Meet the RDI team

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.