West Coast Director of Development (AT)

Background: American Farmland Trust (AFT) is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranchland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save more than five million acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more. Additionally, AFT actively works to keep more farmers on the land by linking next generation farmers to farmland, championing women landowners and educating farmers on conservation techniques.

On the West Coast, AFT has worked for decades to combat urban sprawl and protect some of the most productive farmland in the world. AFT collaborates on large-scale initiatives that bring together farmers, policy leaders and community advocates to address the most pressing challenges facing the state's farms and ranches, including farmland loss, agricultural water supplies and climate resilience.

“No Farms, No Food.” This is a critical time for AFT, as saving enough farmland for food production is a defining challenge for this century, underscoring the urgency of AFT's mission. Equally critical is ensuring that there will be a next generation of farmers and ranchers to steward the land. AFT is recognized as bringing invaluable solutions to these issues and is well-positioned to dramatically increase support among people who care about their food, local farms, and the environment.

The Position: American Farmland Trust seeks a Director of Development (“DoD-West”) for fundraising operations on the West Coast, particularly in California, our country’s leading farm state. Reporting to a Washington DC-based Director of Development Operations, the DoD-West will be responsible for the oversight, planning and implementation of a comprehensive development program for that region and will coordinate national outreach as assigned. Additionally, the DoD-West will secure gifts from individuals and other sources to support AFT’s priorities throughout the U.S.; work with the Director of Development Operations to establish fundraising goals; build a portfolio of high-capacity prospects; cultivate a select group of prospects (150+) working closely with the development and program team to steward gifts; and plan/execute selective prospect cultivation and stewardship events.  The person who fills this position will be responsible for meeting specific annual revenue goals and contributing to the overall achievement of the organization's revenue goals.

The ideal candidate will be an entrepreneurial professional who enjoys front-line relationship building, soliciting, developing and driving strategies with senior leadership, and demonstrating creativity and relationship-building savvy to make connections and secure in-person appointments.  The candidate must be able to articulate the case to support the vision/mission/goals of AFT for the purpose of securing major gifts and pledges. The DoD-West position requires significant travel with emphasis on numerous face to face donor meetings, particularly in northern California. 

Primary Responsibilities 

Work with other gifts officers and the Director of Development Operations to lead Development team’s successful implementation of the major gifts plan.

  • Implement programs/activities to identify, cultivate, solicit and steward donors at the major gift level. This position will require successful candidate to actively participate in the identification and qualification of new major gift prospects.
  • Oversee movement of donor/prospect visits, solicitation, and gift closure for other staff members, volunteers, AFT leadership and board members.
  • Execute events and other fundraising activities that advance AFT’s relationship with donors/prospects.
  • Prepare written documents in support of solicitation, cultivation and development events, including correspondence, strategic plans, invitations and reports. Develop highly tailored proposals.
  • Coordinate an effective program for recognition, involvement and stewardship of donors.

Manage aggressive personal portfolio of prospects and donors.

  • Design, develop, plan, oversee and evaluate individual donor/prospect identification, cultivation, solicitation, gift closure and recognition for assigned portfolio. Includes renewable gifts and new incremental revenue.
  • Travel throughout assigned region and nationally as necessary to cultivate relationships with donors and prospects.
  • Develop and execute ongoing strategy for qualifying potential donors and moving them to prospect status using tools such as small cultivation events, research and community networking.
  • Conduct individualized responses to donor/prospect contacts with appropriate communications and reporting.
  • Share information on planned giving opportunities with donors as appropriate.


A bachelor’s degree in a related field and 7+ years of relevant professional experience in major gift fundraising, with a demonstrated success in closing major and principal gifts.

The ideal candidate will have:

  • A strong and demonstrable record of closing 5 and 6+ figure gifts.
  • Expert knowledge in planned giving.
  • Proficiency in event planning and campaign management, or any equivalent combination of experience and/or education from which comparable knowledge, skills and abilities have been achieved.
  • Knowledge and related experience in direct mail, public relations, advertising or marketing.
  • Professional skill preparing and presenting proposals and case statements.
  • Proficiency in Raiser's Edge and Microsoft Office.
  • Expert skill with membership databases and moves management systems.
  • Working knowledge of prospect research methodologies, best practices and evolving trends in major and principal gifts philanthropy.
  • Team player with a commitment to the mission, philosophy and values of AFT.
  • Superior organizational skills; creative, proactive, and detail-oriented with a strong ability to prioritize.
  • Sound judgment in maintaining confidentiality of donor information.
  • Excellent oral, written, interpersonal, analytical and organizational skills.
  • Knowledge of tax laws that impact charitable giving.

For more information about the American Farmland Trust, visit www.farmland.org

To Apply: The American Farmland Trust has retained the services of Harris Rand Lusk to conduct this search. Inquiries, nominations, and applications may be directed in confidence to:

Debbie Farrell

Senior Director, Leadership and Development

Harris Rand Lusk

122 E. 42nd Street, Suite 3605

New York, NY  10168

 [email protected]

Please include “AFT, West Coast DoD” in the subject line of the email.

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