Q&A: Bob Trojanowski
(February 15, 2018) As Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Bob Trojanowski is the Community Foundation’s point person for day-to-day management of the Foundation’s endowment, an investment portfolio that as of the end of 2017 stood at an all-time high of more Bob Trojanowskithan $45 million. He works closely with the Foundation’s Finance Committee and professional portfolio managers to safeguard the Foundation’s – and community’s – assets with integrity and transparency, and to manage Foundation investments with skill and prudence. With the Foundation coming off a year which saw a double-digit percentage increase in portfolio value thanks to a strong economy, we took time out with Bob to learn more about how the Foundation goes about fulfilling its role of community steward.
Bob, you are now in your seventh year as the Foundation’s Vice President and CFO. Tell us about the reward you get from fulfilling this vital role with an important community institution.
My years here with the Foundation have proven to be very rewarding and very challenging. In my many years of working in the non-profit world, going back to St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport and the University of Bridgeport, you come to learn that the bottom line is not what is all-important – helping the constituencies you serve is the priority. I get so much reward here with the Foundation out of going out into the community and seeing the impact of the grants we make, whether it’s a food pantry or an arts organization or something else. The challenge is in determining what we want to invest in, where we want to help, with the resources we have available. And that’s difficult – you’d like to help everybody but obviously you can’t.
One of the most important roles the Community Foundation fills is that of community steward. What does that mean and how does the Foundation go about managing the community’s assets?
My role here is to keep an eye on our endowment and to work with our portfolio manager, Fiduciary Investment Advisors, and our Finance Committee to stay focused on our investment policy statement and to maximize returns. Obviously, the more we have in terms of annual returns the more we have to give out in accordance with our spending policy – and the greater the impact we can have in the communities we serve. We are fortunate to have a solid group of people on our Finance Committee, people with accounting backgrounds, people with investment backgrounds – we even have an engineer. It is a wide-ranging group of people who are keenly aware of the trust our donors have placed in us to manage their charitable wishes. And that’s where stewardship comes in.
When someone chooses to make a gift to the Foundation, perhaps to establish a fund, they are entrusting precious and valuable assets to you. How does the Foundation go about assuring prospective donors that their gift is in good hands?
It’s not always easy to explain to people about our investment philosophy, which is a largely moderate one focused on the long-term. When you use words like “perpetuity” it is sometimes hard to wrap your arms around that. Even this past year, with a return on investment of more than 17 percent, we still had nearly 13 percent of our money in highly conservative bonds. We will sit down with a prospective donor, explain how we go about managing their assets, and that ours is a very long-term strategy. We will ask about their intentions, explain how we can fulfill those intentions, and let them know that it is our absolute priority to manage their gift with the utmost care.
Do you have a crystal ball as to what 2018 will bring?
I think we’ve already seen this year just how volatile the market can be. We may very well see these kinds of swings in the market over the course of the year, and I certainly think it’s fair to say that no one is expecting another 17 percent return on our portfolio. I think something in the middle single digits might be more reasonable to expect. But the good thing about the Community Foundation is that we‘ve seen all this before. We’ve been here serving this community for more than 75 years. We have a solid team and solid philosophy in place to manage the assets we’ve been entrusted with responsibly and with transparency. And we fully expect to be here for many, many more years to come, safeguarding our community’s assets and helping donors realize their philanthropic dreams.