade ago.

Dawkins’ desire to do good in the world is what drives her, but her skills, talents, and pragmatism are what allow her to see such success.

“As a nonprofit, we are still running a business, and we have to be good stewards of that business,” she said.

The financials of a nonprofit that provides services free-of-charge are difficult, but by continuing to do so, Pathways for Change has become a go-to organization and a national model for rape crisis centers.

“Running a nonprofit in this economy is really, really hard,” said Smith. “She’s up to the challenge. She is creative, reliable, smart, and has the business acumen, too.”

While the nonprofit works to give agency back to individuals who come seeking services, Dawkins works to uplift her staff on the inside of the organization, too.

“Empowerment is one of the most important words. Working with survivors is empowerment, but so is empowering staff,” she said.

She does this by recognizing the leadership capabilities of staff across levels, and recognizing that anyone can be a leader if they are lifted up, she said.

“We are only as good as those we help along the way,” said Dawkins.

Beyond her accomplishments stabilizing, diversifying, and expanding the scope of Pathways for Change, this person-to-person connection is where Dawkins excels, said Smith.

“Kim is all about making sure that everyone is propelled forward. It’s not always easy as a woman in business, a woman running a small business, or a woman running a nonprofit,” she said.

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