Sr. Director of Major & Principal Gifts

John G Shedd Aquarium

Chicago, Illinois

Job Type Permanent
Salary Details Salaried
Deadline May 01, 2024
Required Experience 7+ years


The Senior Director, Major & Principal Gifts will lead Shedd Aquarium’s major gifts team as we prepare to move into the public phase of an ambitious $180M+ comprehensive campaign. The Senior Director will lead a team of gift officers responsible for devising and executing plans to qualify, cultivate, solicit, and steward donors, growing the Aquarium’s pipeline of individual donors making 5-, 6-, and 7-figure gifts.   

The Senior Director will also serve as a member of Shedd Development’s leadership team, helping identify and advance shared goals for fundraising as well as other institutional priorities. 


  • Demonstrate commitment to Shedd's vision, mission, and values 
  • With guidance from the Chief Development Officer, develop and oversee strategy for the Major Gifts Phase of the Dive Deeper campaign supporting the 2030 Centennial Commitment  
  • Lead a team of gift officers in executing those strategies to achieve or exceed campaign fundraising goals 
  • Generate routine analysis of program accomplishments, progress towards goal, and future opportunities 
  • Manage a portfolio of 60-80 major gift donor prospects 
  • Deploy analysis, experience, and intuition to qualify, cultivate, and solicit highly rated donor prospects 
  • Partner directly with senior programmatic leaders and content experts across the Aquarium to devise giving opportunities that effectively match donor interests with Aquarium priorities 
  • Work closely with members of Development’s Prospect Research and Membership teams to ensure a consistent flow of prospects up and down the pipeline 
  • Support the President & CEO and the Board of Trustees to identify new prospects and solicit them for annual operating and campaign gifts 
  • Guide the Assistant Director, Individual Giving & Leadership Councils in crafting leadership volunteer fundraising, governance, and engagement strategies for the President’s Council and Auxiliary Board to drive new major gifts and overall pipeline development across individual and institutional prospects 
  • Manage the Assistant Director, Major Gifts and the Manager, Leadership Annual Giving in their growth as major gift officers 
  • Partner with the Sr. Director of Donor Engagement on the creation of unique donor cultivation and stewardship opportunities that advance campaign initiatives 
  • Maintain contact records in Shedd’s database and engage in analysis of donors-managed 
  • Participate in the execution of appropriate donor cultivation events, including small group engagement and marquee fundraisers 
  • Other duties as assigned in support of Development and Shedd more broadly 


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. 


  • A minimum of a Bachelors' degree  


  • A minimum of 10 years of progressive, professional experience in development, alumni relations, or similar professional work experience 
  • Experience managing a team as well as moving a portfolio of donors at a large non-profit cultural institution, university, or hospital preferred 
  • Proven track record of personally soliciting and closing major and planned gifts in a campaign setting at a comparable major institution 
  • Quantifiable success in identifying, delivering, and closing personal solicitations of six and seven-figures 
  • Enthusiasm for fast-paced teams and demonstrated attention to detail, analytical thinking, strong writing skills, and flexibility 
  • Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills.  Able to communicate clearly and succinctly with consideration to various audiences 
  • Must be able to work effectively with the Aquarium's diverse constituencies 
  • An awareness of and interest in conservation, especially of aquatic environments and animals 
  • Advanced experience with fundraising/CRM software required; Tessitura experience preferred 
  • Advanced Microsoft Office Suite (especially Excel) skills are highly desirable 

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).


Please apply directly through the job link - https://sheddaquarium.applicantstack.com/x/detail/a23xwy58g5c9?preview=1

When you apply, please indicate that you are responding to the posting on Conservation Job Board.

Category Admin & Leadership
Tags Aquarium