Director, Leadership Annual Giving

Posted on 03/06/2024

About SMU:

SMU’s more than 12,000 diverse, high-achieving students come from all 50 states and over 80 countries to take advantage of the University’s small classes, meaningful research opportunities, leadership development, community service, international study and innovative programs.

SMU serves approximately 7,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students through eight degree-granting schools: Dedman College of Humanities and SciencesCox School of BusinessLyle School of EngineeringMeadows School of the ArtsSimmons School of Education and Human DevelopmentDedman School of LawPerkins School of Theology and Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.

SMU is data driven, and its powerful supercomputing ecosystem – paired with entrepreneurial drive – creates an unrivaled environment for the University to deliver research excellence.

Now in its second century of achievement, SMU is recognized for the ways it supports students, faculty and alumni as they become ethical, enterprising leaders in their professions and communities. SMU’s relationship with Dallas – the dynamic center of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions – offers unique learning, research, social and career opportunities that provide a launch pad for global impact.

SMU is nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to academic freedom and open inquiry.

About the Department:

Development and External Affairs (DEA) supports SMU by securing funding for University priorities; by promoting meaningful involvement in the life and work of the University; by heightening international, national, state and local awareness of SMU; and by supporting the enrollment of a diverse and able student body.

DEA comprises the offices of Office of the Vice President, Annual Giving and Alumni Relations, Development Services, Program Services and Donor Relations, Marketing and Communications, Principal and Major Gifts, and School and Project Development.

SMU continues to leverage the benefits from the largest fund-raising campaign in its history to achieve dramatic increases in academic quality and impact.

About the Position:

This role is an on-campus, in-person position.

The Director is responsible for leadership and management of a team tasked with cultivation and solicitation activity of highly-rated alumni, parents and friends identified as development prospects, with a goal to secure leadership gifts between $5,000 and $99,999 primarily for current-use funds.

This role generates, manages and executes strategies for pipeline development, donor retention and donor upgrades for leadership level donors and prospects, working in conjunction with DEA colleagues. In conjunction with DEA school and unit colleagues, the Director also oversees specific initiatives that have a targeted need for current-use support that can be fulfilled through leadership level giving, incorporating the use of online tools and platforms to facilitate donor solicitations, as appropriate.

The Director also spearheads leadership-level giving stewardship initiatives for key giving societies, including Presidents’ & Hilltop Society.

Essential Functions:

  • Optimize & lead DEA’s strategy for the personal solicitation of leadership-level rated fundraising prospects (alumni, parents, friends.) Supporting the $500M campaign goal for current use funds, spearhead efforts of the team to secure  gifts ($5K – $99K) for funding priorities across all areas of SMU, execute prospect qualification, & fuel donor pipeline development. Closely collaborate with Director of Major Gifts, school/unit fundraisers, AVPs, Annual Giving team members and other DEA colleagues to identify, design and implement strategies aimed at effective portfolio management, solicitations & handoffs resulting in a min. of $1M, annually. Deliver regular updates to DEA fundraising staff & AVPs on fundraising goals and success.
  • Lead and manage four professional staff (Leadership Gift Officers, Digital Gift Officers, stewardship coordinator.) Refine & enforce policies & procedures that guide their comprehensive solicitation activity towards visits, asks & closures. Working closely with Development Research and Prospect Management (DRPM) & other DEA colleagues, develop personalized and collective strategies for prioritizing contacts. Ensure accurate & timely reporting by staff of all plan activity, interactions & results. Assist team in effective use of data tools and online platforms to help them set schedules, organize activity, evaluate performance metrics & track progress towards individual/team goals. Set & oversee the implementation of digital tools on an ongoing basis to optimize team’s performance, evaluating new enhancements as appropriate. Equip staff with strategies for effective solicitations by staying informed about SMU news, new giving opportunities and campus events. Benchmark industry best practices. Lead, attend & champion fundraising skills trainings that help staff constantly enhance their fundraising effectiveness. Provide personalized coaching, accompanying staff on fundraising calls, as needed. Attend fundraising & leadership team meetings to provide insight and keep team informed on DEA and SMU news. Lead regular team/individual meetings with staff to discuss the progress and involvement of assigned prospects, involving DRPM liaison(s) and other DEA staff as appropriate. Plan and oversee Leadership Giving Officer travel strategy, managing budget and approving relevant travel and expenses that fit within the team’s overall fundraising strategy.
  • Develop, guide, execute and manage a university-wide Giving Day solicitation strategy for leadership level gifts. Spearhead the matching gift solicitation process that supports specific projects requiring funding at the leadership-level (under $99K.) Personally solicit donations from key AGAR alumni & parent volunteers. Train fundraisers on matching fund strategies. Execute timely & accurate fund mapping and gift reporting to DEA teams to support process & ensure consistency for YOY reporting. 
  • Help achieve alumni participation/engagement goals by directing staff in activity that influences retention & reactivation of consistent participation-level donors, especially those within SMU’s annual giving societies. Activities may include annual cold calls for discovery, qualification, engagement, retention, reactivation or stewardship. With DMS and AGAR colleagues, conduct data mining to identify new leads through event/volunteer experiences & develop strategies to sustain/increase giving. 
  • Manage potential expansion of Giving Day platform as a tool to engage fundraising project managers in effective solicitation strategies for their approved, targeted fundraising initiatives that rely on leadership-level gifts for annual support (i.e., crowdfunding). Train project leads to develop and maintain their individual crowdfunding campaigns and corresponding online presence within the tool- approving their activity, sharing regular updates, best practices and results. 
  • Other duties as assigned, including active participation in planning and execution of all annual giving and alumni relations signature events and activities (i.e., working class reunion parties, Commencement events, parent donor receptions, tailgates, etc.). 



