In 2022, our donors helped us grant $8.1 million to groups in places where rural action will define policy and civic engagement outcomes, and we advised an additional $7 million in timely, aligned investments. We granted to 115 organizations across 24 states.

Sarah Jaynes
Executive Director

Sarah grew up in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state and began her career organizing on climate issues in rural communities. Since then, she’s been a trailblazer in the progressive movement. Sarah led the development of one of the first state progressive donor networks—Washington’s Progress Alliance—and has coached emerging donor alliances from Alaska to New Hampshire to Alabama as a senior advisor to Committee on States. Sarah is recognized for her expertise leading innovative campaigns integrating field experiments, digital platforms, and transformative narrative, and manages to stay relentlessly optimistic and obsessed with winning. An organizer at heart, Sarah has dedicated 30 years to working for shared prosperity, democracy, and a healthy environment. When she’s not working, she is raising four teens and enjoying the spectacular Washington mountains.

Josh Ewing
Rural Climate Partnership 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.

Ann Lichter
Director, Resource Rural

Ann is passionate about partnering with rural people and organizations to advance their goals. She has helped rural organizations access federal and philanthropic funding, develop policy proposals, and expand their impact. She has led multiple efforts to design, implement, and scale new programs at the national level. At the Center on Rural Innovation, Ann designed and launched the Rural Innovation Initiative to support rural communities efforts to diversify and strengthen their economies with a focus on tech jobs and startups. As an executive at the U.S. Department of Labor, Ann piloted new approaches to promote labor law compliance, including expanding the use of data to drive enforcement strategy and operational decision-making. Ann grew up in Elkins, West Virginia. She is a Truman Scholar and has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Wellesley College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

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.

Emma Bouton
Advocacy and Organizing Director, Resource Rural

Emma grew up in rural New Hampshire and cares deeply about climate justice and building a world where rural communities have the resources they need to thrive. As a youth climate organizer with the Sunrise Movement, Emma led innovative electoral field programs and campaigns to stop the development of fossil fuel infrastructure. She later served as the Finance Director for a progressive gubernatorial campaign in Rhode Island and most recently worked as Organizing Director for Renew US, supporting dozens of climate, economic, and racial justice organizations across the country. Emma has a BS in Environmental Science from Brown University. In her free time, Emma loves painting, exploring local trails with her dog, and baking.

Michael Chameides
Communications Director

Michael has led successful initiatives to improve public transit, establish affordable housing, and overturn a county-wide ban on college student voting. He is an elected official, serving on the Board of Supervisors as Deputy Minority Leader of Columbia County, NY. Previously, Michael served as the Mayoral Aide in Hudson, NY. He has a Master’s Degree in Media Studies and has received artist grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, Puffin Foundation, and New York Foundation for the Arts. He is the recipient of the 2023 Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation Friend of Labor Award. In 2022, the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement recognized his advocacy for immigrants and named him an Anniversary Honoree.

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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.

Kelly Wyche
Senior Advisor Climate and Energy, Resource Rural

Kelly is an impact driven business strategist with diverse experience developing sustainable and regenerative systems. She has worked in product development and innovation for Duke Energy, design thinking for IDEO, and creative development for Google. Most recently, Kelly founded Collective Power to assist underserved communities facing the challenges of climate change and aging infrastructure. Kelly holds a BS in Economics from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from Yale University. Kelly aims to change the way rural infrastructure is designed and developed by centering community needs, environmental justice, and collective action in the work of building a more sustainable future.

Daniel Diaz
Program Manager, Rural Youth Voter Fund

Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, much of Danny’s organizing and advocacy work has focused on the Texas-Mexico border, where he previously served as the Director of Organizing at LUPE (La Union Del Pueblo Entero). At LUPE, Danny led a team of organizers who won millions in drainage and housing improvements, organized working-class immigrant families for fair immigration policies, and helped build a training pipeline for future leaders. Danny also has a background in electoral campaigns, managing and advising congressional and state senatorial campaigns in South Texas. Danny holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Arkansas. He lives in South Texas and enjoys spending time at nearby South Padre Island, listening to live music, and going for long runs in the South Texas sub-tropical trails.

 

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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.

Bret Serbin, Communications Manager

Bret is a former local journalist living in Western Montana. Her coverage has included topics like sexism in local government, extensive reporting on housing issues, and the shutdown of an abusive religious cult. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Bret attended Swarthmore College where she studied English, Spanish, and Peace and Conflict Studies. Her deep appreciation for the outdoors drives her commitment to serving rural communities.

Katie Wiggins
Grants & Operations Manager

Katie originally hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and has been a proud rural Arkansan since 2004. She brings long experience in holistic systems thinking and love for rural communities to the Heartland Fund. Outside of philanthropy, she is best known as a pioneer in the ethically-grown local food industry in Central Arkansas as the founder of Farm Girl Meats. Katie’s work in strategic operations has included Director of Marketing at the Arkansas Goat Festival and Chief of Operations at Loblolly Creamery. Most recently, Katie served as Grants & Learning Officer at The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, where she reoriented grantmaking and learning practices to center community needs and advocated for shifting power across Philanthropic spaces. She holds degrees and certifications in Agricultural Business, Emergent Learning, and Collective Impact Framework Design. She finds joy in exploring wild spaces with her family, making ceramics from foraged clay, and teaching silly tricks to her dogs.

Hallen Phung
Strategic Partnerships Associate

Hallen grew up in small town Iowa and has dedicated the majority of her life to serving Midwest communities. Before joining the world of development full time as a Grants Manager at Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City, MO, she was an advocate, organizer, trainer, and program associate. Most recently before joining RDI and putting down roots in Nebraska, she was the Development Director of Colorado People’s Alliance and Colorado People’s Action in Denver, CO. Today, she joins her professional and personal experiences to connect RDI’s diverse leaders and funders to build powerful civic and political infrastructure, solutions, and justice. Outside of work, Hallen advises young college women in their leadership roles, pushes her elderly cat around in a stroller, and finds new opportunities to support local restaurants instead of cooking.

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