In the Summer 2019 Instream, we announced that longtime development director Molly Whitney departed for the Cascade Forest Conservancy to become its executive director.
In this fall issue, we would like to formally introduce WaterWatch’s new development director, Neil Brandt.
Many of you have already encountered Neil in person, on the phone, or by email. He’s been at WaterWatch for only a few months but has quickly made himself invaluable and known to many. It’s no easy task to immediately jump into the fray of a demanding fundraising job with a 350-seat gala on the horizon. But Neil has done so—and with no-nonsense élan, at that.
Those familiar with WaterWatch will witness gradual but impactful changes in how we approach development, which is to be expected when there’s been a change of leadership. Our annual auction—a well-oiled machined in large part because of Molly Whitney’s efforts—will continue, of course. But Neil will also implement different and new development ideas that haven’t been attempted before.
Many of those changes reflect Neil’s expertise and background.
Neil comes from a family where science and the environment are more than hobbies, passing interests or curiosities. His grandfather was a physicist. His father is an atmospheric scientist and his sister received her undergraduate degree in biophysics.
A native of upstate New York, Neil completed his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at the University of Vermont and his master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Colorado at Boulder. These studies have inspired Neil to investigate everything from media coverage in Vermont’s ridgeline wind power debate to national-level discussions of conservation and climate change policy and law.
Before WaterWatch, Neil worked as a canvass director for The Outreach Team in Seattle where he launched the organization’s grassroots canvassing efforts in Seattle and helped secure $1.2 million in donations on behalf of Amnesty International’s refugee rights campaign. Previous to working and living in Seattle, Neil was a researcher at The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado offices, and a fundraising field manager with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group in Burlington, Vermont.
Data gathering, strategic planning and thorough precision are some of the qualities that define Neil’s approach. So does on-the-ground outreach and engagement. That’s an initiative Neil wants to continue at WaterWatch. (See “WaterWatch in the Community.”)
Neil’s also been responsible for some behind-the-scenes internal changes that have touched everyone from staff to supporters, such as overseeing a deeply complex transition into a new donor management and marketing email software system.
“I’m incredibly excited to be working on a team with such passionate and talented people to make a difference for Oregon’s rivers,” says Neil. “The WaterWatch community is fantastic, and I look forward to helping the organization reach new goals. If you see me in the coming weeks tabling at an event, at our fall auction, or out on a river—don’t hesitate to come over and say ‘hi!’”
Another new face at WaterWatch is Robyn Gottlieb, our new administrative and development assistant.
Robyn will work with Neil on development efforts, particularly the forthcoming November auction and benefit where she will manage, oversee or aide in the gala’s every facet. As well, Robyn will help David Row, WaterWatch’s communications manager, with social media and website management. These duties, however, don’t quite capture all of Robyn’s responsibilities and talents.
A California native who has lived in Oregon for nearly a decade, Robyn comes to WaterWatch with an extraordinarily diverse portfolio of skills and expertise. She has spent seven years working in the worlds of politics, nonprofits, and social activism as a fundraiser, event planner, community organizer, and communications manager.
Among her posts: campaign manager for both Valdez Bravo’s candidacy for the Portland Community College board and Julia DeGraw’s run for a commissioner’s seat on the notoriously competitive Portland City Council. Most recently, Robyn worked as outreach and campaign director for a nonprofit, Collective Eye Films.
These experiences, along with her bachelor’s degrees in both environmental studies and political science from Portland State University, have given Robyn a deep understanding of problem solving, database management, communications and fundraising. Like Neil, Robyn prides herself on her ability to manage multiple projects, and her in-the-trenches experience as an activist and political organizer means an uncanny eye for optics—a valuable addition for an advocacy nonprofit like WaterWatch.
“I’m thrilled to join the WaterWatch team and support the great work of this organization!” says Robyn.
With the recent addition of communications manager David Row, WaterWatch has three new employees in a short period of time. That’s a big project for WaterWatch, and we are excited to have Neil, Robyn and David on board.