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Robert G. Ottenhoff
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Keynote Session
Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 8:00 AM

Disaster Philanthropy: Thinking Strategically About the Worst of Times

Robert G. Ottenhoff, Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Calls for action, in response to devastating natural disasters, are coming more frequently. Our instinct is to be helpful – but what is truly helpful? Participants will hear about how funders are (re)considering their role(s) in preparation for and in response to natural disasters. What have we learned from some of the recent, large events? What’s helpful, what’s not? How do we (and our clients) best respond in ways that are proven to be beneficial, short-term and long-term?

Attendees will:

  1. Learn  why philanthropists are creating plans in advance of natural disaster events
  2. Learn how various ways entities are leveraging their unique strengths to be most helpful
  3. Learn how to begin building a philanthropic disaster plan 


Robert G. Ottenhoff, Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Robert G. Ottenhoff, a veteran in philanthropy, nonprofit leadership, and entrepreneurship, is the inaugural president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.  CDP seeks to transform how donors think about, respond and give to natural disasters, moving it from reactive response, to one focused on increasing the effectiveness of the private donor’s dollar for the good of affected communities worldwide.  It offers information, analysis and reports about disasters in its free Learning Center and provides tools, expert analysis and strategic guidance in order to maximize contributions to disaster relief.   The Chronicle of Philanthropy recognized the launch of CDP as “one of the five high points of 2012”

Prior to joining CDP, Bob spent a decade as president and CEO of GuideStar, an industry leader in the use of providing high-quality data to help donors make better decisions and improve nonprofit practice. He led efforts to develop into a nationally respected, comprehensive source of reports and services on more than 1.5 million nonprofits and built partnerships with many leading corporations and foundations. While there, Bob developed a sustainable “freemium” business model which supports free and fee-based services to more than 10 million users annually and generates most of GuideStar’s operating revenues.

Before GuideStar, he had more than 25 years of management experience in public broadcasting and high-tech companies, including nine years as chief operating officer, and acting president, of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); serving as executive director of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority; and founding WBGO-FM, in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, where he served as its inaugural General Manager.

He serves on the boards of directors of Benefacts, Dublin; Inspirt Foundation, Toronto; Netherland-America Foundation; KCET-Link TV, Los Angeles; and Write-on-Sports.  He previously served on the board of Grameen Foundation USA, and AFFRAC Trust.  He holds a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College and a master's degree in planning from Rutgers University. He frequently writes, speaks, and comments on nonprofit and philanthropic issues on television, National Public Radio and national newspapers. 

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