Idaho’s rivers have helped shape Jerry Nielsen’s life, but now he’s using his extensive experience in finance and fundraising to give back.
As the new development director for Idaho Rivers United, Nielsen will be responsible for overseeing the organization’s fundraising and membership development. He joined the IRU staff May 1.
Nielsen is a native of Idaho Falls who’s spent most of his life within a stone’s throw of any number of Idaho’s magnificent streams. As intimately as he knows Idaho’s waterways, however, he probably knows finance and fundraising even better.
Nielsen spent 15 years in Idaho as a banker and went on to log 20 years working for a variety of nonprofit organizations, most recently as senior gift planning officer for the American Red Cross. He is president of the Southwest Idaho Planned Giving Council and was recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2012 as Idaho Development Executive of the Year. He has extensive experience working on philanthropic estate planning.
“I’ve reached the age where I’m able to do what I want,” said Nielsen, 60. “I love fundraising and helping people support the organizations they love, and I love doing it for an organization I really love.”
Nielsen moved back to Idaho from Washington, D.C. in 2007 and quickly fell in love again with his native rivers. He joined IRU in 2007 and in 2012 joined the IRU Board of Directors. But upon his retirement from the Red Cross this spring, he wanted to do more. He resigned his seat on the board to join the staff.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have someone of Jerry’s caliber come to strengthen our financial base,” said IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy. “Jerry’s been a valuable member of our organization and a valuable advisor on our board. His extensive experience, love of Idaho’s rivers and enthusiasm will help fortify the organization for years to come.”
Nielsen said he’s excited to be a part of all of IRU’s work, from Wild and Scenic River protection to water-wise education efforts, but recovery of Idaho’s wild salmon rank high.
“I’ve seen really cool pictures of my grandfather with salmon, and I’d like my grandkids to see really cool pictures of me with salmon,” he said. “I heard someone say recently: salmon are the bald eagles of the Northwest, and I don’t want to be part of the generation that let them go extinct.”