Director, Donor Relations

Posted on 09/07/2022

Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, RI

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) seeks a Director of Donor Relations. This is an exciting opportunity for a skilled individual to join the Institutional Advancement (IA) team who is responsible for engaging RISD’s alumni, parents, students, and donors in meaningful ways, while cultivating relationships and raising money from a variety of sources to support the priorities of the college.

The Director of Donor Relations is responsible for providing leadership and a strategic vision for strengthening donor relationships through comprehensive engagement, stewardship, and recognition programs. The director manages a team of professionals who execute a robust donor relations program that includes donor acknowledgements, fund reporting, and donor-centric stewardship and recognition opportunities across multiple platforms. The director adheres to industry best practices and incorporates creativity to partner with gift officers and colleagues to develop and execute ongoing donor-centric stewardship and recognition strategies for RISD’s most generous donors.

Our students and alumni are diverse, coming from a wide range of geographic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds, representing all forms of diversity. As such, the Director of Donor Relations must be culturally competent in order to thrive in a campus environment that advances principles of social equity and inclusion, equal access to resources and opportunities, and recognizes diversity and inclusion as central to excellence.

Essential Functions:

  • Creates the vision for the Donor Relations Office soliciting feedback from fundraising officers to design and implement an integrated donor relations program, developing a strategic roadmap that emphasizes meaningful interactions with prospective and current donors before, during and after completion of the gift. Provides guidance and oversight in the expansion of the multi-year strategic and comprehensive donor programs plan to identify and deliver coordinated and integrated baseline communications to individual donors.
  • Leads, manages and mentors a team of donor relations professionals who execute a robust program that includes donor acknowledgements, fund reporting and donor-centric stewardship and recognition opportunities, including the 1877 Society, Jesse + Helen Rowe Metcalf Society and the Centennial Society. Directs and oversees the team’s stewardship assignments and priorities to help ensure a manageable portfolio of work.
  • Working with senior fundraisers and management, faculty members, curators and administrators to create and facilitate strategic and individualized stewardship plans to ensure that leading donors feel engaged and recognized, understand the impact of their gifts, and feel that they are helping RISD successfully reach its goals. This involves active and ongoing networking across campus and high-level strategic thinking as well as the ongoing evaluation of stewardship processes and the development of best practices for top donor stewardship and recognition.
  • Serves as stewardship officer for RISD’s top 100 stewarded donors, which includes facilitating high-touch campus visits, bespoke stewardship reporting, procuring donor gifts and planning presidential dinners and other high-touch events.
  • Provides input to the Director of Advancement Communications to produce written narrative reports, financial fund reports and other bespoke communications for top donors based on their preferences and gift designations. This involves partnerships with faculty leaders, including the provost, deans, department heads and named professors, curators, and members of the cabinet to draft and edit written communications to top donors.
  • Collaborates with the Director of Special Events, is responsible for the execution of annual donor events, including but not limited to, scholarship and professorship dinners and other donor stewardship events. Explore and evaluate additional stewardship and cultivation events for appropriateness at RISD as needed.
  • Works in partnership with the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) to ensure timely stewardship of grants and corporate gifts and to help facilitate site visits from CFR donors.
  • Partners with the Recording Secretary, the Office of Financial Aid and other offices to ensure donor intent is being met in the expenditure of funds and, when needed, works with fundraising staff to gain donor consent for the re-purposing of funds.
  • Creates a comprehensive donor relations campaign plan, seeking input from the Executive Director, Campaign Planning and Strategy and other members of the Senior Management Group as directed.
  • Develops and assesses policies and procedures across the division and RISD that are essential for a comprehensive donor relations program. Evaluates stewardship processes for major gifts and develops best practices for top donor stewardship and recognition.
  • Creates a quantitative and qualitative measurement system to evaluate the effectiveness and success of all stewardship, donor relations and recognition programs in alignment with fundraising managers and the Advancement Communications Office to ensure uniform messaging.

Additional Functions:

  • Serves as an expert resource to benchmark and institutionalize comprehensive, integrated donor relations and stewardship best practices across campus to support fundraising goals and initiatives.
  • Staff and support key RISD campus events, including but not limited to the annual Celebration of Scholarships dinner, professorships dinner, RISD Weekend, Founders Day and Commencement + Reunion Weekend.
  • May occasionally hire, supervise and acclimate work study students and interns to assist in department activities.
  • Perform other related assignments as requested.


  • Bachelor’s degree required; master’s degree preferred.
  • Minimum of 10 years of related experience in fundraising, donor relations, communications or a related field. Preference given to candidates with experience in higher education or nonprofit stewardship activities.
  • Ability to work and communicate effectively with a broad spectrum of divisional and institutional colleagues, within an environment that values diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Experience managing and supervising professional staff, interns or leadership volunteers is preferred.
  • Well-honed writing, editing, research and analytical skills required.
  • Knowledge of, and interest in staying current in, the principles and techniques relevant to donor-centric major gift fundraising.
  • Must possess strong interpersonal skills, high EQ and superb first-in-class customer service and communications skills.
  • Demonstrated expertise in the use of Microsoft Office, Adobe, CRM/database and Google Apps (G Suite) and Asana, or similar project management collaboration tools.
  • Proven success in the planning, organizing and executing projects with multiple internal and external stakeholders.
  • Superlative diplomatic and communication skills, including an ability to work and communicate effectively with a broad spectrum of constituents (individual donors, alumni, business leaders, public figures, college leadership, faculty and staff), within a broad range of cultural environments.
  • Ability to build and manage relationships with a variety of constituents across all levels of institution.
  • Ability to anticipate unexpected issues and needs and to react quickly, calmly and confidently so as to instill trust and confidence.
  • Ability to manage multiple projects, priorities and deadlines. Capability to work independently and collaboratively with moderate supervision.

The successful candidate will be required to meet our pre-employment background screening requirements.

RISD recognizes diversity and inclusivity as fundamental to its learning community and integral to an art and design education. We welcome candidates whose experience has prepared them to contribute to our commitment to diversity and excellence. RISD is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetics, or any other protected characteristic as established by law.

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