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Assistant Director, Major Gifts

John G Shedd Aquarium
Chicago, United States Posted: January 23, 2024

Shedd Aquarium is seeking a full-time Assistant Director, Major Gifts to join its Development Department and play a critical role in advancing fundraising on behalf of our Centennial Commitment as the Development Department pursues two goals: 

  • Raising $130M towards the cost of Shedd’s experience evolution here at our historic home on the Museum Campus  
  • Increasing philanthropic support of Shedd’s annual operations by 50-60% to support the future institutional financial model by 2027 
  • In partnership with the Senior Director of Major & Principal Gifts, the Assistant Director will serve as a front-line gift officer advancing the acquisition, retention, and revenue growth across our Major Gifts program (annual donors at $10k per year and above).
They are a key part of the Development team focused on the:
  • Identification, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of 5- and 6-figure donors and prospects through management of a portfolio of Major Giving prospects  
  • Lead solicitor for multi-year and blended (cash and bequests) comprehensive campaign gifts   
  • As a motivated and organized fundraiser, the Assistant Director works entrepreneurially and across to help strengthen overall fundraising efforts during a period of rapid growth.
  • A successful candidate will be an enthusiastic, results-oriented relationship builder who thrives on fast-paced teams and demonstrates a work ethic, persuasive verbal communication skills, and high-caliber writing skills. 
  • Essential Duties and Responsibilities include the following. Other duties may be assigned.
  • To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily.
  • The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill and/or ability required.
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.
  • Demonstrate commitment to Shedd's vision, mission, and values.  
  • Identify, qualify, cultivate, solicit, and thoughtfully steward a portfolio of approximately 80 -100 donors and prospects capable of making multi-year 5-6 figure commitments in support of a comprehensive campaign.  
  • Develop/personalize written donor strategies, briefing, and solicitation materials, both for direct asks and those led by senior staff and Trustees. 
  • Plan and execute a minimum of 150 visits per year with donors and prospects, including a focus on discovery and qualification. 
  • Deliver a minimum of 12 comprehensive major gift solicitations annually that effectively match donor interests with Aquarium needs.  
  • Work closely with members of the Prospect Research, Development Services and Membership teams to ensure consistent flow of prospects up and down the pipeline.  
  • Leverage close working relationships with the Board of Trustees to identify new prospects and convert event donors into annual supporters.  
  • Collaborate with internal Shedd colleagues to implement unique donor cultivation and stewardship opportunities and communications to keep donors involved and informed of ongoing Shedd projects, developments and advancement.  
  • Participate in appropriate donor and member cultivation events, as planned and as necessary, which are often held in the evening and/or on weekends. 
  • Maintain timely contact records in the database and analysis of donors managed. Deliver timely and effective follow-up to prospects and donors. 
  • Provide routine quantitative analysis of portfolio activities to senior leadership and adapt approaches in response to measured outcomes.  
  • Other duties as assigned. 
  • To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily.
  • The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required.
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions. 
  • Minimum of a Bachelors' degree required 
  • A minimum of 5 years of progressive, professional experience in development, alumni relations, or similar professional work experience.   
  • Familiarity with fundraising practices and a successful track record directly soliciting and closing leadership or major gifts and cultivating new relationships with donors and/or clients 
Skills and Personal Qualities: 
  • The candidate will be an intelligent, results-oriented, and highly organized self-starter who maintains high standards for their work and can work effectively with the Aquarium’s diverse constituencies, both internal and external. 
  • The candidate will welcome the opportunity to build collaborative relationships with Shedd supporters, development colleagues, internal partners, and Shedd leaders. 
  • Excellent written communication skills with demonstrated ability to creatively and persuasively convey messages to various audiences. A writing sample will be requested. 
  • Strong interpersonal and verbal communication skills across a wide variety of audiences. 
  • Excellent analytical, problem-solving, and organization skills. 
  • Ability to manage and prioritize multiple projects simultaneously with great attention to detail. 
  • Ability to work independently and as a collaborative team member in a fast-paced, multi-tasking work environment. 
  • Must be able to flex schedule as needed to work evenings or additional weekend hours as needed for events and donor tours/visits. 
  • Experience working in fundraising or sales CRM required. 
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office, especially Outlook, and manipulating/formatting data in Excel. 
  • Ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend English fluently. 
  • Ability to read and comprehend complex instructions given from written and oral sources.   
  • Ability to write professional business correspondence.  
  • Ability to effectively present information to and collaborate with all levels of employees. 
  • We strongly encourage people of color, LGBTQ+ community, veterans and active duty military, parents, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds to apply.
  • Shedd Aquarium is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team.
  • If you need a reasonable accommodation at any point in the application or interview process, please let us know.
  • In your application, please feel free to select which pronouns you use (For example – she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs).

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