DER Member Profile: Rachel Loud, Associate Director of Development and Alumni Affairs, Presidio Graduate School

Rachel started her career as an “biology and environmental science nerd” and educator which led her to work at NatureBridge in the Marin Headlands, teaching and providing children with new experiences in the natural world. While at a fundraising gala, her supervisor suggested she consider work in development.  “After learning what development was and realizing that I was ready to take the next step in my career, I landed in fundraising and feel that it’s the right place for me. It energizes and inspires me to meet people with similar values who want to make a difference in the world.”

In the past eight years, Rachel has had the opportunity to hold a large variety of roles with both small and medium-sized fundraising teams.  “My experience has taught me the facets of a strong fundraising program and given me a variety of perspectives into the field. Having always worked in environmental and educational fundraising, I’ve seen giving priorities shift. In the past two years there’s been an increase in giving to climate change and social justice initiatives as more and more people are realizing how urgent those problems are. I’ve also seen innovative thinking on how best to support nonprofit organizations so they can achieve the greatest impact towards their missions.”

Last August, Rachel began working at the Presidio Graduate School.  “I’m proud to be part of the first and only independent graduate school focused entirely on environmental sustainability and social justice. I’m leading the school’s fundraising and alumni engagement efforts and am essentially a mighty team of one.”

“Starting a new job in the midst of a pandemic is admittedly strange,” she said, “I have yet to meet any of my coworkers in person. I had to transition to working from home, which necessitated reliance on Zoom to connect with board members, donors, and alumni.  In some cases, I think Zoom is wonderful since it allows more flexibility in scheduling and lets you avoid the distractions of a public location. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also resulted in a change in philanthropic priorities away from education, which has made it harder to raise money for the school. We’ve had to do a number of different financial scenarios in order to be prepared for how the next fiscal year goes.”

Rachel’s interest in nature goes beyond work.  On Monday nights you can find her volunteering on an animal care crew at The Marine Mammal Center which she’s done for the last 13 years. She also volunteers for a coral reef conservation organization called OneReef.  “I’m very proud to have been the first volunteer for OneReef, traveling to Palau to work with a local community to help them conserve their coral reefs, which they still rely upon for food and other resources. I lived with community members and worked on a variety of projects including cultural education activities for their youth and community events promoting conservation. The experience was life-changing, and I even returned to volunteer again a few years ago.”

Rachel joined DER just last year and has taken advantage of the programming. “I participated in a wonderful Major Gift Mastermind series which provided me with support and camaraderie during a difficult time. I also joined an Educators of Color salon conversation which allowed me to connect with other BIPOC fundraisers and discuss our shared experiences. I look forward to seeing what else is offered in the future.”