In 2021, our donors helped us grant $5.5 million to groups in places where rural action will impact communities and create momentum for change, and we advised an additional $3 million in timely, aligned investments. We granted to 87 organizations across 23 states.
Sarah Jaynes, Executive Director
Sarah serves as a Senior Advisor to Committee on States, coaching emerging donor alliances in states from Alaska, to New Hampshire, to Alabama. Sarah previously served as Executive Director of Progress Alliance of Washington for thirteen years. In this capacity she helped found some of Washington state’s most important civic engagement organizations including the Washington Bus, Fuse, and the Win/Win Network, and co-led development of the Heroes’ Narrative project. Sarah is recognized for her expertise leading innovative campaigns integrating field experiments, digital platforms, and transformative narrative. An organizer at heart, Sarah has dedicated 25 years to working for shared prosperity, democracy, and a healthy environment. When she’s not working, she is raising four kids and enjoying the spectacular Washington mountains.
Stephanie Johnson, Program Officer
Stephanie previously served as Program Manager at NEO Philanthropy, a national funder intermediary, working in the Donor Services and Special Projects Department helping manage projects including state-based civic engagement tables and donor collaboratives. Before NEO, Stephanie served as Program Coordinator for the Kresge Foundation, a national foundation based in Detroit, as program lead on the organization’s Opportunity Fund, stewarding grants on issues of immigration, civic engagement, and racial equity. Before her time in philanthropy, Stephanie was a Venture For America Fellow in Cincinnati, OH where she worked with a variety of technology start-ups and small businesses. Stephanie holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up on a farm outside of the small town of Denton, Maryland and is passionate about making change for rural communities.
Michael Chameides, Communications Director
Michael comes to RDI with a passion for progressive organizing in small and rural communities. He has led successful campaigns to ensure voters can safely and freely cast their ballots, improve safety for residents regardless of citizenship status, and expand economic opportunities. He is an elected official, serving on the Board of Supervisors and Deputy Minority Leader of Columbia County, NY. Previously, Michael served as the Mayoral Aide in Hudson, NY. Michael also worked in Higher Education as the Marketing and Editorial Manager at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. He has a Master’s Degree in Media Studies from The New School and has received artist grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, Puffin Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts.
Renee Linde, Development Director
Before joining RDI, Renee was an active grassroots fundraiser and activist. Renee had a successful career as a technology executive in a series of start-ups before focusing her energies on grassroots organizing and supporting organizations devoted to racial, economic, and climate justice. She is passionate about educating new political donors about the importance of funding the year-round work of grassroots organizing and building progressive political infrastructure. Renee earned a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in Psychology from U.C. Berkeley. She spent her childhood summers in a small mill town in southern Washington, and her childhood of fishing, tubing, and swimming in the Klickitat River cemented her love of the water and rural places.
Ariel Santillan, Grants and Operations Manager
Ariel joins RDI with experience in nonprofit fundraising and operations. She previously served as Development and Special Projects Manager at Quality Care for Children, a Georgia nonprofit, leading annual fundraising campaigns, events, and grants management. Prior to her role at Quality Care for Children, she served as Executive Assistant at the Public Religion Research Institute, supporting strategic engagement initiatives and administration. Ariel earned a B.S. in International Affairs and Modern Languages from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Having spent much of her childhood summers in the small towns and rural communities surrounding Athens, GA, she is dedicated to the creation of robust civic and political infrastructure for rural America.
Josh Ewing, Rural Climate Initiative Director
Josh is a nationally recognized and award-winning conservation leader, who has lived in rural Utah for the last ten years. As Executive Director for Friends of Cedar Mesa, he worked closely with Indigenous tribes from Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah to protect Bears Ears National Monument and the culturally rich lands of southeast Utah. Friends of Cedar Mesa’s conservation work was deeply tied to rural economic development and quality of life. Ewing helped establish policies to support good jobs for working families in sustainable industries by forging strong relationships with outdoor-industry leaders, politicians on both sides of the aisle, government land managers, funders, local ranchers, and a host of stakeholders. Josh grew up on a cattle ranch in Nebraska and the rural mountains of Honduras. He is an avid rock climber, and has put up dozens of first ascents in the Utah desert, attempting to model low impact climbing and encouraging climbers to engage in conservation and advocacy work.
Linh Tran, Deputy Director
Linh brings a passion for systemic change and collaboration as well as cross-sector experience growing new initiatives to RDI. Most recently, she served as the Collaboration & Strategy Officer for the Water Table, a philanthropic collaborative focused on transformative water solutions. Previously, she launched the California Energy Service Corps to provide workforce development opportunities for youth and weatherize the homes of low-income households. She has also served as an Obama Organizing Fellow, Tom Ford Fellow for Philanthropy at the Compton Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellow with Guitar Center, and sustainability consultant to Ares Management. Linh holds a BA in Human Biology with a concentration in conservation and sustainable development from Stanford University, and a MA in Environmental Management from Yale University. When relaxing, Linh can be found hiking the mountains of Colorado, tending to indoor plants and a backyard garden, and cooking elaborate community meals.