San Francisco, California

Associate Director, Major Gifts, California Academy of Sciences

The Organization

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education—all under one living roof.

Position Overview

We hope you are inspired by what we do and are excited to contribute to our mission. The Academy is looking for candidates who do great work, and we know they may come from a number of different backgrounds and experiences. We encourage you to apply even if you don’t believe you meet every one of the qualifications for the position.

Reporting to the Director, Leadership Philanthropy, the Associate Director, Major Gifts will provide leadership in fundraising to drive strategic fundraising initiatives and supervise the major gifts team.

The Associate Director, Major Gifts will work closely with the Director of Leadership Philanthropy, the Associate Director of Planned Gifts, and the Chief Philanthropy Officer to create and carry out strategies to achieve team and division goals, contributing to the overall team goal of $18+ million in annual unrestricted and restricted support. The Associate Director, Major Gifts is responsible for soliciting major gifts and leads a team of Gift Officers that solicit significant gifts from donors in the Bay Area and nationwide to support the Academy’s core museum as well as global, cross-functional, and forward-thinking major initiatives. This is a full time position.

Portfolio Management

  • Actively manage a unique portfolio of 50+ individual donors and prospects to qualify, cultivate, solicit, and steward donations with a focus on gifts in the $25,000-$100,000+ range.
  • Engage with donors and prospects through in-person meetings, phone meetings, emails, special events, tours, visits, and other exclusive opportunities; implement strategic follow-up work with volunteers, trustees, and staff.
  • Solicit annual and other priority gifts, and steward donors through an annual cycle of engagement with activities like special events, tours, and visits.
  • Support strategy and integrated messaging to promote and solicit multi-year major gifts and blended gifts (annual gift + planned gift) to increase contributed revenue.
  • Promote opportunities to sponsor the SuperNatural and Big Bang Gala annual fundraising events as pipeline engagement for lead donors.

Annual Donor Affinity Groups: Leadership Circle and Director’s Circle

  • Monitor and advise on marketing efforts for the major donor affinity groups (seeking alignment and coordination between the membership, mid-tier, and major gifts programs); acquiring, cultivating, soliciting, renewing, and stewarding 150+ households with a focus on securing recurring unrestricted annual support to achieve overall Development revenue targets and strategic priorities.
  • Drive strategy to build and expand the donor pipeline by working with internal partners to cultivate existing members and donors to upgrade their annual gifts and to make additional gifts. Oversee new prospect identification and acquisition activities to expand donor pipeline.
  • Conceive of strategies for the team to integrate the mid- and major gifts program with other fundraising goals and strategic initiatives including planned giving, working with the Associate Director of Gift Planning.
  • Develop and optimize comprehensive donor benefits and event opportunities that focus on the Academy’s mission and strategic priorities while maximizing donor engagement.

Management, Communications, and Analytics

  • Manage a team of three or more staff, including gift officers who support team and division goals by providing gift solicitation, program and/or administrative support.
  • Oversee donor communication strategy and craft letters, proposals, and other materials for funding requests and stewardship reports as needed.
  • Partner with Donor Information Services and others to monitor Leadership Philanthropy fundraising progress; analyze efficacy of program strategy and activities and make recommendations for improvements.
  • Guide implementation of all stewardship and solicitation activities through Moves Management system in partnership with Donor Information Services.
  • Maintain income and expense budgets for team oversight and maximum impact on Academy programs.
  • Enter all pertinent information into the donor database.
  • Follow all Academy health and safety regulations.
  • Other duties as assigned.

The qualifications listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required or preferred.


  • Minimum of seven years related experience in development or non-profit administration, preferably in a cultural, sciences, education, and/or cause-based institution
  • Minimum of five years of successful major gift solicitation
  • Minimum of three years’ experience managing staff in a goal-driven environment; excellent team player in cross-functional teams
  • Working knowledge of or experience with planned giving strategy and principles a plus


  • Superb ability to manage multiple tasks and work with diverse constituents across a complex organization in a collaborative and team-oriented manner
  • Demonstrated capacity of working well on multiple, simultaneous projects and deadlines
  • Commitment to maintain balance competing priorities across staff management, program oversight, and personal contact with donors and prospects
  • Articulate and highly-motivated self-starter with exceptional interpersonal and written communication skills
  • Excellent problem-solving, project management, presentation, strategy, and organizational skills. Demonstrated ability to maintain confidentiality is imperative
  • Competency with MS Office, Google Suite, and donor databases (Tessitura competency a plus)

Ability to read and interpret documents such as safety rules, operating and maintenance instructions, and procedure manuals. Ability to write routine reports and correspondence. Ability to speak effectively before groups or individuals. Second language/foreign language knowledge preferred.

The physical demands and work environment described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand, sit, walk, and reach with hands and arms, and talk or hear. Must be able to lift 25 lbs. Must be able to perform repetitive motions 80% of the time.

While this position would normally be expected to work in the Academy offices with the rest of the Development Division, under current operations the position is expected to be primarily remote for the time being.

The California Academy of Sciences will give full consideration for employment to all qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the requirements of the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance (SF Police Code, Article 49).

The California Academy of Sciences is an Equal Opportunity Employer and is committed to ensure that all employees and applicants receive equal consideration and treatment, regardless of race, color, creed, gender (including gender identity or gender expression), religion, marital or domestic partner status, age, national origin or ancestry, physical, mental or medical disability, sex, sexual orientation, citizenship, military service status, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law or local ordinance.

The California Academy of Sciences is a non-smoking facility. There is also no smoking in Golden Gate Park.

How To Apply

Please submit your cover letter and resume online at our Career site. Note that the recruitment timeline for positions vary and depend on many factors, so it is impossible to accurately predict when a position will close. We appreciate your patience during this process. No phone calls please

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