Lori J. Bertman, Board Chair
Lori J. Bertman, widely recognized as a noted expert and innovative thinker in the field of disaster philanthropy, serves as the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s inaugural board chair. Not only was she honored by City Year Louisiana in 2011 as a Visionary Leader for her work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but she also was given a National Leadership Award for Advocate of the Year by Share Our Strength, and recognized among the Baton Rouge Business Report’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2000.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Lori organized local and national philanthropic resources to raise more than $40 million in funds for recovery. She was not new to the field: Lori founded Bertman + Associates, a philanthropy and fund development consulting firm in 2001 and, prior to that, she created the first donor services department for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, where she managed more than 150 donor-advised funds. She holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a master’s degree from Louisiana State University.
With Bertman + Associates, Lori was instrumental in providing a cohesive vision for deepening the role of philanthropy in disaster management. She fostered partnerships between private and public entities; offered insight on post-disaster planning for long-term recovery; and presented at regional and national conferences.
More recently, Lori became president and CEO of the Baton Rouge-based Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, Louisiana’s largest private family foundation. She currently advises the Pennington Disaster Resilience Fund at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and serves as an adjunct instructor for the LSU School of Social Work, where she teaches a course on philanthropy and community leadership.
Lori co-founded the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, coming full circle in her past work with nonprofit organizations, foundations, corporations, and individual donors in fund development and strategic giving. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Fortune. Read Insights from Lori J. Bertman.
Henry L. Berman, Board Member
Henry L. Berman is the CEO of the Association of Small Foundations, a membership organization of nearly 2,600 foundations with few or no staff. ASF, the nation’s largest philanthropic support organization, provides donors, trustees, and staff with peer learning opportunities, targeted tools and resources, and a collective voice in and beyond the philanthropic community.
Henry’s early career was in communications, including positions as an independent consultant, director, writer, and producer of film, video, and multimedia programs for education, training, motivation, and fundraising. He has lead projects and teams within a Fortune 500, as a start-up entrepreneur, and as a sole proprietor. Henry’s clients included some of America’s largest corporations, with his programs being used in fields as diverse as aerospace, automotive, financial services, telecommunications, higher education, process control, computers, and occupational health and medicine. In the 1980s he created and produced some of the largest scale non-military use of a then developing technology: interactive multimedia. He also has worked successfully for many joint labor/management initiatives, bridging differences to create highly effective programming. Henry’s nonprofit experience spans decades during which he has lent his talents to membership associations, schools and museums—including one he helped start—as well as social services providers. He has served in leadership positions for numerous nonprofit boards and fundraising endeavors.
Henry formally entered the field of philanthropy in 2003 as successor trustee for a longtime family friend who established a foundation to be funded upon her death. Today he remains a full trustee and continues to be involved in the foundation’s giving. He also has served as trustee for a number of charitable trusts with responsibilities for distribution of funds.
He holds a bachelor of science in communications from Ithaca College, a master’s and doctorate in education from Boston University and a certificate in business and management from the Harvard University Extension School. For more than a decade, he served as adjunct faculty at Boston University School of Education and later also taught fundraising and philanthropy at the Harvard University Extension School.
Henry is a founding board member of the Museum of Broadcast Technology, an advisor to AmericanPoverty.org and on the board of Mentors of Community Servings. He also continues a close, 40 plus year relationship with the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, having previously served as a board member and treasurer.
Ronna D. Brown, Board Member
Ronna D. Brown is the president of Philanthropy New York. Under her leadership since 2007, Philanthropy New York’s membership has grown and its mandate expanded. It is an important connector in fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing among its 285 member organizations, and a presenter of programs, services and resources that foundations rely upon. It also is increasingly acknowledged as a key voice in informing and advancing public policies that support effective philanthropy and a productive nonprofit sector.
Philanthropy New York, then called NYRAG, played a valuable role as a convener for funders after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by organizing information for funders, convening key funders and nonprofits for in-person dialog, and being a resource for peer learning and best practice development. Based on the Gulf Coast experience, Philanthropy New York has built its resource offerings to provide information to its membership about disaster giving with each succeeding disaster, both domestic and international.
Prior to joining Philanthropy New York, Ronna served for nine years as the president and CEO of the BBB of Metropolitan New York and its foundation. The 9/11 attacks occurred during that time, and the Metro NY BBB responded by creating a database of charities throughout the U.S. involved in 9/11 work, which served as a guide for both funders and the public.
Before her service in the Better Business Bureau system, Ronna was the deputy bureau chief of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office. Ronna is admitted to the practice of law in New York and California.
Eric Kessler, Board Member
Eric Kessler is not only a fifth-generation philanthropist himself; he also has a solid track record in the fields of civil society, global affairs, and policy advocacy a result, Eric is a highly sought-after media source on effective philanthropy; he has provided commentary for National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek Online, and other leading outlets. He has spoken before major donor audiences in events organized by private wealth management firms, family business consultant networks, and the Council on Foundations.
In addition to serving as an inaugural board member of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Eric is a managing director at Arabella Advisors in Washington, D.C. He founded Arabella after more than 15 years of service in the nonprofit community and federal government, including several years working for the White House and serving as resident country director in Cambodia and Kazakhstan, and working throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa for the National Democratic Institute. More recently, with Arabella, he has built a mission-driven business that develops strategies, evaluates programs, and provides back-office foundation management for many of the nation’s most impact-driven individual, family, institutional, and corporate philanthropists and foundations. Arabella’s work has included advising clients on effective disaster-recovery grant strategies, leading him to co-found the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to partner with others in sharing insights and encouraging efficiencies among donors beyond Arabella’s limited client base.
In the greater philanthropic community, Eric sits on the board of directors of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers; the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the James Beard Foundation; and several family foundations. He also is a member of numerous leading philanthropy networks and associations. Eric earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado and his M.B.A. at Georgetown University.
Joe Ruiz is the director of The UPS Foundation’s Humanitarian Relief Program. He oversees the company’s efforts to support the humanitarian community through key partnerships in the public and private sector that can benefit from UPS’s logistical, financial and in-kind support to enhance overall disaster preparedness, response, and post-crisis recovery.
Joe oversees a team of skilled volunteers who provide capacity building and transportation services to non-profit organizations, including the UPS Logistics Emergency Team loaned executive program with the United Nations Global Logistics Cluster, and UPS Logistics Action Team program that provides logistics expertise to the American Red Cross in times of disaster.
Over a 25-year UPS career, Joe has served in many capacities within the organization before joining The UPS Foundation in 2007. In addition to his corporate responsibilities, Joe also co-chairs the Business Civic Leadership Center’s Disaster Assistance and Recovery Committee. He also serves on the board of the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals (ACCP), and is a member of the Hope Coalition America Advisory Board.