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[SHOWNOTES] Catherine Townsend, President and CEO of Trust for the National Mall: How to Cultivate Nationwide Excitement for Nonprofit Events – ECEO016

[SHOWNOTES] Catherine Townsend, President and CEO of Trust for the National Mall: How to Cultivate Nationwide Excitement for Nonprofit Events – ECEO016

Listen to the full podcast episode HERE

As President and CEO, why should the conversation of events be held at the executive level and no longer at that mid-level or administrative level?

Events play such a critical role in any nonprofit. The design and the strategy around it is critical in that the senior-level members of the team are very active and involved in it and actually set the tone, set the goals of what they’re trying to achieve out of the event. Then your team helps execute against it.

You have a particular mandate, right? You’re just coming on to this job in the last how many months?

Four months.

You’ve got a mandate to raise visibility and funds for the restoration of the National Mall. How do you envision using your events to support that strategy?

Right now, we have our big luncheon, which we are now moving into a dinner, which is one of our change strategies. We also have a concert on the Mall, which is moving into our new evolution of it for 2017, and we look at those two events at platforms to engage interested supporters in the mission of what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s a stepping point. It’s a platform for folks to get on board and learn a little bit more about us, and then hopefully turn them into more annual, long-term donors.

Why the transition from an annual luncheon, which you’ve now hosted for 9 years? Why move into a dinner? What was the impetus around that?

We got a lot of feedback. Part of what I think is also important with events is that you listen to your audience, you listen to your stakeholders that have been involved in the event, whether it’s chairs, sponsors, attendees, and get the feedback. Some of the different viewpoints we were hearing was just that an evening function would be able to drive more folks that we’ve been trying to target to get involved, and more money.

Are those the first steps you took in evaluating kind of what you essentially inherited, right?


And what are you looking at in terms of your whole portfolio that you…?

The way I approach events and the way I encourage our team to approach events is to, one (1), make sure that we’re getting brand visibility. Is this really working? Is this helping us spread the message about what we’re doing? Are we able to use this as a platform to educate people about our work? Is the organization’s name getting out there? (2) Who is the audience? Who is our target audience, and actually are we getting that target audience to the event? Then three (3) is really is it making any money? If money is one of the goals, are you raising money?

Money doesn’t have to be a goal around an event. You could be doing an event, because you want to make an awareness event. You want it to be a kickoff event. You want it to be a groundbreaking event. For us, we do a number of those. We do groundbreaking, and we do ribbon cuttings. So, it doesn’t have to have money attached to it, but for these particular events, it’s important for us, if you’re going to spend money, to put an exceptional amount of money to make the event happen, it needs to have a revenue generating piece to is.

These two events particularly—our luncheon, turning it into a dinner—serves as an important tool for the organization to support the trust in our mission. It has to hit a certain level of revenue for us in order to hit our overall fundraising goals. It is one of the elements of the pie.

Let’s talk about the pie. What are the pieces? How do you use, and then how do you measure the successes? Is there truly a number in this instance, or do you have other measurements?

We have other measurements. I always take a holistic approach to an event. I know it’s not only about one thing. You really want to take a holistic approach. It’s going to be about the brand visibility for the organization. Is it helping to spread the word about the organization among a number of people? Are you getting the right audience there? Are you getting increased numbers? If you’re changing it up, is it bringing you different people, more people, different levels of donor types? So, it definitely has a number.

For this particular event, our luncheon, which is now going to be a dinner, we have a fundraising number attached to it. Now, part of that is we set a goal, and then we will… What are those key elements of success around that?

And one of the key elements is obviously with the expense ratio to the amount of revenues raised. That’s a really important piece. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve consulted to nonprofits, or I’ve run events myself, or worked with staff or volunteer committees. A lot of times they don’t have their eye on the fundraising at all. They just want to make a beautiful event, and they’re willing to spend whatever it takes, but then it could turn into a break-even event or a loss for the event.

