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2015 Most Influential Women Honoree: Ashley French

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Ashley French can turn a lump of coal into a diamond – or in her case, a broken program in to a flourishing one.

As regional chief development officer for western Missouri with the American Red Cross, French is tasked with retaining over $4.5 million in fundraising revenue for all lines of Red Cross service and providing 40 percent of the nation’s blood needs. In the role just 17 months, French cut her teeth during her 15 years with the Ozarks Regional YMCA where she rose from child care personnel coordinator to the first female executive director for the YMCA in Springfield over multiple branches.

“That accomplishment is something I will hold near to my heart through every other future endeavor I take on,” she says. “I went from child care licensing to a 50-year-old camp with a substantial legacy to overseeing a nearly 100-year-old building with 2,000 members.”

Under French’s tutelage, the downtown branch began to regain its former glory. The facility went from losing in excess of $200,000 annually to nearly breaking even during her tenure.

French believes her leadership style significantly contributed to the regrowth of the Downtown YMCA. She believes leadership is fluid and any team she leads is constantly  adapting. For French, success in learning is found in small everyday moments and she encourages her team to celebrate those.

“When teams feel that value, they will perform at a high level,” she said. “When you respect your teams, it allows them to take more ownership in their work, knowing that they may fail, but will ultimately learn more when they do.”

French endeavors to surround herself with people who are better, smarter and more skilled than she and her approach is one of support, engagement, passion and accountability.

“When a team is well developed with diverse skills, differing social styles and different background, the success that can be found is immeasurable,” she says.

French also serves as the chief financial development officer for the United Way of the Ozarks, where President and CEO Debi Meeds says she is always a high achiever and a great member of the groups management team.

“She is a woman of integrity,” Meeds says. “Her professionalism and compassion for others greatly benefits both the work of the Red Cross and our community.”

French graduated from Missouri State University in 1997 with a bachelor’s in psychology and is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Springfield.

Outside the office, French also has been part of the Junior League of Springfield for the past 10 years, holding numerous leadership positions and stepping into the president’s role this June.

In other leadership roles, she sat on the Court Appointed Special Advocates Board of Directors from 2007-11, where she chaired the group’s key fundraiser for two years and served as secretary. She’s also involved with the Kids First Committee, Good Community Committee and Healthy Living Alliance.


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