By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Editor’s Note: While we focus on our work in the community and rarely shine a spotlight on ourselves, this series is designed to put faces and names to the great and challenging work United Way does every day.
In the past three years, Rachel Durci has gone from a temporary loaned executive (the program’s name has since been changed to fundraising associate) to resource development associate, and is now responsible for $2.2 million in campaign fundraising.
She first heard about the fundraising associate program from a Young Leaders networking event. A month into the temporary work, she was offered a permanent position.
Durci said she enjoys the relationships her position allows her to build.
“I like when we have events that we go to and some of my people are there and talking with them, building relationships [is] the best part,” she said.
Moving ‘Towards Employment’
“I have been doing nothing but nonprofit [work] my whole life,” she said. “I spent six months of  years working at a for-profit. So, that’s just what I’ve always done, its [what] I went to school for, so that’s where I landed.”
Bouncing between several nonprofits during her career, she has tried her hand at event planning, social work and fundraising. Durci began her nonprofit career working at the YMCA in college. After graduating from Kent State University with a degree in human development and family studies, she spent time working for the Greater Western Reserve Boy Scouts of America. She first tried her hand at fundraising as an event planner for Ashtabula and Lake county troops.
“It was a really big job, and I mostly worked with volunteers,” she said. “I did a little bit of everything — I did membership, fundraising, I ran the meetings for the volunteers, I coordinated the volunteers.”
Moving west, she worked for the Lake County Department of Job and Family Services as a social worker for two years. Taking an emotional toll, she transitioned to a short stint in for-profit work as director of an education-centered facility run by Holcomb’s in Cleveland.
“That was a really hard job, [a] very emotional job,” she said about working in child services. “I ended up getting a great opportunity to run an entire facility that was for-profit that was great money, and the company closed six months later.”
Not willing to give up working in nonprofits, she moved on to Towards Employment, where she stayed for five-and-a-half years.
Towards Employment works to connect low-income job seekers in Cuyahoga County with employers. Many of the individuals they serve have felony records and low literacy levels.
“I worked with the best people at Towards Employment — and here too,” she said. “The average person that works at a nonprofit is here for the right reasons, because they want to help people, not just [to] get a paycheck. So it’s empowering to be around so many people that like what they do and are here because they care about what they do.”
Making a change
After Towards Employment downsized, Durci was without a job. While she applied to several jobs in Greater Cleveland, she eventually secured the position at United Way of Greater Cleveland.
Jim Feth, director of Workplace Giving, hired Durci as a program associate and promoted her to her current position. Now, he said he considers Durci his right hand, having since taken the lead on the fundraising associate program.
“She very quickly got a staff job, that doesn’t happen very often,” Feth said. “The key thing with Rachel is that she [had] worked for another nonprofit, [and] she had a [little] more maturity, she was just a strong candidate to be in that class. It turned out to be a great move. She’s my right hand person now.”
Feth describes her as passionate and steadfast.
“She’s passionate about the work, she’s very energetic, she likes a challenge,” he said. “She’s strongly opinionated, and that’s not necessarily bad, she has convictions and sticks to them.”
Her coworker Elijah Turan, a campaign associate, describes her in a similar manner. Durci was part of the team that hired him on as a fundraising associate two years ago.
“She was probably one of the first people here I met,” he said. “During my time as a [fundraising associate] we worked together. She’s really great to work with, she’s able to customize her management style to whoever she’s working with.
“She’s very strong willed,” he continued. “When she gets it in her head that she believes in something or is going to do something, she goes about it. For example, last year we were facing all these fundraising challenges and she managed to meet her personal fundraising goal, which was almost impossible to do.”
Durci currently lives in Parma, and continues to volunteer as a mentor at Towards Employment.
Having engrained themselves in the Greater Cleveland community, Durci and her boyfriend, Marc, are self-proclaimed “beer snobs.” They enjoy sampling local craft beers and visiting microbreweries. Her favorite local brewery is Market Garden, but she still has a soft spot for Southern Tier in New York.
An avid animal lover, Durci and her boyfriend have two dogs, Itachi and Acadia. They also have season passes to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. She is also a huge Beatles fan, with Paul being her favorite.
While Durci is unsure of what the future holds, she guesses that she will remain in the nonprofit world.
“I don’t really want to say [I work in nonprofits] to help people, because that’s so cheesy, but it’s true,” she said. “It makes me feel good to be able to make a difference. And even if you just make a difference with one person sometimes that can make up for some of the other times when you’re not making a difference.”