Do you have an ideal percentage as a nonprofit that you sort of advise on?

Yeah, I mean, you know, some events can be pretty high ratio, so you just want to kind of knock that ratio down. Some of them are just impossible to reach, but I think at 25% to 35% is OK. Obviously, it would be great if it was lower than that, but I think there’s a lot of in-kind contributions you can get for nonprofits, but I also think to get the event done successfully over and over again, you have to set a certain number of expenses against it, and I think you have to just keep that ratio, or at least you have to keep your eye on that ratio. I can’t tell you how many groups I know that just sort of look at it and just say, “Oh, this is what it was this year.” Set a target, make it work towards it, and hopefully you can raise more revenues so that you’re not having to cut expenses so much as just bring your revenues in line with your expense ratio.

You’ve talked about two events in the portfolio. Do they serve different purposes for you? So, you’ve got the concert, and you’ve got the dinner.

Yes. The dinner is really focused on our core audience of high-level donors. These aren’t going to be the donors necessarily that are doing the eight-figure gifts for the restoration of the Mall, but these are folks that are very passionate about our work, very connected with somebody at the Trust – either a board member or a chair, or just have a passion in this community who see the National Mall the premier park in the world. They’re giving at certain levels, whether it’s a $10,000 contribution as a sponsor all the way up to $100,000 as a sponsor. So, this is kind of this middle tier for us. At least, that’s what we’re calling it—our middle-tier group—where the platform events are really successful for us. We’re successful to get them engaged and giving. They don’t want to just make a contribution. They would rather give to an event and come have a fun experience.

What’s the value proposition for them?

Our event is different than most in this city, because I know this city has a lot of events, and I’ve been to a lot of them. I think our value add is the fact that it sits right on the Mall. It’s very cool. I know so many charitable people in this town who give to a dozen events annually, and I think they’re just looking for a different experience each time they go to some place, each event. Ours is the fact that it sits right on the Mall. It’s pretty spectacular. We might have to shake that up eventually and do something different. You can’t keep doing an event on a tent on the Mall, but right now it seems to still have a lot cache and a lot of excitement, and no other event really can charitably do that right on the Mall. We have that partnership with the National Park Service. They allow us to do that. That’s a leverage point for us.

And what do they get back? A lot of them just really feel the affinity for this incredible, patriotic piece of our history. It’s a symbol of our democracy. It’s an amazing spot that combines not just history and heroes and wonderful education about the heroes that fought different wars or those who fought for our freedom, but also it’s a place for recreation and debate and marches and just purely fun. I don’t know of any park in the country that can actually combine those elements, where you’ve got these iconic monuments plus these beautiful landscape grounds and this place where you can stand in front of the Capitol and say your First Amendment rights all in one spot. It’s pretty powerful.

So, I think people feel, “I want to give back to that.” And that’s what we’re trying to do as an organization is to build that give-back feeling, where people can come… They visit it maybe once. They may be craving to visit. You know, they’re in San Francisco and they’ve never been to the National Mall and they’re dying to come. Or they’ve come every year since they were coming with their parents, and now they’re bringing their kids and grandkids. So, I think it’s a place that means a lot to everyone.

Our events really are about just kind of galvanizing and mobilizing a lot of local people towards our event, but we’re really a national presence, and we’re trying to turn our events into more national attractions, where people can come in for it specifically.

Is that what the concert serves?

The concert serves for that but also the event itself. What we’re trying to do as an organization is build champions in different markets across the country. We’re targeting, in fact, three to five markets we’re targeting now, and we’re going to be growing that, but I think if there’s a champion in a market like Los Angeles, we want you to help us develop supporters in Los Angeles, and then part of that is we’ll give you a table at the event as a thank you, and come to the event and experience it.

Do you do cultivation events in these other cities?

