Introducing Director of Development and Policy Jesse Cruz Richards

Jesse Cruz Richards

The Willamette River Network board is excited to welcome Jesse Cruz Richards as the Network's new co-director. He will serve as Director of Development and Policy. We’re grateful that Jesse has agreed to bring his commitment to fundraising and coordinating policy efforts to support the Network’s emerging fundraising vision.

Jesse comes to the Willamette River Network with experience in education, non-profit management, and foundation relations. As a professional fundraiser, Jesse will work with our network partners, as well as corporate, foundation, and government entities and private investors to bring new streams of funding to the Willamette Basin on behalf of our network and the partners we serve. 

The son of a refugee mother and a rural Oregonian father, Jesse is the first in his family to enter college and complete graduate school. He obtained liberal arts degrees from Acadia University and the University of Oxford, where he studied history and philosophy. He brings strong connections with political, business, and foundation leaders at the state and federal level, which will enable him to effectively foster philanthropic partnerships to advance our mission. 

“The plethora of racial, economic, and environmental injustices Oregonians are working to overcome today certainly result from historic and colonial practices of domination towards fellow humans and our environment, and these practices can be overturned,” Cruz Richards said. Jesse sees the philanthropic community as vital change agents in overturning these dominant culture modes. “While money can certainly be used to exploit and extract, it can also be used to heal and repair the torn fabric of our world,” Cruz Richards said.  

“Jesse has a history of identifying and cultivating relationships with key partners to garner sustained streams of funding,” Network Board Co-Chair Gabe Sheoships said. “Jesse brings tremendous energy to build networks,” Board Member Queta González said. “He is adept at seeing connections between people, organizations, policy, and the potential therein.”

As Director of Development for the Willamette River Network, Jesse will connect with partners throughout the basin to learn about their financial needs and fundraising goals. In the coming months, Jesse will work with the Network board and partners to identify funding goals and create a fundraising strategy for the basin. 

When Jesse’s not working, you can find him rowing boats on the Willamette or hiking somewhere in Oregon. Jesse is also committed to getting young people involved in the outdoors; to that end, he volunteers with various groups to foster outdoor engagement for students who would not typically see themselves planting native shrubs or paddling on a river. 

The board is excited to bring Jesse’s leadership to the Network’s vision for a healthier river basin for all. Welcome, Jesse!