Using Her Passion to Make a Difference in the World

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Lauren Whittlesey

UVHS Names Nikki Grimes Ranieri as New Director

She didn’t know it at the time, but Nikki Grimes Ranieri has been training for her position as the new Executive Director at the Upper Valley Humane Society for most of her life.

She was the first member of her family to go to a four-year college, and she was looking for one very specific criterion: the school needed to offer a vegetarian meal plan. Animals were so important to her that this detail was the primary reason that she selected the College of the Atlantic.

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All students at College of the Atlantic major in Human Ecology. Nikki was particularly interested in the connections and intersections of humans, animals, and the environment. Going to school right on the Atlantic Ocean and Acadia National Park provided her with ample opportunities to experience those connections. Nikki says, “At College of the Atlantic, they teach how to take your passion and make a difference in the world.”

A native of Norwich, Vt., many remember Nikki as the “Killdeer Kid”—she worked at Killdeer Farm throughout her childhood. After receiving a Master’s degree in creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, Nikki was hired as a fundraiser at Dartmouth College to help with writing projects. There Nikki discovered her passion for philanthropy. “I feel passionate about giving and the way giving impacts people. It’s as much a gift for the giver as for the receiver,” Nikki says.

Nikki Ranieri’s lifelong passion for animal welfare serves her well in her new role as Executive Director of the Upper Valley Humane Society. Find adoptable animals and more at

She worked at Dartmouth for 12 years, and spent this time learning the business and systems side of fundraising. However, Nikki’s interest in animal welfare remained strong, and when the Central Vermont Humane Society invited Nikki to work for them, she eagerly accepted the position.

After working to build a strong fundraising program at CVHS, Nikki came to the Upper Valley Humane Society (UVHS) to work closer to home and her family. She spent 18 months working as the Development Director under the leadership of Ayeshah Al-Humaidhi. Nikki says that during her tenure, Ayeshah ensured that the organization was warm and welcoming to everyone, whether they were there to adopt, surrender, or find help caring for a pet. “Every person who comes through our doors has made a good decision. They’ve come to a place that’s committed to kindness and compassion,” Nikki says.

UVHS Board Chair Jennifer Riccio says, “By hiring a member of the shelter’s own leadership team to serve as its next Executive Director, we are confident that we will maintain both the positive direction of the shelter and the quality of care the animals deserve. An animal lover with three dogs of her own, Nikki is passionate about maintaining an outstanding shelter and continuing to serve people and pets with compassion. We are excited for the future of UVHS under Nikki’s leadership.”

Nikki knew she wanted to make a difference in the world, but worried about how to make it happen. Nikki points out that she has benefitted from philanthropy not just as a fundraiser but also as the recipient of a scholarship from the Norwich Women’s Club, which made it possible for her to go to college. She says, “My mom literally stood in the old post office and cried the day we got the letter about my scholarship. That moment put me on this path. In college, one of my professors told me, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow. You don’t need to know all the answers today.’ It’s been a guiding force for me. Every step led me to this point. I ended up in the right place; I’m exactly where I need to be.”


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