It’s a theme we see often in philanthropy: Albert Ruesga didn’t set out for a career in this field. In fact, he started his professional life as a computer programmer/coder, but went back to graduate school to study philosophy. He later found meaning in teaching and volunteering for a local nonprofit working with migrants. That experience came in handy when he moved deeper into philanthropy, because he was prepared for the particulars of community-based work.
He says prior work in nonprofits is even essential in his hiring for foundation staff today, because people with that experience have a sense of what goes on in the organizations foundations set out to assist.
Ruesga is now President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, which has seen its assets rise from $4 million to more than $330 million in just over thirty years. Ruesga credits the public support that the community foundation receives for the growth, noting that the foundation is involved in a lot of partnerships with national entities as a re-grantor. There is a specific regionalism focus of GNOF that is intended to help parishes that were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina to recover from the storm.
Prior to joining the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Ruesga served as Vice President for Programs and Communications at the Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C., and he sees a lot of similar issues in the two communities, from racialized poverty to charter school issues. These are areas of concern that Ruesga has worked on throughout his career, and continues to highlight in his current role.
AT GMN’s 2016 conference closing plenary, Ruesga will discuss the lessons of grantmaking related to Katrina and share a funder’s perspective on the role that foundations have played in the recovery of the city of New Orleans. It’s a discussion you won’t want to miss at our 11th annual conference in New Orleans!