Leadership Design

    Facilitating Personal, Organizational, and Social Change

    I believe that inspired and effective leadership is critical to addressing the biggest issues of our time. And, leadership - whether our own or someone else's - can also greatly color our day-to-day experiences.


    If leadership, either by an organization or an individual, has such potential for impact on the biggest and smallest aspects of our lives, why not proactively DESIGN it rather than just leave it to chance?


    I offer consulting and coaching services to help organizations and individuals design their leadership. I see this as a way to pursue my personal mission of facilitating personal, organizational and social change.


    My approach is facilitative and participatory in nature. I bring coaching methods to all of my engagements, knowing that when individuals or groups come to their own insights and solutions, both the level of ownership and likelihood of follow through skyrocket.


    With that in mind, I design processes for inclusive participation, effective collaboration, decisive action, and critical reflection and learning.


    I approach each engagement first with deep listening skills so I can best understand your needs and culture, and together we develop a design that is customized, flexible, and appropriate. Based on what we decide, I may use a variety of facilitation, research, and assessment methods. I also draw on my 25 years’ experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to share best practices and resources, as appropriate.


    Rachel has worked extensively in the areas of leadership, change management and strategy development for local, national and international nonprofits and philanthropies. She is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation and holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco. She has trained in participatory facilitation and consulting methods with Robert Gass’ Social Transformation Project, Community at Work, Institute of Cultural Affairs, Interaction Institute for Social Change, and the Center for Right Relationships. In addition, Rachel has been a student of Buddhism and yoga since the age of 15, both of which inform her work in coaching and consulting. She is a certified yoga instructor with 300 hours of intensive training with Rusty Wells and over 300 hours training with Janet Stone – two internationally renown Bhakti yoga teachers.


    Rachel has worked both inside of and as a consultant to many philanthropic institutions. She currently serves as Senior Program Director for Justice Funders, where she leads the consulting practice and comprehensive leadership development programs for grantmakers. Rachel has coached hundreds of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders over the last decade, and supported a wide range of institutions in living their values, managing change, and setting strategy. A long-time champion of human rights, Rachel is Co-chair of the Board of the International Accountability Project, a human rights advocacy organization that seeks to create development policies and practices that respect people's homes, environment and human rights. She also is a founding board member of Sacred Mountain Sangha, is on the Program Advisory Committee for The Channel Foundation, and is a key advisor for Indie Philanthropy.



    I currently have one opening in my coaching practice. Please contact me for more information if you are a nonprofit and/or philanthropic leader working for social justice looking for coaching support.

    Design Your Leadership

    Executive Coaching

    Executive coaching is a powerful, professional alliance in which leaders receive customized support to help them lead confidently and effectively. Using proven tools and techniques, I guide you through a process to assess where you are in your leadership and where you want to be. Together, we set goals, create and implement plans, and celebrate successes as you become a more effective leader. As your coach, I can help you:

    • Develop your leadership style

    • Succeed through empowering others

    • Communicate powerfully and authentically

    • Manage organizational growth and transitions

    • Sustain yourself through a healthy work/life balance

    • Problem-solve complex or politically-charged situations

    Coaching provides invaluable support to leaders at any stage of their career. If you are in a new position, coaching can help you start off on the right foot. If you are reaching a plateau, coaching can help you identify areas of growth or new goals that reinvigorate your work. And, if you are an Executive, coaching can be particularly beneficial in providing you with an appropriate, confidential, and unbiased sounding board.


    Two recent executive coaching clients described the benefits of our work together as follows:


    "Rachel helped me clarify my own goals. These conversations helped me understand how to approach each challenge in a way that was best for both the organization and for the organization's grantees and beneficiaries. Her questions helped me understand and see the impacts of everyone's choices. Rachel's commitment to social justice activism is fantastic, and gave me the confidence that we approached these questions from the same set of values."

    - Executive Director of an international foundation


    "After 6 months of coaching with Rachel, my relationships with my Board and staff are night and day from where they were. I am much less critical of the Board, and vice versa, and we're able to work together much better now. A key staff member who was a real problem is now performing strongly, and another is stepping up to new challenges successfully. Moreover, I've learned a lot about myself. I've become a better listener and am able to self correct. I am managing challenges thoughtfully and strategically rather than with insecurity or defensiveness.”

    - Executive Director of a large, local nonprofit organization


    Below are a few of the consulting services I offer for nonprofit organizations and foundations.

    This is not the full menu, but rather a sampling to give you a flavor of my work.


    The majority of my consulting is through Justice Funders. I have limited time available for consulting engagements outside of Justice Funders. I consider requests on a case-by-case basis, depending on my availability and the potential for transformation.

    Designing Strategy

    A participatory and inclusive approach to strategy

    Many organizations find strategic planning either expensive, a waste of precious time, or both. My approach is to create a strategic planning process that is the appropriate size and scope to fit with your organization’s needs and constraints.


    I begin with learning about your past planning efforts, organizational culture, and key strategic questions. I then work closely with you to design and facilitate an inclusive and thorough process that allows you to create the plan that best represents your vision for your organization. I often use the Technology of Participation planning method, which is particularly effective in developing consensus and involving people at all levels of the organization.