Yes, we’ll do cultivation events in these other markets as well. So, there’s a nice synergy there. We don’t want people to just feel like, “Oh, you’re not only raising money out of us.” We want them to come and experience it, because the power is really when you set foot on it. And to be under a tent, under the stars, and to be able to be a part of some national celebration is pretty powerful.

And this is a bit of a new strategy then, too, though?

Yes. Well, the Trust has started with it and dabbled with it in the past, and now we’re just going to take it up a notch. The event itself, we wanted to create honoree structure as well, so that’s something… It’s not innovative, but it’s something we’re going to do differently than we’ve done in the past and try to bring in somebody to be honored, and we’re actually looking at getting it sort of sponsored or sort of recognized by members of Congress, and see if we can make that a nice kind of future element to the event, where people could really feel connected, and they’re going to want to come in for it.

What is the call-to-action post? So, you’ve got the momentum going into it. You’ve got the cultivation in other cities. How do you continue that? Is it just through the cultivation process, or is there an end game there?

Very good question. I think we’re still in development on that, but to us, it’s a concept around… We don’t want to just do the event to make a fundraising event in and of itself. Our goal is to take this event as an opportunity to get people super excited. It’s almost like taking a tour. Get on the Mall, see it, feel it, and then we want to work with you throughout the year. Maybe there are some other ways you can help us. So, it should really be a launch pad for engagement in a longer, ongoing basis.

Someone could come and be a guest at someone’s table, and have no idea. “Oh, I’m going to this event. It’s fabulous. It’s on the Mall. It’s the Trust for the National Mall. I learn a little bit about it. Wow, I didn’t realize private donations actually help restore these monuments, help restore these grounds, help preserve and protect, help educate, help engage.” Some people have no idea, so they come to the event, they’re a guest of somebody else, then this lightbulb goes up. “Wow, I know so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so if we ask them.” So, it should really be a call-to-action event that is a launch to say, “If there’s other folks in your network, other people we should be talking to, we’re doing the following over the course of the next 5 years to restore and preserve this great space,” which we are doing.

We’re going to have a new launched effort coming out soon. That should help launch that and get people to think about who else they can cultivate, because, you know, usually in my experience it’s been somebody has had an ‘aha! moment’ or a ‘wow experience,’ and then it turns into… You never know. There’s the unknown possibilities of who comes.

So, I think events are very important. Someone could say, “Well, it seems like it costs a lot to do the concert, or it costs a lot to do the event. Maybe we shouldn’t do the event, and maybe we should just be out calling people and asking for $5 million donation or $100,000 donations or $50,000 donations.” And of course we could do that. We could have an entire effort to do that, but it doesn’t engage people. It doesn’t get them to see the space. It doesn’t get them to feel it. And of course there’s going to be people that are going to give money if you call and ask, or if their buddy asks, or the board chair asks and all that. It’s really about… You want people to feel it and feel connected, and it’s really that people chemistry connection.

Sure, it’s all about experience and engagement. I mean, those are some of the foundational pillars of events.

Some people really enjoy doing something versus just giving. So, two parts to that. My background before I came to the Trust, our mission was to not just go ask people for $50 donation. We actually said, “Let’s create an event and an experience that they will never forget, and then that $50 will go 100% to the programs, because we’ll get sponsors to cover the event cost.” And that just took off like wildfire, and we were very successful in rallying a huge amount of people around an issue that if we called them on that issue, they would probably have said, “No thanks. Not my issue right now.” So you grab them by the experience, and then you get to educate them, and then you get them in for year-round support.

We’ve talked about this particular event and how it serves and how you serve the audience. Talk about the concert—its inception, its why, its purpose, its value proposition. Why the concert?

Now, this was pre- my time. A group came to us and sort of said, “We’d love to do a concert, and we want you guys to benefit.” I think it made the Trust think about it, like, ‘OK, great. This is another way to bring a new audience to the Mall.’ It actually was a joint effort around the National Park Service and the Trust deciding the goals for this concert would be a new audience, an audience of Millennials.

