University of Alaska Southeast Development Director Lynne Johnson - like most in her field - did not anticipate her ultimate career choice.
"I've never met anyone who said, 'I want to grow up to be a fund-raiser,' " she said.
But after finding her way into fund raising by chance, she has been securing donations successfully and improving communities around the state for more than a decade.
For the past two years, Johnson has helped UAS obtain outside funding for projects and programs - such as scholarships, summer camps and the Noyes Pavilion - that would otherwise be nearly impossible, given a tightening state budget and many other demands on limited funds.
"Essentially my job is to (seek) private-sector support for the university for things that wouldn't otherwise be covered by tuition and state funding," she said.
Johnson's entry in the fund-raising field started with a chance event that sparked an interest.
In the late 1980s, she managed a Fairbanks travel agency that handled the University of Alaska Fairbanks' athletic department travel account. A decrease in state funding led to a crunch in the UAF sports travel budget, and fund-raisers were organized to help cover costs.
Johnson said she was able to get an airline to donate two tickets to Australia for a raffle, and she helped coordinate a fashion show fund-raiser using the UAF student athletes as models.
"We sold out - raised $10,000 in a single night," she said.
That first fund-raising experience piqued her interest, and when a position opened with the University of Alaska Foundation, she took the opportunity. She's been working in the field ever since.
Johnson, her husband Lloyd, who is area manager for First National Bank of Alaska, and their two children since have moved twice, first to the Kenai Peninsula. While there, she worked with the United Way and coordinated a successful campaign to raise $4 million for a pool in Nikiski.
The family moved to Juneau about five years ago, and she began her UAS job at the start of 2000.
The position she took meant essentially starting from scratch. UAS Chancellor John Pugh said the campus had someone working in the development field a decade earlier, but it did not work out and the post was eliminated.
With Johnson's hiring, UAS started a formal development office, and Johnson set about making contacts to draw donations for UAS' improvement.
"She's brought a great deal of experience with her, and that experience enabled her to jump right in and do the job," Pugh said. "She's a dynamic, energetic person that gets things done."
In addition to raising funds and working with donors, Johnson also is a liaison to the UAS Alumni Association, working to increase the size and activities of that group.
In the year ahead, Johnson said she most looks forward to completing the Noyes Pavilion campaign, which stands at about $440,000 of its $525,000 goal. Construction of the 300-seat, covered, open-air performance venue at the Auke Lake campus is scheduled to begin this spring.
Johnson said in her years of work around the state she has been amazed by generosity ranging from grants from wealthy corporations and foundations to donations from individuals who give all they possibly can.
"I've been able to meet some wonderful, wonderful people and businesses," she said. "The amount of support we Alaskans give to our community really takes my breath away."
Scott Taylor, executive director of the University of Alaska Foundation, worked with Johnson while she was in Fairbanks. He commended her ability to organize and manage fund-raising efforts and show people the benefits of donating.
Donating "is not something people are born to," he said. "They need to be convinced that it works, and people like Lynne do that."
Johnson said she feels the best part of her job is not getting a huge donation, but working with people - those who donate, and especially those who are aided by others' generosity.
"It's not just dollars," she said. "There are people who directly benefit."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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