Director of Development via Philanthropy

San Francisco, CA, US

San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) is one of California’s premier aquatic and ecosystem science institutes. Their mission is to provide scientific information and tools for decision-making and communication through collaborative efforts. They provide independent science to assess and improve the health of the waters, wetlands, wildlife and landscapes of San Francisco Bay, the California Delta and beyond. SFEI’s 50 scientists and experts provide data, information and recommendations, technology and tools that empower government, civic and business leaders to create cost-effective solutions for complex environmental issues – from cleaner water and resilient watersheds to climate change.

They advise federal, state and regional agencies as well as business and NGO leaders. Their partners include the Environmental Protection Agency, state and regional water boards and many land use and resource agencies. SFEI has three primary programs: Clean Water, Resilient Landscapes, and Environmental Informatics.

Clean Water: Their cutting-edge water quality monitoring, data systems and assessment tools inform and empower resource managers, policy makers and citizens, with the goal of fostering effective policies to manage water quality and supply issues. SFEI’s Clean Water program administers the San Francisco Bay Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality, tracking Bay health and assessing the effectiveness of protection efforts.

Resilient Landscapes: Adapting to climate change while maintaining ecological functions vital to our communities is the challenge of our time. SFEI develops innovative ecosystem restoration, management and green infrastructure strategies that balance the priorities of healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. History is our teacher. SFEI’s Historical Ecology studies determine the original function of landscapes, helping to guide future wise management decisions. 

Environmental Informatics: Provides sophisticated technology and user-friendly tools that translate complex environmental data into dynamic visual presentations for governments, businesses and the wider research community. Their widely used ecosystem tracking and assessment tools including EcoAtlas and the California Rapid Assessment Method help clients and the public understand our landscapes and watersheds, leading to smarter decision making.

Evolution of the San Francisco Estuary Institute (3.0)

SFEI has established a platinum reputation among government, business and NGO leaders for the quality of their cutting edge science, as well as their collaborative ability to work with a wide array of community leaders to envision ecologically resilient urban and rural landscape solutions to complex issues. They are recognized for the excellence of their science-based GIS tools, their ability to monitor, and assess complicated subjects and their capability to visualize bold, creative options for policy makers.

SFEI was created in 1993 as a collaboration between water regulators, water agencies, dischargers, academic and civic leaders, and environmental NGO’s. The mission was to create a team of scientists who could provide independent and objective scientific information on the health of San Francisco Bay and Estuary to empower decision makers to make sound public policy decisions.

Over several decades, SFEI has produced sound, cutting edge scientific research and monitoring strategies that help government leaders to collaboratively develop policies to manage and improve the health of the Estuary. Responding to the challenge of climate change and requests from many agencies, SFEI has expanded its geographic scope throughout California to also focus on wetlands restoration, flood control, watershed management, and green infrastructure planning.

SFEI 60+ staff have partnered on water quality and landscape research projects from the Klamath and Russian River watersheds to coastal wetlands and the Tijuana River. SFEI also created a quasi-governmental, joint power authority (JPA), called the Aquatic Science Center (ASC), to more efficiently partner with state agencies on these issues.

Most SFEI and ASC projects are funded by grants and contracts with local, state, regional, and federal government agencies. As these public agencies face the escalating challenge of extreme weather, climate change and sea level rise, SFEI has increasingly provided a wide range of complex landscape and watershed planning and visioning efforts.
Recent SFEI initiatives include partnerships with private clients such as Google to create resilient landscape principles for sites around the world. They are also collaborating with environmental justice organizations to support their efforts to empower disadvantaged communities to address critical environmental issues.

They envision a future where SFEI is nationally recognized for their ability to leverage the best available science to assist government, business and NGO leaders to work with nature to help communities adapt to climate change, and restore healthy, resilient environments for people and wildlife over the long term.



The Director of Development reports directly to the Executive Director.



The Director of Development is charged with the responsibility of creating, implementing and managing the activities related to fundraising for the San Francisco Estuary Institute. The Director works with the Executive Director and the Fund Development Committee on all fundraising programs designed to enhance and support the mission of SFEI. The Director of Development will guide all aspects of the development programs. He or she will be responsible for the identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of major gifts from individuals, as well as manage corporate, and foundation relationships and grants. The position will develop and manage a portfolio of donors and prospects to advance the mission of SFEI. Key metrics for success will include donor engagement (number of personal meetings with prospects and volunteers; and portfolio development) and revenue (value of unrestricted, restricted and campaign gifts; number of solicitations; and success rate of solicitations). Such metrics will be developed in concert with the Executive Director.

The Director of Development interacts closely with the senior leadership team and its initiatives to develop and implement communications strategies to build brand awareness of the organization, specifically among current and prospective donors.



Key responsibilities for the Director of Development include:

●      Develop and implement the organization’s philanthropic strategies and tactics to advance SFEI’s strategic vision, plan, and programmatic objectives.