I think the National Park Service is challenged around the audience that is coming. They have 33 million visitors a year. It’s an aging population, or it’s these moms and strollers, strolling their kids around, so there’s this middle sector of the Millennials and the 20-somethings and 30-somethings and getting them out there at the National Mall, so I think the concert was conceived around trying to do a music festival to bring young Millennials out to the Mall with the hope that you’re spreading the word among the new audience.

So, the question, really, for us going forward for 2017 is ‘How can we make that a much more diversified crowd?’ because we want to engage them beyond just coming to a concert, so what else could we be doing with this? Could we ever see a long-term give-back to the Mall? So, it doesn’t have to be a fundraising audience. It’s just that we want to get people excited about what they’re doing on the National Mall and coming back to the Mall and supporting.

How are you going to measure that? Impressions? Social media?

We’re actually in the middle of designing that right now. We’re actually looking at all of those things. We’re wondering whether it’s a 3-day or a 1-day. What’s the hook for the sponsors? What’s the benefits to the sponsors? What kind of entertainment? It really drives the different types of musicians, the different bands you’re going to get are going to drive a different audience, so is it a real mix of changing the theme?

And the bottom line is “How can we make sure this raises money to give to the Trust?” because there’s effort you have to put against it. How can we give back to the National Mall? What kind of call to action could it create to generate funds around a certain project? And then how else can we get this spread nationwide? Does it get televised? How do you turn it into something that is appealing enough that can be televised or different channels to get people excited about it? Amazon… It doesn’t have to be a network. It can be all these different ways to get people excited about what’s happening.

So, we’re still designing it. I think we had a very good first concert, and we’ve had a lot of stakeholder feedback, and we’re just trying to take all that feedback and make sure that it’s meeting the goals that everybody was hoping to meet and then redesigning those and the measurements of success. I’m not sure yet what those measures are. Some people would say that the measures should be, you know, if you did a text-to-pledge during it, which we didn’t do last time, you’d have some immediate. Or people texting once you say from the stage, “Let’s all text to pledge right now.” Sheryl Crow goes up there and says, “Everybody text to pledge this number,” and how many people actually text? Or do we have an audience of people that want to make additional contributions? Is it a free event so that text-to-pledge is easier? Or is it a paid event where then, you know, you’ve got to make your revenue model work out of the ticket sales, so you’re not constantly pushing your folks to keep giving more money? Which can also lead to donor fatigue.

So we’re trying to make sure we’re looking at all those options and if there’s some value there for a sponsor to sponsor it.

Let’s talk about the sponsors. Sponsorship has changed tremendously certainly in the 20 years I’ve been in this business. What are sponsors asking? How are you approaching sponsors? How do you actively respond to them? What are they looking for?

It’s interesting. I think the trend is that sponsors—a lot of larger companies—are not sponsoring events anymore. They’re not just sponsoring for the sake of sponsoring. They actually want an annual corporate social responsibility program that’s their team’s, if they have one. A lot of companies still don’t. They’re looking for marketing opportunities, so the marketing team will come in and say, “Sure, sure, sure. We want to sponsor that.”

But CSR, you mean activating their team in terms of getting people to come and assist? Or what does it mean by activating CSR?

If it’s the CSR team, that’s a whole different kind of question. If it’s a marketing team of the company, then they’re excited about sponsorship. But a lot of times, the latest trend in some of these companies is the marketing team might say, “We want to send you over to our CSR team, because they have new policies now,” or companies are looking holistically with how they can engage.

It’s aligning the mission of the company with the mission of the nonprofit. That’s number one, usually, for companies. And if it’s aligned, they want to look at sort of the multi-tiered approach to their partnerships. They’ll give a certain chunk of money… They might want to grow projects and programmatic support, and they want to engage their employees around it and get their employees to connect around that mission, because a lot of the companies want to be able to report back to their stakeholders and their employees or their customers about what they are doing. It just depends.

