Marsha Blanco

Businesses have struggled to remain viable over the past few years, and nonprofits have had at least as difficult a time carrying out their missions while staying afloat financially.

During a period when organizations of all kinds lost revenue, slashed budgets and cut back on staff, Achieva, formerly ARC Allegheny, an organization that serves nearly 6,000 people with disabilities, added more than 200 staff positions — 72 of them full-time — in response to increased demands for its services. In 2002, Achieva experienced an 11 percent increase in revenue. For 2004, Achieva expects a 16 1/2 percent revenue increase.

That kind of growth in any environment requires strong and capable leadership, the kind that often comes from a seasoned individual with broad experience in her field.

Marsha Blanco, president and CEO of Achieva, is that kind of accomplished leader. With nearly 30 years of experience in the public and nonprofit sectors as a board member, an executive and a volunteer in organizations involved in serving individuals with disabilities.

Blanco led the 600-employee organization through a review of its corporate structure in 2001 that resulted in a comprehensive restructuring and adoption of its current name.

One of the most important tasks for nonprofits is fund-raising, and Blanco has led Achieva in a $2.5 million capital campaign that provided physical plant improvements and enhanced program support.

Demonstrating a commitment to an organization and its constituents is admirable enough in someone who works for a nonprofit, but Blanco takes her role as a service provider with a compassionate seriousness that goes beyond carrying out administrative tasks. She provides respite care in her home for individuals with disabilities and often takes Achieva clients on community outings during her vacations and on weekends. How to reach: Achieva,