●      Work directly with staff and the Board, using a donor-based, Moves Management approach, for the identification, cultivation and stewardship of new major donor prospects and collaborate with the Executive Director to ensure the excellence in the cultivation and stewardship of major donors.

●      Formulate, implement, and execute a successful fundraising strategy for SFEI, which seeks to sustain and diversify sources of funding by expanding relationships with individual, foundation, and corporate funders.

●      With the support of the Fund Development Committee and in conjunction with the Executive Director and Board of Directors, enhance and execute a comprehensive fund development plan that creates the message and funding case for the San Francisco Estuary Institute, establish and successfully achieve measurable fund development goals, and significantly enhance the annual funding available to provide for the long term sustainability and growth of the organization.

●      Work in collaboration and partnership with the Executive Director and core Fund Development Committee to develop and enhance a planned giving program and capital campaign, if appropriate.

●      Ensure that all aspects of the philanthropy program run efficiently and effectively while strategically building increased revenue from all aspects of philanthropy.

●      Develop a deep understanding of all SFEI projects and initiatives and coordinate the work of the Development Department with the work of these projects.

●      Work with SFEI’s project staff and consultants to pursue a comprehensive and effective development program.

●      Effectively manage the day-to-day functioning of the SFEI’s development activities and assure that such activities are designed and implemented to support SFEI’s goal of an integrated and coordinated development effort.

●      Develop a fund development program that significantly enhances the annual funding available to the San Francisco Estuary Institute.

●      Plans and implements a donor retention/stewardship initiative that will result in sustained long-term close relationships and major gifts for the organization.  

●      Take an active role in the Major Gift program by qualifying prospective donors to develop a portfolio of new key individuals for Major Gifts cultivation /solicitation, primarily within the five to six figure annual support range.

●      The Director of Development will build a portfolio of key foundation, corporate and individual donors who will offer significant support to SFEI’s programs and initiatives.

●      Create personalized goals for each donor within the portfolio based on their history of philanthropy and the organization’s knowledge of their potential.

●      Design and implement customized cultivation strategies for each donor that will serve as a foundational communication and marketing plan for individuals within the portfolio. Faithfully and, in a timely manner, execute that plan so that individuals in the portfolio are retained and upgraded.

●      Oversee the stewardship of all donors ensuring that they are engaged, appreciated, recognized and valued, resulting in increased philanthropic support and enthusiasm for SFEI.

●      Build and strengthen relationships with major donors to improve communication with funders and increase likelihood of obtaining new funding and maintaining individual funding, including keeping them informed about SFEI’s work.

●      Monitor all prospect contacts to ensure positive and purposeful prospect and donor relations.

●      Move potential donors in an appropriate and timely fashion toward solicitation and closure.

●      Maintain stewardship contacts with donors. Adhere to the highest ethical standards, demonstrate empathetic disposition and perseverance, reflect optimistic and positive attitude, and convey sensitivity to the needs of donors.

●      Work with SFEI’s program staff and the Communications Department to secure appropriate project information, including budgets, and create offers, proposals and asks that will be used with individual donors to secure gifts.

●      Maintain a full and flexible calendar to ensure timely solicitations and meetings.

●      Provide frequent updates to the Executive Director to ensure effective cultivation resulting in closure of major gifts, including developing cultivation strategies and plans.

●      Support the Board of Directors’ Fund Development Committee through close collaboration with the committee chair; work with the Fund Development Committee to establish and track progress toward fundraising goals, strategies, and tactics.

●      Serve as an articulate, enthusiastic, and visible spokesperson for the organization to effectively communicate SFEI’s major fundraising goals and create a strong institutional culture of philanthropy.

●      Research data on potential individual, corporate, and foundation donors identified by Board members, staff, and other volunteers or by virtue of their gift history to like organizations/activities.

●      Provide fundraising training to programmatic staff and the Board as appropriate.

●      Work with the Board, volunteers and SFEI staff to coordinate events and other cultivation activities for donors/prospective donors. Participate in the design and execution of special events.

●      Develop and review all content and materials needed for fundraising and public relations programs, including proposals to donors and donor prospects, gift recognition and acknowledgment materials, and appeal letters, etc.

●      Work in concert with the Communications team and appropriate committees to develop communications and outreach program.

●      Continually foster an environment that encourages cooperation, collaboration and collegiality across the development team and throughout the organization.

●      Provide organizational support to the Executive Director or the Board as needed.

●      Prepare detailed plans of action and reports on approved fundraising programs, including budgets to support their implementation.

●      Plan and oversee the Development Department’s annual budget.

●      Recommend programs that will enhance and advance the mission, goals, and objectives of San Francisco Estuary Institute.

●      Partner with the Executive Director and senior management team in general management and strategic planning for the organization.

