Introducing Our New Executive Director
In 2013 Dave Withey, Tom Hawkins and Jeanette Jefferis had no idea the little organization they were building would become an integral part of the Indianapolis social services landscape within a decade's time. From taking their early days of retirement to work on every aspect of the organization to now handing over the reins one new employee at a time.
Today, September 1, 2021 marks the day Dave hands over the reins as executive director to Rachel Nelson. He gladly takes up the mantle of advisor as he steps back from the increasing day-to-day responsibilities.
Rachel Nelson first got involved with NeighborLink Indianapolis (NLI) in 2015, shortly after its creation, when she answered the call to volunteer as a storyteller for the organization. A conversation with founder and executive director Dave Withey soon led her to a more strategic role assisting the overall organization with communications and marketing. Nelson also helped NLI formulate organizational business strategies, drawing upon her own work experience in this area. She was invited to join the board of directors and was instrumental in developing board processes, bylaws, and strategic plans for the organization. Nelson remained on the board until 2020, when she left her post as Director of Online Marketing with Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana to accept her first staff position with NeighborLink Indianapolis. She was recently named NLI’s Executive Director, where she will build upon the knowledge and relationships acquired in successively responsible positions with the organization to move it to the next level.
During her nine years at Goodwill, Nelson developed the digital marketing tools and strategies from “just a Facebook page” to a robust online community, not only for the retail side of Goodwill, but also the high schools, Commercial Services business and the Nurse Family Partnership program. Nelson tapped into her creative roots by developing a multitude of ways to tell the story of Goodwill within the different platforms and mediums - photography, videography, written word and a combination of all the above, always finding new ways to speak to the audience. In addition to the customer service and online community building, she established the use of paid online marketing strategies, SEO and SEM efforts for all associated websites and worked closely with an outside agency to ensure brand standards were upheld and spoke for the organization on any and all online platforms. She helped launch and build the Goodwill loyalty program, creating and managing all communications to the hundreds of thousands of loyalty members.
Prior to her time at Goodwill, Nelson held communications and marketing roles for several other non-profit organizations including Sigma Kappa Sorority Headquarters and The Fort Wayne Parks Department.
Along with her professional responsibilities, Nelson has spent the better part of her adult life volunteering for causes and organizations whose mission she embraces. These efforts have included the spiritual work of leading Pilgrims in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi and more local, civic work on the board of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Neighborhood Association (where she and her family reside). Her skill sets lend themselves to telling the story of the organizations with which she’s worked and helping structure the work to become sustainable and to build for years to come. To this end, she has advocated for a number of efforts to improve the Mapleton-Fall Creek area, including the Fall Creek Trail and the MidNorth Quality of Life plan.
From her professional work to her volunteer and other personal endeavors, Nelson has frequently held leadership roles. Her genuine interest and respect for the uniqueness of all individuals defines her approach. She is a servant leader with a clear desire to lead by example whenever possible and to inspire others to accomplish a collective goal as a team with many unique parts.
Nelson and her husband have spent their weekends restoring their 1920s home in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood where they have lived since 2008. They’ve recently added onto their restoration efforts by having a daughter who is learning handy skills from the get-go and is already an active participant! Nelson is a graduate of the University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne with a B.A. in Communications, Fine Art/Graphic Design and a minor in Speech.