    Building Capacity

    Strengthening leaders, organizations and movements

    I design and implement capacity-building programs of all shapes and sizes, calling on my training, facilitation and coaching skills as well as my knowledge of nonprofit management and organizational effectiveness.


    Often beginning with individual and/or organizational assessment (including Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, StrengthsFinder, and organizational diagnosis), I then create and lead a process for reflection, discovery and action. This may include cohort-based workshop series, peer learning networks or communities of practice, and coaching for individuals and/or teams.

    Managing Change

    Helping groups navigate change gracefully

    Organizations must manage change as much as they work to create it. Rapid growth, loss of funding, leadership transition, or launching a new program can all present unforeseen structural, operational, and cultural challenges for organizations.


    I can help organizations plan for (or respond to) critical transition points, helping them be resilient and adaptable in the face of change. Knowing that "the soft stuff is the hard stuff" and that "culture eats strategy for lunch," I focus on the interpersonal and cultural aspects of organizational change as much as the technical and structural.



    James Irvine Foundation

    Grantee Capacity Building

    “Rachel is such a wise soul. Her trainings and coaching for our organization have been incredible, and have brought energy and focus to our team during a time of great change. She has been a fantastic facilitator of our Central Coast peer learning network, bringing a wealth of knowledge and tools to our group. We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to reflect and grow as individuals and an organization under her guidance.”

    Karyl Lynn Burns

    Producing Artistic Director

    Rubicon Theatre

    (Arts Regional Initiative Grantee)

    Global Citizen Year

    Staff Training

    “Rachel provided invaluable training to our global staff on vital organizational issues like decision-making, communication, and managing commitments in our fast-paced, growing organization. She struck the perfect balance between sharing her knowledge and drawing out our own. Moreover, we felt closer as a team and ready to take on the challenges ahead of us after the workshop. I highly recommend her for your next training, workshop or retreat!”


    Lee Lucca

    Chief Operating Officer

    Global Fund for Women


    “Rachel is adept at striking a balance between relationships and results. Ensuring that everybody's voice gets heard while making progress toward desired outcomes isn't easy, but Rachel has an intuitive ability to do just that. Her balanced facilitation style ensures that decisions are reached in a collaborative, supportive environment that strengthens interpersonal relationships in the process.”


    Kelly McVicker

    Development Officer

    International Accountability Project

    Executive Coaching

    “Executive coaching has far exceeded my expectations: not only has Rachel helped me grow as a leader, but staff has expressed that 'the work with Rachel has benefited the whole organization.' Weekly coaching has created a vital space for me to address truly important issues which otherwise are overshadowed by an endless stream of other pressing problems. I am proud of all that my organization has achieved since I began as ED, and Rachel has been an integral part of that success.”



    Joanna Levitt

    Executive Director



    Below is partial list of past and current clients for coaching and consulting:


    Philanthropic Institutions:

    • American Jewish World Service
    • Anne Ray Charitable Trust
    • California Communications Access Foundation
    • College Access Foundation of California
    • Disability Rights Fund
    • Energy Foundation
    • Firelight Foundation
    • FIRST 5 Santa Clara County
    • Fresno Regional Foundation
    • FRIDA the Young Feminist Fund
    • Global Fund for Women
    • Goldman Environmental Foundation
    • International Funders for Indigenous Peoples
    • International Human Rights Funders Group
    • James Irvine Foundation
    • Kern Community Foundation
    • LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund
    • Marin Community Foundation
    • Marra Foundation
    • May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
    • Oak Foundation
    • One World Children's Fund
    • Partners Asia
    • Present Purpose Network
    • The Christensen Fund
    • UNWomen
    • Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
    • Wikimedia Foundation 

    Nonprofit Organizations:

    • Action Aid International
    • American Center for International Labor Solidarity
    • Answer
    • Ashoka's Changemakers
    • Asylum Access
    • Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association
    • CARE USA
    • Casa Serena
    • Center for Environmental Health
    • Ceres
    • Cornerstone Theater
    • Davis Art Center
    • Fair Trade USA
    • Girls Inc. of Chattanooga
    • Global Citizen Year
    • GRAIN  
    • Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon
    • International Accountability Project
    • IPEN - A Toxics-Free Future
    • L.A. Educational Partnership
    • LeaderSpring
    • Mind Body Awareness Project
    • Museum of Contemporary Arts Santa Barbara
    • National Steinbeck Center
    • One World Youth Project
    • Pacific Institute
    • Partners Asia
    • Pilobolus Dance Company 
    • Rubicon Theater  
    • Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
    • Somos Mayfair
    • Stockton Symphony
    • The Energy Foundation/Green Tech Action Fund
    • The Pachamama Alliance
    • Union of Concerned Scientists
    • WAGES
    • Women's Earth Alliance
    • Women's Refugee Commission
    • Youth Speak Collective

    You're awesome. Let's talk.


    rachel (at) rachelhumphrey (dot) com