Director, Major Gifts (HKI)

Helen Keller International is a global health organization dedicated to eliminating preventable vision loss, malnutrition and diseases of poverty.  Cofounded by Helen Keller – and guided by her fierce optimism and belief in human potential – the organization delivers life-changing health solutions to vulnerable families where the need is great but access to care is limited.  In the US, Africa, and Asia, Helen Keller’s proven, science-based programs empower people to create opportunities in their own lives and build lasting change.


Major Gifts is an integral unit of Helen Keller Intl’s entrepreneurial External Relations Department, responsible for raising $5 million+ annually in unrestricted support and additional restricted gifts, which feed the organization’s programs in the United States and around the world. The External Relations Department has thousands of donors whom we view as partners in our life-saving work. The Major Gifts unit works with donors giving $5,000 or more per year and is at a pivotal moment in which we are investing in growing our community of major donors.

A Director, Major Gifts will activate findings from a forthcoming wealth screening and qualify and cultivate newly identified major donors from among Helen Keller’s core donor communities. The Director will be both strategist and doer, crafting a way forward, building a team engaging actively with donors and prospects, and holding a sizeable portfolio themselves. The Director will step into the role at a moment in which the members of the External Relations Committee are eager to engage donors and prospects more actively than ever.

Functional Relationships

Reporting to the Vice President, External Relations, the Director works closely with other department team leaders to develop philanthropic audiences. The Director’s peers lead efforts in core donor communities (those donors giving up to $5,000 annually), communications and marketing, and development operations and serve as sounding board and collaborative partners for the Director, Major Gifts. The Director works nimbly within hierarchical and stakeholder relationships, convening fellow colleagues in External Relations and across the organization in surfacing content and engaging donors. The Director supervises a team of professionals and works in an integrated fashion to produce engagement and fundraising events, implement a wealth screening and segmentation, raise funds, and directly engage major donors. The Director also works closely with global colleagues at various levels in the regional offices and all the country programs, including the US, acting as a partner to identify and develop programmatic ideas and elements of a case for support and communications for major donors and major donor prospects. Finally, the Director works with an External Relations Committee of the Board, a Gala Committee, a Nominating Committee, Board members, and the Executive Team as they engage with donors and prospects. Regular communication and a spirit of teamwork among colleagues, both hierarchically and laterally, are essential to make this structure thrive. 