Education and Experience:

  • Bachelor’s is required. Master’s preferred. A degree in communications, public relations, or marketing preferred.
  • A minimum of seven years of work experience is required. A minimum of one year of work experience managing a professional staff is also required.
  • Direct fundraising experience personally making leadership or major gift level solicitations is highly preferred. College or University development experience working with alumni and/or parents is strongly desired. Experience working with sales/lead generation software products to achieve set metrics, is a plus. 

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • Candidate must demonstrate strong interpersonal and verbal communication skills, with the ability to communicate broadly across the University and develop and maintain effective relationships with a wide range of constituencies. Must also demonstrate strong written communication skills. A strong customer service orientation is essential.
  • Candidate must demonstrate strong leadership skills and must be an articulate and persuasive leader. Must demonstrate the ability to provide focus, motivation, and organization to professional staff.
  • Candidate must possess strong problem-solving skills with the ability to identify and analyze problems, as well as devise solutions. Demonstrated ability to think collaboratively, strategically, and creatively is essential.
  • Candidate must have strong organizational, planning, and time management skills. Must also have strong project management skills and a strong focus on attention to detail.
  • Candidate must possess strong computer skills and an ability to implement platforms/tools to generate data and results. The person in this role must have a strong proficiency in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint). Knowledge of professional mass sales or fundraising management principles, required.
  • Experience with Blackbaud Enterprise or other constituent records database system(s) is strongly preferred. Experience with web-based data management or fundraising platforms (i.e., Evertrue, Grad!Raise, ScaleFunder, etc.) desired. Experience with social media tools for engagement is a plus.
  • Basic data analysis experience, preferred. Salesforce Marketing Cloud knowledge, desired. Skills with vendor management and online platform implementation is a plus.
  • CFRE, desirable. Training on fundraising/data intelligence platforms (i.e.Gravyty) preferred.

Physical and Environmental Demands:

  • Sit for long periods of time
  • Squat, stand, push/pull
  • Walk for distances
  • Carry/lift 25 lbs.
  • Handle objects (dexterity)

Deadline to Apply:

  • Priority consideration may be give to submissions received by March 18, 2024.
  • The position is open until filled.

EEO Statement:

SMU will not discriminate in any program or activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. The Executive Director for Access and Equity/Title IX Coordinator is designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies and may be reached at the Perkins Administration Building, Room 204, 6425 Boaz Lane, Dallas, TX 75205, 214-768-3601, [email protected].


SMU offers staff a broad, competitive array of health and related benefits. In addition to traditional benefits such as health, dental, and vision plans, SMU offers a wide range of wellness programs to help attract, support, and retain our employees whose work continues to make SMU an outstanding education and research institution.

SMU is committed to providing an array of retirement programs that benefit and protect you and your family throughout your working years at SMU and, if you meet SMU’s retirement eligibility criteria, during your retirement years after you leave SMU.

The value of learning at SMU isn’t just about preparing our students for the future. Employees have access to a wide variety of professional and personal development opportunities, including tuition benefits.

To apply for this job please visit