TITLE: Executive Director
FUNDING AREAS: Arts, culture, animal welfare, civic, community, environment, education, health, and veterans
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: Although Aube hasn't had much foundation experience outside of Annenberg, he is fully committed to the causes that Wallis Annenberg is passionate about. Aube has gotten Annenberg's staff and board of directors to work together in an impressive way, meaning that grantees are expected and obligated to deliver on their proposals' promises.
PROFILE: Leonard Aube is a hotshot in the philanthropic world these days, but he got his career start parking cars at a Dodge car dealership in Torrance. He spent nine years employed at Marineland, an amusement park in Palos Verdes Peninsula, where he worked his way up to an executive position. After doing a little freelance marine wildlife photography, he began working for the California Museum of Science and Industry (now known as the California Science Center.) It was there that he met Wallis Annenberg, and the rest is history.
Aube, who now serves as the Annenberg Foundation's executive director, met Wallis while fundraising to revamp the California Science Center. He joined forces with Annenberg in 2003 as managing director of the foundation and began to establish a West Coast presence for the foundation. Prior to 2009, the foundation operated in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Although Annenberg still awards grants to organizations in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., Aube's job has been mostly focused on Los Angeles.
In a Southern California Grantmakers interview, Aube said, "Our perspective is a Los Angeles one. Those of us here today were not transferred from the Radnor, Pennsylvania, office. We were brought on under Wallis Annenberg's leadership to support her philanthropy in the region primarily."
Aube has been instrumental in adapting Annenberg's grantmaking priorities as Los Angeles has evolved over the years. "We haven't so much shifted our focus as much as we have added new areas to the portfolio," Aube explained. "We're still very active in public education, we're incredibly active in the arts, heath and human services, but we're also active now in the areas of human rights, animal welfare, and the environment."
Wallis Annenberg is personally passionate about photography, so Aube has led the foundation toward photography projects in need of a boost. The Annenberg Space for Photography opened up in 2009 to present traditional and nontraditional formats for public display. In a Huffington Post interview, Aube commented, "We at the Annenberg Foundation, for us, connecting people is just part of our DNA."
During his time at Annenberg, Aube hasn't played favorites, but rather has been equally supportive of each program focus area. After donating $10 million to the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism and the Keck School of Medicine, Aube shared that, "Wallis recognizes that across higher education it has become more and more expensive, and it's been harder and harder for families to gain access. She felt compelled to want to provide and strengthen the university's ability to provide financial resources for the students." More recently, Aube has been involved in heated debates over a controversial visitor's center in the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve.
Aube has also facilitated a great deal of interaction between Annenberg's program staff members and the board of directors to make sure everyone's on the same page. In a 2011 Forbes interview, he described the board table as a "kitchen table" because there are no independent, nonfamily board members. When it comes to grantmaking, he makes sure his staff follows up on grantees with diligent phone calls, reports, and site visits.
We'll leave you with one piece of advice that Aube gives to potential grantees: "You're going to get a really fair shake at the Annenberg Foundation because people here obsess about your nonprofit's success. We want you to be successful, and we want to do everything in our capacity to help nonprofits be successful. So whether it's technical assistance or some discretionary grant, or trying something completely entrepreneurial, bring it on."
To learn more about Annenberg's grantmaking program, check out the grants section of the foundation's website.