Trust for the National Mall appoints first member of new executive team

Sara Gilgore

The Trust for the National Mall has added a chief commercial officer to its developing executive team, as its president looks to cultivate new leadership, shore up fundraising and take on bigger projects.

Jeffrey Ajluni — the first member of the trust’s senior team under President Catherine Townsend, who assumed her role earlier this year — will spearhead corporate partnerships, high-dollar revenue development, national and international marketing initiatives, and events. He assumes the role Monday.

Townsend said Ajluni will focus on the trust’s “untapped potential” to bring corporate partners on board and design an awareness campaign to educate people about the trust’s work in Washington. The organization's revenue has fallen for several years in a row.

“In order for us to reach our goals, we’re going to be really strategic and creative with our partnerships — on the corporate side, on individual giving, and in some of the things that we’re doing with our events annually,” Townsend told me.

Ajluni’s more than 25 years in sports marketing and sales, passion for the National Mall and interest in helping the trust (he reached out about getting involved), made him an attractive candidate for the position, she said. Ajluni has worked in professional sports, media operations and live entertainment and most recently served as vice president and general manager for Fox Sports Media Group in D.C.

“I am looking for very creative people who can bring a unique perspective and creative ideas, and with the passion and the energy to get it done,” Townsend said. “It’s not just coming in with the ideas, but it’s being able to execute against that, and Jeff brings that combination.”

The organization reported total revenue of $2.7 million, with net assets of $8.6 million, in fiscal 2014, according to its most recent 990. That's a sharp decline from $8.9 million in revenue in fiscal 2013 and $20.3 million for 2012.

The 9-year-old trust, which real estate developer Chip Akridge founded in 2007, collaborates with the National Park Service to restore and preserve the National Mall. The Mall faces a backlog of more than $490 million in deferred repairs and $350 million in necessary upgrades, according to the trust.

Townsend started leading the organization April 18, about a year after its former president announced she would step down. Townsend came from the D.C. Public Education Fund, a nonprofit that raises private funds for academic improvement initiatives for D.C. Public Schools.

“We are looking ahead at what is going to keep the trust going strong over the next couple of years — it’s going to require building a really strong team.” Townsend said. “It starts with the staff, and it also requires having a really strong board, and strong advisers, and strong supporters that really want to invest the time and resources.”

The trust, now eight people, is working with consultants to guide the organization in rebranding and communications efforts, as well as in solidifying its plan for growth. Townsend will continue building the executive team but doesn’t envision a large staff. “Lean and strong and effective” is her goal, she said. “We’re going to grow as we grow the work that we’re doing.”