Scope of the Position

The Director, Major Gifts will lead Helen Keller’s efforts to expand and activate a vibrant community of major donors and family foundations. A key part of the strategy will be to support the Helen Keller Board of Trustees Nominating Committee in its efforts to develop philanthropic leadership by bringing onboard those giving $25,000 and more annually and those willing to actively fundraise for the organization. The Director will engage a portfolio of donors and prospects themselves, traveling to visit with donors when safe enough to do so again, cultivating and soliciting in person, taking occasional trips to programs in the US and around the world, and hosting donors on trips to visit programs. In this time of coronavirus, the Director will engage donors and prospects remotely, including in launching a series of virtual engagement events. The Director will also oversee and meet revenue targets of a fundraising gala, and in subsequent years, will review and refresh the event strategy. The Director will work closely with the President and CEO in interacting with donors, crafting strategy, research, talking points, and preparing her for fruitful donor interactions. Moreover, the Director will work with Trustees as they identify prospects and engage their circles of friends, colleagues, family. The Director will be a change agent, helping the organization evolve from a more passive approach with donors to proactive relationship-building. The Director will hire, support, and advance a team that jubilantly develops relationships. The Director will also work with planned giving donors in a collaborative way with others in External Relations. The Director will be a strong communicator, implementing a communications and engagement calendar that excites, educates, and inspires donors.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Develop and implement a strategy to increase unrestricted support from major donors and increase the size and advance giving levels of major donors. Also, advance a group of donors who have been giving restricted gifts to either continue those gifts and/or see if they might be willing to expand their giving to include unrestricted support.
  • Learn Helen Keller Intl major donors and prospects—their interests, what inspires them, their track-records of philanthropy—and based on their interests and the organization’s priorities, build meaningful ways for them to envision their philanthropic impact and make increasingly larger and longer-term commitments to the organization.
  • Devise and implement strategies to acquire new major donors and to cultivate, solicit, engage, and steward existing donors, so that they are increasingly engaged over the long term.
  • Actively engage a portfolio of donors and prospects, visiting them in person when feasible or remotely as needed and if preferred by donors, and soliciting in person as much as possible.
  • Build and support a team that is actively engaged with donors and prospects, through events and meetings, visits to the field, and through a strong communications calendar.
  • Lead matches and other methods that engage major donors in the work of the organization.
  • Oversee engagement and fundraising events, in person and virtual, and ensure that we meet fundraising and donor engagement goals. Supervise staff members directly managing these events and help steer strategies, fundraising, and Committee members’ actions.
  • Contribute to and take an active role in several committees, including the Board’s Nominating and External Relations Committees and a Gala Committee that includes Board and non-board members. Activate these committees to engage major donors and prospects.
  • Work up, down, and laterally to engage many in the organization in donor relationships, including supporting a fundraising President and CEO in her interactions with donors; Board members as they identify prospects within their circles of friends, family, and colleagues; and staff members in joining donor visits, presenting at donor events, calling to thank donors and so on. Help the whole organization learn about philanthropy and engage with the efforts of raising more funds and developing a depth of relationships.
  • Create and oversee implementation of a strategic calendar of fundraising communications and scheduling to assure realistic deadlines, appropriate flow of communications to supporters, and maximization of campaigns and messaging.
  • Research donors and board prospects. Lead the team in conducting the right levels of donor research.
  • Develop strategies to engage, source, and take care of planned giving donors and work collaboratively with others in External Relations to market planned gifts and expand revenue from legacy gifts. Include select donors in your portfolio.
  • Collaborate with colleagues in External Relations and program areas to develop motivating cases for support for increasingly large major gifts, including for unrestricted support, endowment, and occasional restricted areas of giving.
  • Lead occasional trips to the field, in the US and in Africa and Asia.
  • Develop annual and longer-range expense and revenue budgets for the Unit.
  • Set annual Unit goals and evaluate efforts.
  • Build a highly effective Unit team, recruiting, supervising, mentoring, and evaluating staff, and engaging in frequent performance conversations with team members. Delegate authority, consult with, and guide staff to achieve goals.
  • Lead matrixed teams, managing projects that require direction, leadership, and “soft supervision” of people who are above, lateral, and below on rungs in the hierarchy.
  • Inspire, mentor, and supervise a Unit team that effectively engages donors, crafts compelling messages, and builds relationships with these donors over the long run.
  • Provide guidance, ideas, content, and feedback to colleagues throughout External Relations and throughout the organization on effective communications and methods of communicating with major and planned giving donors.
  • Present data and trends to the External Relations Committee and through internal discussions and team meetings, and at occasional external meetings and conferences.
  • Actively keep abreast of new developments in nonprofit fundraising. 

Required Competencies

  • Expertise in major gifts, moves management, donor portfolio development, and relationship-building.
  • Demonstrated success in closing gifts at 5-, 6-figure levels.
  • Expertise in managing a team of professional fundraisers. Direct experience in managing a portfolio of donors and prospects and managing a team with portfolios.
  • Excellent communications in all forms and appropriate for donors and prospects, Board members, and colleagues.
  • Highly developed people skills with a focus on mentoring and providing strong leadership to team members. Strong manager; facilitator; integrator.
  • Excellent management, collaboration, and interpersonal skills, including ability to build and maintain positive working relationships with team members, Board members, and high-level staff.
  • Experience managing fundraising and engagement events.
  • Donor service orientation.
  • Energetic, self-motivated candidate with high productivity.
  • Creative problem-solving skills, and ability to multitask, prioritize and manage multiple projects with competing deadlines.
  • Proven ability to use sound judgment when working with highly confidential information.
  • Ability to work independently, move projects from conceptual stages to launch, and handle multiple and often competing deadlines.
  • Excellent analytical skills. Facility with spreadsheets, budgeting, and forecasting.


  • Education and Experience: Bachelors’ degree; Masters preferred; and 10+ years related experience with significant fundraising and communications experience in a nonprofit fundraising environment, or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Preferred Experience: experience in international non-profit – and specifically, international development causes -- a strong plus.
  • Travel:  Ability to undertake regular travel to visit with donors and prospects, primarily in the United States, plus to lead and participate in field trips to programs in the United States, Africa, and Asia.
  • Languages: English is our primary language. Some French would be desirable.

To Apply

Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter and resume to [email protected] noting the job title in the subject line. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.


Helen Keller is dedicated to building an inclusive workforce where diversity is fully valued.

Helen Keller is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, disability, or protected veteran status.

We are committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities.

If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need to request an accommodation during the application or interview process, please contact us at the email above or call 646-356-1789.

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Reed Young
    published this page in Job Board 2020-10-26 15:29:47 -0400