The way I approach companies is… You want to make sure you’re aligning with their objectives, meeting their objectives, and then you build something from there. We always start with companies by saying, “Hey, do you want to sponsor our event?” because that’s an easy-ask platform, right, the $10,000, $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 to sponsor for a local event, to see what their interest level is. If they say, “We’re not really doing events; let’s talk about other types of projects,” then we’ll steer it over here and do that part.

And sometimes it’s about encompassing all of it, so we might actually work with a partner and develop a larger ask and a larger partnership around our mission and our projects, but they’ll get the event as a benefit. So, it’s a little different sell, but they still get to have their name at the event, they get some visibility, we get the funding, but we don’t have to call it a sponsorship.

In fact, that might be the way the Trust moves in the future. We’re not sure. We’re looking at best practices, which is what I do, and saying, “We need to have a stronger annual giving program with these very set levels,” and people are coming in on an annual basis, and they’re getting more than just the event, because you get to go to our speaker events in these very intimate settings, where they get to talk to a historian about stuff, and they can let their employees have these tickets to come, or they can get X number of tickets to a concert. So, it’s a broad experiential element to the partnership. It might be a tour to understand what the Mall is all about. They’re giving to that, but then they’re getting these other kinds of access to these other funding activities.

That’s a much more holistic approach in giving them a panoply of options to choose from. Talk about the speaker series. How is something like that supporting your mission, your goal? And is just to satisfy potential sponsors as part of the ask, or is there another objective there?

Well, it’s both. It’s recruiting. It’s a prospecting tool and a benefit, but it’s also a way for us to… The Trust is really around three programmatic prongs in our approach. One is obviously raising critical capital dollars—significant—that are only really either at the eight-figure levels from big companies or high-net-worth individuals or foundations to really do the restoration project. The second piece is education. We’re doing pretty impressive educational elements to our restoration projects that are not up and ready yet, but there’s a couple of big projects. Once those are done, they’re going to have some educational tools, elements to them that will be pavilions with educational content that will be able to really drive 33 million visitors coming annually will be able to learn a lot about what’s going on at each of the monuments and the grounds. So, there’s an educational piece there but also on our website of the things that we do. Then the third prong is engagement. We do a lot of corporate service days. We have a program with the National Park Service called the VIP Program, Volunteers in the Park. We train historians and volunteers. These are retirees, or these are folks that are just history buffs that know a lot about a certain monument or a certain person attached to something. They’re basically ambassadors.

So we’re working on those elements, but I think these storytelling times… We’re coming up with what’s the actual term around it, but it’s our way of helping to educate people about the cool things that are going on at the Mall and the history of the Mall. I can’t even tell you. One element is about the women of the Mall. We’re going to probably do something around all the different historic information around the women on the Mall that have made some of the monuments happen and helped with the grounds on the Mall.

Are you guys creating this curriculum or is that in conjunction with NPS?

Well, we’re with some partners that will help provide this stuff, but a lot of it is there’s nothing out there about it, so we want to be able to create it. I don’t know if it’s a book. I don’t know if it’s just a speaking series, or it’s one of our speaker series, which will be on the history of the women on the Mall that have made the Mall happen.

Do you have a virtual experience? Will it ultimately go into something where prior to coming you can hear the speeches, hear the content, and then come up and experience it?

Yes. We’re trying to address that in a different way.

So, this ties into 21st century women too, which is not the subject of today…

Yes. We’ve had a lot of feedback around, you know, the Trust used to do quarterly newsletters. Our monthly newsletter is to the network, and people are saying, “Don’t do newsletters anymore. Don’t do typed-up things we’re going to have to read with pictures.” Now everything has gone from just an email… Now it’s, like, do little video blogs. You just send an email with the little thing and a link, and it’s like, “Hi, you want to know the latest thing we’re doing today?” People like the visual.

Perfect transition. How are you leveraging social media both at your events and pre/post in terms of getting the experience? Are you measuring those outcomes and if so, how?

