Carol Anne Baker LaJoie, director of development, shares the challenges and rewards of fundraising — from the potential to the planning — for a new art institution.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of fundraising for the ICA?

Being with donors, hands down. I have a deep belief in the power of philanthropy because I’ve seen it in action. Spending time learning about what interests and motivates the generosity of our donors is incredibly rewarding. Our donors are amazing, they’re wonderful to talk with and listen to, and I never stop learning from them. It’s so much fun to share with them what we have in store at the ICA. When their passions align with our mission, it’s magical. 

  1. What projects are you focusing on in the year leading up to the opening?

We’re preparing to launch the ICA’s endowment campaign. A well-structured endowment is critical to the success of a non-profit. The Institute is a gift to our community, made possible by the generosity of private donors who believe in VCU, the power of contemporary art, and the positive change that comes from a culturally rich and vibrant city. Sustaining that gift with an endowment will ensure the health and vitality of the ICA for years to come. Specifically, initial endowment objectives will support paid intern and fellowship opportunities for students, providing real-world experience relevant to the fields of museum studies, marketing, merchandising, art education, and more. Additional opportunities will support the recruitment of high-caliber faculty by endowing positions like our director, chief curator, and director of education. These roles are essential for the creation of our academic programs, exhibitions, and community engagement.

  1. How has your experience fundraising for the ICA differed from fundraising for other nonprofits?

Everything about the ICA is unique, new, and full of potential. In the past, I have represented missions with strong legacies in our community and 100+ years of service. The conversation around the ICA is (for now) all about this amazing new piece of architecture and anticipation of what’s to come. This is a completely new experience for me and one that I am grateful for- it is a humbling opportunity to play a small part in the founding of something that will be here long after I am gone.

  1. What is a typical day for you and/or your team?

I have an amazing team and a typical day for us is meeting, planning, networking, and meeting again! We meet with donors, potential donors, and project supporters to continue to pursue capital and endowment funds. We are hard at work planning the opening activities (a massive undertaking) and connect with others across the university and community to coordinate and align those events. We have been developing the membership program, considering how it will be supported and managed to create a positive experience for our members. My team is also working to finalize plans for a new ticketing system, allowing us to better store and track key data. In addition to these projects, I frequently meet with my colleagues on the senior team to develop infrastructure details, from hours and admissions to mission and vision.  Oh, and hard-hat tours, I spend lots and lots of time on hard-hat tours. It’s really cool to watch people react to being inside the building. There’s no other space like it in Richmond!

Image: Carol Anne Baker Lajoie (right) and friends of the ICA, Fall 2015. Photo: University Marketing

Related: Top 40 Under 40: Carol Anne Lajoie, 39, Director of Development, VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art (Style Weekly, October 2016).