40 Under 40

June 1, 2009
Crain's

Content

Christopher Clinton Conway is counting each step as he raises money for the Joffrey Ballet's first endowment.

Mr. Conway, who took over in March 2008, says he's at the halfway mark of reaching his $10-million goal. That's on top of the $25 million he's received from donors to build the 54-year-old dance company's state-of-the-art studio and offices, which opened in August 2008. It also will be home to its first ballet and modern dance school, which debuted this summer and has 700 students.

But he has been challenged during the recession as numerous other non-profit organizations compete for funding. So far, the Joffrey's $14-million budget is more than 10% higher than the previous year's $12.6 million.

"We are optimistic that this season will be bigger than last season," Mr. Conway says. He added that with the funding boost, the company will present two full-length ballets — "Othello" and "Cinderella" — for the 2009-10 season.

He's forged relationships with new donors and corporate sponsors by hosting events such as private dinner parties on the Joffrey Tower rooftop deck. He's also joined forces on events with companies such as Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpel's.

"Chris has been quite creative about fundraising," says Pamela Strobel, member of the Joffrey board and former senior executive at Exelon Corp.

That creativity is born of experience. Mr. Conway is a veteran fundraiser. Before joining Joffrey, he raised money for more than 14 non-profit campaigns, ranging from $6 million to $250 million.

His first major project was at the Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta. Working with former President Jimmy Carter "has allowed me to do some amazing things in my career," Mr. Conway says.

Mr. Conway met Mr. Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1996 through a family friend. The connection opened doors that led him to work on special projects for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as well as with high-profile individuals such as Julia Child and Robert Mondavi.

The Evanston native also credits his love of the arts to his parents, who took him and his younger sister on trips throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. "Being exposed to so many different cultures certainly is the root of my passion in the arts," Mr. Conway says.

Monée Fields-White

SOMETHING GOOD: Andrea Rich, former president of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a mentor, always told Mr. Conway: "Be bold." "It was something she reserved for me. I really sort of incorporated that into my DNA in all aspects of my professional and personal existence. It's a great mantra, and it was pretty much every time I came up against obstacles, she would say, 'Christopher, be bold.' "