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Philanthropic Faces: Andy Kopplin

Andy Kopplin is a natural for his job. After working for years in city and state government in several positions,
he came to know the region better than most. 

As President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, he guides this organization that acts as a “clearinghouse” – or as its website (GNOF.org) says, “connects donors to causes.”

Right now, Kopplin is leading the initiative to grow its assets to more than $500 million by 2023, its 100th anniversary. 

Other initiatives? He’s involved in the foundation’s efforts to develop the area around Charity Hospital into the Spirit of Charity Innovation District, creating a strategy that will be inclusive, including job growth and addressing neighborhood concerns. 

Before joining GNOF, Kopplin spent years in city and state government: he was chief of staff to Louisiana Governors Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Mike Foster, initially joining as Foster’s policy director. He was part of the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina as Founding Executive Director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, 2005-2008. 

After working for Teach for America’s Wendy Kopp as Special Advisor, Kopplin joined the administration of Mayor Mitch Landrieu as First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer, helping guide the city from near bankruptcy in 2010 to fiscal stability and highest bond ratings in history by 2016.

How many years have you been in GNOF in this position?  Will be five years in September.

Tell us what your organization does.  The Greater New Orleans Foundation is the community foundation for the 13-parish region of Southeast Louisiana. For nearly 100 years, the organization has connected generous people to the causes that stir their passions. GNOF hosts nearly 1,000 philanthropic funds for individuals, families, corporations and nonprofits. We also work to bring together people, ideas and resources to address our region’s greatest challenges and have active initiatives to improve nonprofit leadership, build the movement to live better with water, connect disconnected workers with jobs that pay family-sustaining wages, address historic racial inequities, respond to disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic and build a robust, job creating and equitable health and life sciences district in downtown New Orleans, among many other programmatic activities. GNOF is probably best known for hosting “GiveNOLA Day,” the region’s 24-hour, online day of giving each May, which has helped hundreds of area nonprofits raise more than $40 million over the past eight years.

What has been the biggest – or most important – accomplishments that have happened while you’ve been at the GNOF?  Philanthropy plays a vital role in our community year-round. But when disaster strikes, it’s critical to have a nimble and engaged community foundation. I’m incredibly proud that our board and team were able to raise and distribute nearly $10 million in the last year. We raised more than $6 million and awarded grants to over 100 nonprofits working on the front lines through our COVID-19 pandemic response fund, issued nearly 1,800 grants of $1,000 each to families as part of our Louisiana Service and Hospitality Family Assistance Program and awarded almost $1.5 million to 31 Black-led nonprofits as part of our Greater Together Fund for Racial Equity.

What’s something about your organization that people most likely don’t know about?  We host Donor Advised Funds for individuals and families. They operate like a charitable checking account and are more flexible and less expensive than creating a private foundation. Our fundholders get to enjoy the giving, and we take care of the paperwork!

Is there a person that inspired you? If so, how?  My dad, whom we lost in 2017. He was a college professor and a teacher at heart. He was trained as a minister and a psychologist and really worked, without judgment, to help people be their best selves, something that helped inspire my career in government and nonprofits. Given my dad’s background, it might be a surprise to learn that he was also pretty practical and could frame, plumb and wire a house. When the disposal broke at our house growing up, he had me lying on my back under the kitchen sink with the pipe wrench, giving me the “opportunity” to learn how to replace it. Every time I get my hands dirty on a home repair project or renovation, I have him to thank for the know-how and the confidence to take it on.

Is there a book, movie or moment that changed your life?  I’m always inspired by stories of great personal courage and find it compelling that they’re so often grounded in a person’s commitment to doing what’s right no matter what the cost. One of my favorite books with an example of this is the little-known novel, Imagining Argentina by Lawrence Thornton. In it, Thornton’s narrator takes inspiration from the mothers of Argentina’s “disappeared,” who day after day show up to march around the town square in silent protest over their government’s crimes and use the force of their collective power to imagine – and then will into being – a political revolution to create very different reality from the one they had been living through.

What are you reading now?  I just finished How The Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by New Orleans native Clint Smith, which takes readers through his tour of how our country’s racial history is taught at sites ranging from Monticello in Virginia to the Whitney Plantation and Angola Prison in Louisiana to Ellis Island in New York.

What’s your idea of New Orleans bliss? A bike ride with my wife Andrea down the Lafitte Greenway, through the French Quarter and along the Mississippi River in Crescent Park as the day winds down, ending with a glass of wine at Bacchanal, oysters at St. Roch Market or a meal at Bywater American Bistro.

Secret ambition? Every year, my brother and I put in for a permit to take a weeklong raft trip down the middle fork of the Snake River, which is supposed to be spectacularly beautiful and is about as close to being completely off the grid as you can get in the U.S. these days. One day we’ll win the permit lottery and take that trip!

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