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User Spotlight: Carol Anne Lajoie, YWCA of Richmond

Get to know Carol Anne Lajoie, Chief Development Officer for the YWCA of Richmond!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

My name is Carol Anne Baker Lajoie and I am the Chief Development Officer for the YWCA of Richmond. In this role, I am responsible for our fundraising strategies and activities, special events, marketing, and public relations. I?ve lived in Richmond since 1995 and in addition to my Bachelor of Science from VCU, I hold a Fundraising and Development Certificate from the University of Richmond?s Institute on Philanthropy. Prior to joining the YWCA in 2011, I worked in the fund development office at the Virginia Historical Society for eleven years. I volunteer with the Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team (RHART) and serve on the Board of Directors of VAFRE.

My work is focused on growing and strengthening the fiscal resources of the YWCA, an agency dedicated to empowering and creating healthy families. We accomplish this through early childhood education as well as family empowerment programs designed to help working poor parents. We also serve survivors of domestic and sexual violence with housing, counseling, and case management.

These programs directly relate to ConnectVA?s mission because I believe that when children and families are educated, and live in safe, violence-free homes, our community is a better place. In my fund development work, it is my intention to provide this organization with the resources needed to grow and evolve with community needs while meeting the current demand for safe housing, counseling, preschool for all children, violence prevention, and promotion of healthy relationships.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Without a doubt the most rewarding part of my job is working with the most amazing and dedicated colleagues I have known. Our teachers, counselors, volunteers, and case managers are changing lives for the better on a daily basis and I am honored to support their work. We often meet new clients at a time of struggle or trauma. There is no greater joy than hearing a success story and learning how the YWCA helped to change a client?s story.

One of my favorite quotes is from Maria Robinson; ?Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.? My colleagues help create new endings and I am humbled by their dedication and the difference they are making in our community.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in this position and what are some major challenges you have faced? 

The biggest accomplishment I have been part of at the YWCA was our Impact 100 Big Give Win in 2013. The opportunity to address an amazing audience of female power and philanthropy in this community led to a number of great things for the YW. In addition to the path-changing grant of $100,000, that platform introduced us to a number of new friends and sustainable sources of funding. It really has been a turning point for the YW in the recovering economy.

I?d say the biggest challenge has been setting fundraising goals that are aggressive but attainable, that set the organization up to both grow and succeed. I am very passionate about our work; in fact, all YW staff are also donors. I firmly believe that those who are able should give with great confidence and joy to the YW. I?ve tackled that challenge by both analyzing our existing donor data, and, perhaps most importantly, listening to our donors. It is critical to have an understanding of why a donor parts with his or her hard-earned money and what makes them feel good about giving to your organization. The biggest lesson I have learned is to be authentic and have faith. If you are open, honest, and transparent with your donors and funders, they will recognize your character and see your passion. When you believe, they believe.

What?s coming next?

The YWCA just completed and approved a three-year strategic plan to take us through fiscal year 2017. I?m excited about this plan because while it is a flexible, living document, it challenges us to grow and innovate. In next three years you will see the YWCA making big moves to partner, collaborate, enhance, and expand the way we serve this community. I am honored to be part of that process.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA?

First and foremost, we rely on ConnectVA as a go-to resource to check in with our colleagues in the nonprofit community. Events, announcements, programs, promotions, call for items, meeting and office space- the YWCA has participated in all of these parts of the ConnectVA platform. As a growing organization, we?ve expanded program and administrative staff over the past two years. ConnectVA has been critical in attracting and recruiting high-caliber candidates for open positions. In fact, the last two positions for full time staff that we?ve advertised with ConnectVA attracted such talent; it was incredibly difficult to decide between so many amazing candidates. I believe that ConnectVA?s stature as the primary resource for all of us in nonprofit work makes it a vehicle for networking that has no digital rival.

ConnectVA is a great site to visit not only to engage on the various platforms and programs, but also for a quick snapshot of the vibrant and dynamic nonprofit community in which we all share. There are so many wonderful organizations, addressing critical community needs, led by passionate people! Time on this site will leave you inspired by the magnitude of good work being done, and you may even find a new place to volunteer or lend your support.

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