With transition comes revised planning and strategy, so we’re in the middle of that right now, but we do find a huge value in it. They have been doing it successfully. We give a huge social media blitz around the concert pre and post. Lots of hits. Lots of tracking. We just track number of hits, number of engagements. Millions of impressions and millions of retweets.

The events, not so much, just because of the demographic of the luncheon of people who come. They’re just not big social media people. But there are some. I mean, it’s not that we don’t have it, but it’s not an important piece to us as much, because that’s really sort of a private event around the cultivation of specific donors and big friends of the National Mall, so it’s been very successful in that way. I don’t think we need social media to drive it.

Social media is also something that other nonprofit leaders and I have been chatting about. How do you turn the social media buzz into fundraising? Because social media is not a fundraising tool.

Is it sponsor-able?

I don’t know. Possibly. But the goal is to turn those social media fans into clicking onto a website and logging in their email address, because once you can get them to agree to be a part of your movement, then you can email them and solicit them that way or share information. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m only talking about solicitation, but in our world, our greatest challenge is making sure we have a group of supporters that are on board with us annually and helping expand and helping raise the critical dollars annually, which hasn’t been the case with the Trust. It’s been one-off hits through an event or something, but not a cultivation of annual giving in a stronger way, so we want to do that, and I think social media will play a key role in that, and our goal is to hire the right expertise that will not just focus on social media, but focus on that along with our other communications needs.

Actually, talk about that as a strategy, because you’ve just come into an organization. How have you reorganized along what you do externally versus internally? How are you thinking about that?

I would say with every new leadership that comes in, you take an assessment. You reorganize. You put some foundation principles and strategies together based on your experience but also what the needs are of the organization. You always walk in as a new role, and you take a look at the organization and say, “Do all the components of a successful nonprofit exist here?” and you evaluate against those components. At least that’s what I do, that’s the way I’ve consulted nonprofits about it, and I have the sort of key elements of success that you can design based on your own nonprofits mission and goals, but there are some pretty standard nonprofit practices, and you want to measure yourself against each of those, and you see where the holes are and the issues are, and you try to work against those.

There’s been a lot of internal, there’s been a lot of external redesigning and refining, and it’s also timely. The Trust has been around for 9 years. We’re going into our 10th year of partnership with the National Park Service, so we’re doing a lot right now. So, take a look at all of that and decide how we’re launching the 10th year of partnership celebration so that it’s almost a relaunch of, “Hey, it’s Trust 2.0.” That’s kind of what we’ve been talking about internally, because it’s time, but the Trust 1.0 did a great job of launching the organization’s partnership with the National Park Service, getting some very critical things off the ground, and then they started a capital campaign, and it just hasn’t had the traction it needed, so we need to get that traction. And not for any reason, but just because there’s some different approaches you can take, and we’re going to try to take them in a different way.

As a nonprofit leader, where are you drawing inspiration from around what’s going on in the marketplace, how to move it forward? What does 2.0 look like for a nonprofit?

I draw my inspiration from other great leaders. I just try to follow great people and what they’re doing. I attend a lot of events. I try to. I mean, life gets busy, but you try to make sure you’re seeing what’s going on out there in the world as far as events, but also just whatever nonprofits are doing and sort of watching what they’re doing and who’s got the coolest campaign and also meeting with them.

Part of my role for the last 4 months is that I’ve been on a meet and greet circuit and also looking at other organizations that are just like us. That’s the best way to do it. I mean, if I was in the hunger sphere, I would just be looking at what are the different hunger programs out there. If it was about medicine or poverty or anything, you know? For us, it’s that historic preservation and urban parks and environmental sustainability and design and structure and creating a great experience for visitor experience on the park. So we’re always looking at the different organizations that are doing that, or what are the ‘friends of’ groups of the National Park Services really doing, and looking at all of them and saying, “Wow, look what they’re doing! They’re making a ton of money doing that, they’re doing this.”

