Leadership Giving Officer (CLO)

Position Information

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the world's leading resource for conservation, research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. The Lab is a vibrant unit within Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), with twelve world-class, mission-driven programs directed by full-time faculty and other renowned professionals. Lab staff teach undergraduate courses, advise graduate students, collect and disseminate world-famous digital resources on biodiversity, and engage with partner organizations and public citizens around the world to conduct scientific enterprises and conservation action. Our management and staff are committed to the highest standards of ethics and excellence in all areas of our work, and our Board leadership includes faculty from Cornell and other universities, successful entrepreneurs and managers from the business and non-profit sectors, and conservation-minded citizens from the United States and beyond.    

Based in the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development’s New York City office, reporting to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and with a dotted line to the Northeast Corridor Executive Director of Development, the Leadership Giving Officer (LGO) is a front-line fundraising professional responsible for developing relationships with about 250 households who have potential interest in the Lab’s programs and priorities. Foster philanthropic connections — engaging, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding leadership- and major-gifts level prospects and donors. The primary focus of this role is the discovery and engagement of potential leadership- and major-gift-level donors cultivated mainly from the Lab’s broad, nationwide membership base of nearly 100,000 people.

Research, develop, and implement appropriate solicitation strategies for prospects while proactively advancing the mission of the Lab, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Cornell. This includes cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding current use, annual fund gifts between $10,000 to $100,000, and multi-year commitments up to $250,000. Collaborate with Lab Program Directors and Lab staff, AA&D, and regional staff and colleagues in areas across the division, including membership/annual giving, gift planning, donor relations and major/principal gifts, as well as board members and other Lab volunteers. The Leadership Gift Officer must be a professional and persuasive representative of the Cornell Lab and the University.  As such, they must maintain an in-depth knowledge of the Lab’s annual and strategic priorities within the context of the university’s priorities, and inspire the respect and confidence of the executive, academic, administrative, trustee, and volunteer leadership of Cornell.  This position will require extensive travel to accomplish 125+ annual prospect visits.

This is a full time, 12 month position located in the New York City Office.


Prospect Portfolio Management (50% of time)

  • Create and manage a portfolio of about 250 households with potential interest in the Lab’s program and priorities, developing and implementing an annual work plan to build and foster a prospect pool primarily fostered from the Lab’s broad membership base. The annual work plan will include strategies and actions to involve, solicit, and steward identified prospects. Portfolio will serve all donor levels.
  • Measures of success will include goals for number of in-person and other substantive contact (through use of phone, email and social media) and new engagement with the Lab. Individual performance metrics will be set annually and will include such measures as: number of in-person visits (125+), number of increased gifts, number of first-time Golden-wing Society, Chairman’s Council or major-gift donors personally cultivated, number of new major-gift prospects identified, number of prospects disqualified, and total dollars raised.
  • Working as a member of the development team, collaborate with colleagues throughout the Lab, Alumni Affairs & Development (AA&D), trustees, administrative staff, faculty, deans, administrative board members, and volunteers to plan, coordinate, and execute initiatives to engage prospects in the life of the Lab leading to their financial support for institutional priorities.
  • Continually assess the quality of the prospect pool, seeking referrals and identifying new prospects and recommending prospect moves to other portfolios as appropriate.

Solicitation Activity (25% of time)

