Interview with WPI Alumni, Ted & Lauren Rueger

Ted Rueger ‘15 and Lauren Rueger ’15, parents of three children between the ages of nine and five, open up about developing their philanthropic passions in this month’s interview. Lauren also gives insight into TCF’S Programs & Initiatives Committee, on which she serves.

Read more about how WPI has helped provide the Ruegers with a framework for their philanthropy, dedicated time to talk through the foundation of their approach, and a philanthropic peer network to learn from.

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Q: What do you do in your daily lives?

A: Our days are filled with children’s activities, homework, carpool and meals! In addition, Ted runs a family-owned food brokerage company and Lauren is a strategic communications consultant.

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Q: Currently, what issues are you putting your philanthropic resources toward?

A: We commit most of our time, talent and treasure to address a few issues that are of great importance to our family. Healthcare is an important issue for us. Lauren is a member of the Board of Directors for the Baptist Health Foundation and Ted is involved in the planning for a major fundraising event for MD Anderson. We are extremely thankful to have Wolfson Children’s Hospital in our community and are committed to supporting its mission. Education is also a high priority for our family and we support our children’s school in addition to our alma mater.

The Community Foundation continues to be a great resource for furthering our philanthropic education and community engagement. Lauren enjoys serving on the Programs and Initiatives Committee there.

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Q: WPI has seen many couples participate in the program, some in the same class and some in different classes. What appealed to you about participating in the same year?

A: We very much enjoyed participating in the class together. Jacksonville is our adopted hometown and we both had a lot to learn about the philanthropic community here. By using some of the tools and information we learned in the WPI class, we were able to discuss our philanthropic priorities as a family and as individuals. With three young children, it can be hard to find the time to have focused conversations. The class provided not only the framework for how we think about philanthropy in our family, but also the dedicated time to talk through the foundation of our approach.

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Q: Do your giving styles (in regard to time, talent, treasure, or ties) vary or are they similar? How so?

A: Like many families balancing work and children’s activities, free time is a scarce commodity. Lauren’s schedule is generally more flexible, allowing her to be more hands-on in her approach to giving. Ted often prioritizes philanthropic activities that are family-friendly so that he can make the most of time away from work. Our giving styles in regard to treasure are very similar. With limited resources to give, we discuss our giving priorities for the year and generally give as a couple or family.

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Q: You have three children, a nine-year-old, seven-year-old, and five-year-old. Have your children began developing their own philanthropic passions yet? If so, what resources have helped nurture their passions?

A: We’d love to be able to answer this question with a resounding ‘yes.’ The truth is, all of us are still developing our philanthropic passions. Given the ages of our children, our focus is to help them understand that the world in which they were born is not the world into which many people are born. We are making efforts to expose them—in age-appropriate ways—to the inequalities and inaccessibilities that exist both near and far and why it is important for them to give their time, talent, and treasure to make a difference. Opportunities like the Feeding Northeast Florida event for WPI Alumni Network families is a great way for our children to see those words in action. These opportunities are an invaluable resource for our family.

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Q: Lauren, you are a member of TCF’s Programs & Initiatives (P&I) Committee. Can you describe what this committee does for WPI Alumni that may not know about it?

A: In addition to the money that is donated to TCF and then directed to specific non-profits through Donor Advised Funds, there are certain funds that were established by donors who wanted the Foundation to determine which non-profits receive grants. Those donors give money to TCF in either the Unrestricted category or for a Field of Interest grant.

For Unrestricted grants, the donor relies on the expertise of TCF staff to ensure their funds are used where they are needed most in the community to address needs in both the short and long run. Field of Interest grants allow a donor to choose an area they want to support, such as arts or seniors, but tasks TCF with choosing the specific organizations to receive grants. Both Unrestricted and Field of Interest Funds must be endowed.

TCF’s Grants staff use their knowledge and experience in the community to make recommendations for both Unrestricted and Field of Interest grants and present them to the P&I Committee. The Committee then reviews and approves the recommendations for the Board of Trustees’ final approval. The group sets the plan for each year and meets quarterly to review the progress.

I feel very fortunate to be a member of the P&I Committee and continue to learn so much from the other members of the Committee and the amazing staff of TCF.

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Q: How has a peer network served as a resource for your giving?

A: It is easy to get caught up in our daily lives and stuck in our routine. Having a network of peers throughout the city who are engaged in a variety of causes and in different capacities helps us to expand our awareness of issues and provide new ideas for how to get involved as individuals and as a family.

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Q: What is unique about the Weaver Philanthropic Initiative?

A: The Weaver Philanthropic Initiative was an amazing opportunity to meet engaged, dynamic, and interesting people who we may not have otherwise met. We learned so much from the other members of our group and deeply valued the different perspectives they shared. The program’s educational curriculum was fantastic and set us each on the path to establishing and accomplishing our individual philanthropic goals. Although philanthropy can be a very personal topic, the class format of WPI makes it a truly unique experience. The connections and friendships we developed with our classmates are one of the most valuable aspects of the program.