And it’s not just money, too. We get some great in-kind contributions from companies, which have been under the radar, which really are where a lot of companies want to go to. They can get a lot of in-kind, both product and expertise. There’s a number of nonprofits that are benefiting from corporate expertise, where people are coming in and saying, “We’ll help you with your branding. We’ll help you with your blank. We’ll help you with this. We’ll help you with senior leadership development.” So, it’s been fun, because I’ve recently been on a little circuit up in New York, checking out some stuff, and it’s been enlightening to say, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” So, that’s how I do it. I don’t go to a lot of conferences, and it certainly draws from different places.

Just off the cuff, any great campaigns out there that you really admire, whether they’re related to what you’re doing or not, in terms of events and campaigns?

I will say honestly the most recent one, just because I’ve been living it, is the Centennial Park Service and what they’ve been doing with the foundation. I mean, I just think the rebranding… It’s taken them 5 years to kind of reorg and do that, and the rebranding looks great – I’m always a big branding person. You’ve got to be able to visually show it, and then it resonates. And then also just the messaging and the Find Your Park. Real energy.

There’s a vibe. It has a new personality.

It does. It’s kicked that whole connection into gear, and I think that’s important. And then I’ve just seen Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry is one of my passions. I like what they’ve done with their anti-hunger campaign.

Those are two great examples.

Well, you know, the other one where we take our inspiration for the Trust is also the New York Central Park Conservancy and what they’ve done with New York Central Park, just from where it was to where it is today and the way they’ve transformed it. The work with the Parks & Rec in New York City and the City of New York to build a really strong partnership to take care of the park, and it’s amazing. I would say it’s on autopilot, just the fact that you’ve got all this great stuff happening.

I think where we sit with the National Park Service, we’re really in a much stronger partnerships start over the last 4 months with their new superintendent, with me, we’re already developing some very cool ideas for the future just for the Mall that will hopefully be successful.


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catherinetownsendGUEST: Catherine Townsend

As the new President of the Trust for the National Mall, Catherine Townsend will play a significant role in helping accomplish the Trust’s mission: to bring critical new resources to priority projects that will restore, improve, and preserve the National Mall and its iconic monuments.

Townsend, a dynamic leader with over 28 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, brings significant and relevant experience, contacts, and skills to the Trust for the National Mall, the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service. The National Mall, which attracts 33 million visitors each year, is facing a backlog of more than $490 million in deferred repairs and $350 million in needed upgrades. In fact, the Mall suffers from decades of underfunding and is in dire need of public and private support to restore, protect and revitalize this beloved space for future generations.

Townsend and her team are spearheading fundraising and awareness efforts for the high priority projects needing immediate support, including: enhancing the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theatre, repairing the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, restoring the Lockkeepers House and Constitution Gardens and repairing the Tidal Basin Seawall and re-constructing the Cherry Tree Walk.

Prior to joining the Trust, Townsend developed her own consulting practice, providing coaching and resource support to non-profit CEOs/Executive Directors. She has served as the President and Executive Director of the DC Public Education Fund, the independent non-profit that raises private funds for progressive initiatives to improve student outcomes in DC Public Schools. Townsend has also served as Senior Advisor at Townsend Public Affairs (a family-owned business) and launched the Federal office in Washington, DC in 2008.

Townsend’s non-profit career was shaped as she served for 17 years as the Associate Director of Share Our Strength, a national non-profit organization she helped to build from a fledgling organization to a leader in ending childhood hunger (currently known for its No Kid Hungry campaign) and raised millions of dollars annually for non-profits organizations throughout the United States and in select developing countries.

Townsend is an experienced public speaker and has presented throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as to Africa and South America. She has a B.A. from Scripps College in Claremont, California. She is a graduate of the class of 2014 from Greater Leadership Washington and is the founder, commissioner and coach of HoopGirlsDC, empowering youth girls through the game of basketball, established in 2004 for ages 8-13 on Capitol Hill.

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