●      Serve as a member of the senior leadership team.


●      Ten plus years of significant nonprofit fundraising in an organization that has a reputation for strategic thinking, organizational excellence and aggressive action.

●      Three to five years of development management experience, preferably as a Chief Development Officer/Vice President of Development/Director of Development at another organization.

●      Five plus years of experience in major donor cultivation and solicitation. Proven track record of building donor relationships and closing gifts in the five and six-figure range, as well as the ability to “ask” and “close” major gifts. Experience with seven-figure gifts is a plus.

●      A proven track record of maintaining effective relationships with major donors and determining the optimal scenario for successful gift solicitation.

●      Demonstrated success in the identification, cultivation, and solicitation of major gifts, with an emphasis on individual donors (membership, major gifts and planned giving).

●      Ability to build successful strategies to engage foundation and corporate support and to write winning grant proposals.

●      Significant experience working with Boards and/or other leadership groups.

●      The stature, credibility, and poise to interact and work effectively with a Board of Directors comprised of high-powered, prominent political, business, and academic executives.

●      Ability to establish and monitor priorities, maintain flexibility, and meet deadlines with little direct supervision.

●      Exceptionally strong strategic thinking, analytical and prospect research skills, and goal orientation are essential.

●      Highly organized and efficient. Strong project management skills, with the ability to prioritize and get things done on schedule. Detail orientation around data and tracking systems.

●      Outstanding stewardship and relationship management skills with meticulous follow-through and excellent presentation skills while exercising creativity. Demonstrated donor recognition strategies. Familiarity with, and utilization of, donor-centered philanthropy and a Moves Management approach.

●      Strong commitment to teamwork and commitment to developing and maintaining collaborative, team relationships in a fast-paced work environment.

●      Successful experience in making cold calls as well as developing cultivation and solicitation strategies.

●      Works well under pressure in a demanding, fast paced and unpredictable work environment. Ability to operate with purpose, urgency and accuracy.

●      Excellent interpersonal and communications skills with both internal and external constituencies, as well as written and verbal required. Adept at crafting compelling and high-quality proposals, reports, solicitation letters and donor correspondence. Has the ability to reduce large amounts of information to concise points and effectively communicate the organization’s mission, goals and objectives.

●      Proven experience in telling the story of an organization and its effectiveness. Excels at articulating organization goals, outcomes, objectives, and evaluation strategies to donors.

●      An ability to quickly learn complex issues and to translate those issues into understandable subject matter for funding prospects.

●      Leadership skills; proven results in collaboration and participation with internal and outside stakeholders.

●      Significant success in managing and prioritizing all tasks associated with development work.

●      Proven ability to deliver results in a dynamic environment with multiple stakeholders in a collegial environment. The capacity to work well with people at all levels within the organization.

●      Strong strategic thinking, analytical and research skills, and goal orientation are essential.

●      Solid comprehension of and ability to articulate SFEI’s programming, mission, goals and accomplishments; established relationships within the philanthropic community a strong plus.

●      Strong management skills, both strategic and operational, with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and a record of managing a talented and diverse staff.

●      Demonstrated proficiency with donor tracking systems and databases.

●      Ability to work flexible hours including some evenings and weekends.



The Director of Philanthropy should embody the following personal characteristics:

●      A passionate commitment for, and an ability to articulate eloquently, the complex goals, mission and aspirations of SFEI and its programs

●      A personable, flexible, diplomatic, and respectful demeanor.

●      Innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial.

●      Proven ability to serve as a team player, mentor, and leader to motivate and inspire staff and colleagues.

●      A well-organized and focused individual that is capable of and interested in establishing SFEI’s development efforts.

●      Extremely proactive approach to work. Someone that is solution-oriented.

●      A good listener and strategist. Comfortable receiving input from many sources and able to analyze and formulate disparate information to a sound, well-organized plan.

●      Intrepid yet tactful. Determined yet respectful of others’ concerns. Creative about finding alternate ways to reach funding objectives when barriers arise. A skilled negotiator who is open to other viewpoints.

●      The ability to manage multiple tasks, plan, organize and communicate effectively, and work independently with little direct supervision.

●      Self-starter with ability to quickly create a positive network of relationships.

●      A hard worker with a high energy level. A ‘doer’ with a willingness to work hands-on in developing and executing a variety of donor development and activities.  

●      Ability to work well under pressure and adapt easily to changing situations and priorities. Good judgment and consensus building skills.

●      Willingness to accept additional responsibilities as requested by the Executive Director and/or Board of Directors.

●      Impeccable integrity, entrepreneurial spirit, and a sense of humor.


Bachelor’s Degree is required.


An attractive compensation package will be offered based upon background and experience.


Scott E. Miller

Direct: (415) 613-1354

[email protected]

Scott Miller Executive Search

1231 Francisco Street

San Francisco, CA   94123