In a move that reflects its recent growth in funding and operations, the San Antonio Area Foundation has named Rebecca “Becca” Brune its president and chief operating officer. Dennis Noll, the current president, will remain CEO of the community foundation.
“She is going to be an outstanding leader in this organization,” said Noll, a former biotech executive who was named president and CEO in 2011. “She is fantastic at strategic planning, works really collaboratively, and also knows how to nurture relationships in the office. We are very excited she’s going to come and lead our team.”
The foundation makes grants and provides scholarships to educate youth, preserve the environment, protect animals, fund research, and provide services that enhance the quality of life for people in San Antonio and surrounding counties.
“When I got here, we were about $211 million, and today we stand at just under $900 million, so we grew by four times and the majority of that is Santikos, but not all of it,” Noll said, referring to the 2015 gift to the foundation from John L. Santikos’ estate worth more than $605 million. “As a result of the growth, I found myself having to focus much more internally than ever before, and I haven’t been able to be the external champion I want to [be], talking with donors and potential donors, estate planners and lawyers, which will play a critical role as we continue to grow.”
The search for a new president to lead the foundation’s internal operations began more than four months ago following a decision by Noll and the foundation’s executive committee to divide the positions. Noll said they interviewed dozens of people before selecting Brune, who is currently the senior vice president of strategic planning and growth at Methodist Healthcare Ministries (MHM).
In keeping with the foundation’s mission to connect donors to needs in the community, Brune said she will work to develop a stronger legislative advocacy program in addition to managing day-to-day operations.
“As funders begin to explore meaningful ways to better leverage our influence and deepen our impact, it becomes increasingly compelling that we engage and invest in policy, research, and community-based advocacy work,” Brune said. “I believe that foundations have a broad array of resources that can be used to shape and influence public policy. I strongly believe that our investments in research can help change and influence the dialogue among legislators.”
As an example of the role the foundation could play in shaping policy to help people in the community, Brune cites a 2013 research report MHM presented to influence discussions about Medicaid expansion. “It was no longer an emotionally charged and partisan issue but instead became a compelling business case,” she said. “Obviously, we were not successful in expanding Medicaid. But we were successful in elevating the discussion and reframing how and why it matters to our broader community.”
As Brune begins her new position Feb. 1, Noll will continue to serve as chairman of the Santikos Enterprises LLC Advisory Board of Directors, the largest of the foundation’s 12 supporting organizations and the only for-profit group. The profits from Santikos’ movie theater business generate funds for the foundation and are distributed through its grant-making process.
In 2016, the Area Foundation awarded $9.5 million in grants to various organizations and projects from the Santikos funds, and committed to $9.3 million in capital grants, which will be paid this year or in future years.