Rachael Neal - BDI Academy Support Executive

Employee Spotlight: Meet BDI Academy Support Executive Rachael Neal

An Insider’s Outlook… Called to Serve Nonprofits

When we asked Rachael Neal what belief system she strives to live by, she knew her answer immediately.

“Proverbs 3:5-6,” she says…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Rachael has been around Rescue Missions for as long as she can remember. Her father started as a volunteer for a mission, then became Program Director, eventually leaving to become Executive Director at Gateway Mission in Holland, Michigan before retiring in December 2022.

But Rachael never thought the Rescue Mission world was right for her. Instead, she moved away and started her career working in special events for a Chamber of Commerce – but God had other plans. When her husband got a new job that brought them back home, Rachael applied for a position at the Mission… thinking it would be for the short-term.

“I realized that my skills, personality and gifts connected really well with donor relations,” Rachael says. “I was in that role for 16 years.”

For the last five years of her 16 years at the Rescue Mission, Rachael worked closely with Shellie Speer-Burnett, Senior Vice President of BDI Academy. They built a relationship based on trust and mutual respect – which Rachael described as “iron sharpening iron.” So when Rachael began considering moving on from her role with the Mission, Shellie was one of her first phone calls for advice.

“I always thought Shellie had the perfect job,” Rachael says. “So when she told me that my name had come up for a full-time nonprofit fundraising consultant position with BDI Academy, I immediately recognized God’s hand at work.” 

Rachael started as our Academy Support Executive in April 2023 and hit the ground running. She brought to BDI nearly 20 years of experience working in nonprofit development – and already-established relationships with many of our client partners.

In her role as BDI Academy Support Executive, Rachael joins Shellie in offering customized nonprofit fundraising consulting for BDI’s client partners as part of BDI Academy – including in development, advancement, fundraising and marketing.

“The relationships I’ve built over the years with other Rescue Mission directors and development staff members has helped this transition from the Rescue Mission world to agency feel like a natural next step. Many of our clients know I have walked in their shoes and can relate firsthand to their challenges and successes,” she explains. 

“The highlight of my career has been seeing people experience joy in life transformation. You have people coming in to get help, then you have donors investing in a ministry that expands Kingdom work – and I get to be the connecting point in all that.”

At no time has Rachael been more assured of the Lord’s path for her life and career as a nonprofit fundraising consultant than over the past year, as she has undergone treatment for cancer. 

“My health journey is also part of my story with BDI,” she explains. “It was such a huge career move for me to leave the Rescue Mission world. Then, just 6 months after starting with BDI, I got my cancer diagnosis. It was terrifying; I wondered if I could still work anymore.”

Now that Rachael is at the end of her cancer treatment, she can clearly see God at work – in her own life, in that of her family and in her journey to BDI. In the middle of her treatment – even on the most worrying, tiresome days of her recovery – Rachael found peace and purpose in being able to sit down and do a few hours of work to take her mind off her health concerns. And she was encouraged by the knowledge that both BDI staff and our client partners were (and still are) cheering her on and lifting her up in prayer.

“I believe God brought me to BDI at just the right time,” she says. “Every company says they’re like family, but BDI actually lives it. They never missed a beat when it came to my health struggles. They prayed for me and personally reached out to me. 

“BDI’s support through my cancer treatment wasn’t surprising – but it was confirmation that I’m in the right place. I trusted Him, and He made my path straight.” 

As she continues her recovery and with her health looking promising, Rachael is turning her focus back to what she does best: engaging our client partners with custom consulting services as part of BDI Academy. Recently, she helped lead our second-ever BDI Academy Idea Exchange Retreat in Kansas City. These retreats are intimate opportunities for 10 to 12 individuals from five or six of our client partners to learn from BDI and from each other. 

Rachael in front of her powerpoint

“I absolutely love these people who are doing incredible work with individuals in need in their communities,” Rachael says. “It’s such an honor to get to share experiences and ideas with our BDI client partners.”

Stay tuned for more Insider’s Outlook articles, where BDI team members share their insight! 

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