Amanda Preston

Amanda Preston is a respected nonprofit executive with over 25 years of leadership experience. Her portfolio spans nonprofit disciplines, missions, sizes, ages, financial resources, markets, and geographies. She has led philanthropy programs, interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaborations, organizational and capital planning initiatives, external – and internal – relations, legislative relations, and board governance and development.

Amanda is recognized by her associates for her intelligence, creativity, collegiality, wit, and integrity. Throughout her career, she has believed that trust is the first step in leading ethical, responsive, and effective institutions. She develops and nurtures professional relationships that are grounded in mission and program impact. Approaching each situation with curiosity, an open mind, empathy, and a resolve to unpack difficult problems, she has built lasting solutions through collaboration and recognition of shared values.

As the Executive Director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative (2012-2018), Amanda was asked to work with the research program’s Faculty Council to re-energize and re-focus the program. Providing new strategic vision, she increased the program to 175 Harvard researchers, engaged young scientists, re-imagined outreach efforts, and conducted successful fundraising to secure a permanent future for key programs. As part of her tenure, she provided a developed a research program management model for a major national foundation and coached foundation and university staff in implementing and evaluating the program.

In her work with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (1998-2012), she served as the inaugural – and only – Advancement and External Affairs Officer. A member of the Observatory’s senior management team, she advised two Directors in matters of external relations, including government relations and key collaborations, as well as internal affairs challenges. She established, planned, directed, and evaluated the Observatory’s philanthropy programs, and created the structure, by-laws, and operational procedures for the Observatory’s first Advisory Board in collaboration. Amanda also trained and coached Advisory Board members in their governance roles and their responsibilities for philanthropic fundraising.

At Merrimack College (1995-1998), Amanda served on the successful leadership gifts team for the College’s first capital campaign, and led the development of the campaign case for support from conception through publication. As area of special expertise was coaching and supporting Principal Investigators in NIH, NSF, and other federal proposal submissions.

On leaving Harvard in 2018, she began consulting to science leaders through her expertise in strategic planning, positioning, and communications, stakeholder engagement and external relations, philanthropy and proposals, program management and related internal issues. She has worked with small and large science research and outreach organizations, and has coached and developed curriculum for teaching grants work to academic researchers.

Amanda is a graduate of Wellesley College, with complementary coursework at MIT. She taught in the Environmental Studies department of Antioch/New England University, and has presented frequently at conferences and workshops. She was selected for competitive leadership programs at both the Smithsonian and Harvard. She has been Certified Fund Raising Executive since 1990. She lives in Andover, Massachusetts, where she was recently appointed to the town’s Council on Aging Advisory Board.

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