Presentation points way to creating a philanthropic culture

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By Carol A. Clark

Accomplished fundraiser Lynn Trojahn shared inspirational tips with nonprofit members of the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce during a United Way presentation at UNM-LA.

Trojahn is vice-president for advancement at Accion, an award winning nonprofit organization that increases access to business credit, makes loans and provides training.

She said Accion enables emerging entrepreneurs to reach their goals and to be catalysts for positive economic and social change.

She stressed the importance of maintaining a strong organization saying without which no one will contribute. “It is so critically important that we are stewarding people’s money well,” Trojahn said.

Trojahn spoke of the joys of philanthropy at her May 20 presentation.

“I’m pleased to see the United Way is helping the not for profits in the community because fundraising is a little tough in these times,” said President Morrie Pontgratz of the Los Alamos Public School Foundation, a United Way recipient. “Before we can help the schools we’ve got to raise money and heaven knows the schools need help because of their budget shortfall.”

United Way Executive Director Donna Schroeder said her organization wanted to bring Trojahn in to share new ideas with her member agencies and said she was pleased with the information provided in the presentation.

According to studies, a major reason organizations struggle with fundraising is that most board members would rather “clean toilets than ask for money,” Trojahn said. She suggested thinking about fundraising and philanthropy in a whole new way.

“I’ve been raising money for 25 years and I love it,” she said. “I like to think of it as a party where you can choose to say yes or you can choose to say no … invite people to contribute and have them be swept up in what we’re engaged in to make a difference.”

Trojahn also mentioned the fundraising drive of Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Gandhi whom she referred to as social prophets.

“They so believed in what they were doing and they wanted to make sure the money was there,” she said.

Her first piece of advice to nonprofit directors is to contribute personally to their organizations and to contribute an amount that is a financial stretch.

“We’re not just asking all the time, we are contributing, too,” she said of the Accion organization.

A combined $308 billion was contributed to nonprofits in the U.S. last year by individuals, foundations and corporations, she said adding that Americans are more generous than any country in the world.

“New Mexico is the 23rd most philanthropic state per capita in the nation,” Trojahn said. “So the next time you hear from your board members, ‘it can’t be done,’ you know better and you can tell them that New Mexico is one of the most generous states in the country,” she said.

Recognizing the courage it takes to ask for money, Trojahn told nonprofit officials that the more they ask, the more they create a culture of philanthropy and even if the answer is no, it’s still a win-win situation because the person asked may well go on to contribute to another worthy organization.

Past president of the New Mexico Association of Fundraising Professionals, Trojahn was named the Outstanding Fundraising Professional for New Mexico in 2003. She is a United Way co-chair and she and her husband are Alexis de Tocqueville Society contributors.

The Trojahns also are board members for the Future Fund, a young philanthropists group founded through the Albuquerque Community Foundation.

The Albuquerque native has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Colgate University and a master’s degree in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management.

For information, access www.accion.org.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.