  • Manage the scheduling, implementation, and completion of at least 1-3 major gift solicitations each year for the first two years in the position (with closure of one gift discussion); complete at least 3-7 major gift solicitations each year by the third-year (with closure of at least 3 gift discussions), with the ultimate goal of building a major-gifts portfolio supporting 12-15 major gift solicitations a year.
  • Working with Lab donor relations staff, complete at least two distinct stewardship actions for each prospect whose lifetime philanthropy to Cornell is $100,000 or more.
  • Work creatively to match donor interests with institutional priorities, partnering with Lab and university staff to develop funding proposals; negotiate and structure leadership-level and major gifts.
  • Identify and refer planned giving prospects to the Lab’s Assistant Director of Gift Planning Administration and/or Cornell’s Office of Trusts and Estates and Gift Planning.
  • Create letters of agreements, acknowledge gifts and, in concert with the Lab’s Donor Relations team, prepare stewardship reports.
  • Prepare prospect briefings and communications for the Director of Major Gifts and Corporate Sponsorship, Executive Director of the Lab, associate vice president of development, vice president, deans, provost, and president of the university.
  • Partner with trustees, Lab administrative board members, and major gift committee members as event hosts, peer cultivators, solicitation partners, and outright solicitors.
  • Travel and visit prospects in the NY metro area, surrounding areas and other cities for the purpose of engaging in face-to-face conversations to qualify and solicit on behalf of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Some visits and events will require the transportation of donors and prospects to and from the events.

Tracking and Reporting (15% of time)

  • Ensure the proper recording of strategies, actions, and lead interests in prospect files, PeopleSoft and Raiser’s Edge systems.
  • Confirm that PeopleSoft and Raiser’s Edge data and information on assigned prospects is up-to-date and accurate twice a month. This includes prospect strategies, scheduled visits, solicitation status information, reports of actions and visits, gift feasibility, mapping of prospect philanthropic interests, and volunteers working with specific prospects.
  • Complete monthly, quarterly, and annual activity reports. Keep accurate gift records including the documentation of gift proposals, gift commitments, letters of intent (pledges), pledge reminders, letters of agreement (endowment operating agreements), and designation of new gifts

Other Duties (10% of time)

  • Establish and foster relations with Lab of Ornithology staff, faculty, and Development Team.
  • Maintain in-depth knowledge of Cornell University and Lab of Ornithology campaign priorities, signature programs, key faculty, and public outreach efforts.
  • Support the Director of Major Gifts and Corporate Sponsorship in other fundraising initiatives, special projects, and campaigns.
  • Collaborate with key initiatives and events related to Lab donor prospect cultivation, education and engagement. These include semiannual Lab Board meetings, regional events and identified AA&D or campus events.
  • Keep current with Lab and Alumni Affairs and Development business practices and technology. Participate in continuous learning and specialized training to enhance professional skill and knowledge.
  • Pursue individual professional development as determined jointly with supervisor.
  • Ensure that critical relations are built and maintained with key Lab staff.
  • Perform related projects and special duties as assigned.

Required Qualifications

A Bachelor's degree or equivalent and at least 2 years’ development or sales experience. Proven skills working in a team with a complex organization, including key alumni, donors, volunteers and executive staff. Excellent verbal and written communications skills; with the ability to learn quickly about issues related to conservation, scientific research, citizen science, education and ornithology, and then present to laypersons credibly. Effective organizational skills, strong detail orientation, and a high motivation to work independently. A high degree of personal motivation and integrity and a commitment to values that support the Lab’s and Cornell’s mission to foster initiative, integrity, and excellence in an environment of collegiality, civility and responsible stewardship.

Ability to work in a system that emphasizes measurable objectives, including mutually agreed upon targets for fundraising goals. Must be able to work in a fast-paced, demanding environment with mutually agreed upon targets for fundraising goals while using sound judgment in decision making and in accomplishing tasks that are urgent or of a sensitive or confidential nature while meeting competing deadlines.

Must be able and willing to work occasional weekends, evenings, and to travel extensively on behalf of the Cornell Lab. Demonstrated proficiency with technology (particularly Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and knowledge of relational database management systems and ability to work with complex data for analysis. Must maintain a clean and valid driver’s license and the ability to travel frequently, including 6-8 trips to Ithaca per year.

Preferred Qualifications

Non-profit or higher education fundraising experience, or work within a similarly complex environment. Active commitments to science, conservation, nature, and higher education. Basic understanding of the concepts and principles of fundraising. Experience with Raiser’s Edge.

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