Senior Director, Alumni & Mustang Engagement

Posted on 03/19/2024

Amidst a historic $1.5 billion campaign, SMU is actively seeking a seasoned and visionary Senior Director, Alumni and Mustang Engagement, a pivotal role in the Development and External Affairs (DEA) department. This individual will create and spearhead SMU’s data-driven strategic efforts to advance and increase engagement and philanthropy while aligning with the university’s overall philanthropic goals.


Reporting to the Assistant Vice President for Annual Giving and Alumni Relations (AGAR) and currently managing a team of 11 full-time staff, the Senior Director will collaborate across internal and external teams to set long-range goals and develop and implement SMU’s comprehensive, university-wide program designed to deliver meaningful engagement opportunities for affinity groups that include more than 100,000 alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and current students. Specific areas of responsibility include:

Annual Programming:

  • Design comprehensive annual programs aimed at increasing the number of donors and dollars generated, especially from undergraduate alumni, current students, and parents. Each holistic program contains an annual cadence of integrated activities including in-person events, volunteer opportunities, board management, mass marketing, and solicitations tailored for each constituency and designed to provide an ongoing journey for participants through the Mustang life cycle. Programs include:
  • SMU’s mass parent engagement strategy involves cultivation, engagement, and fundraiser solicitations to generate $5 million annually
  • A comprehensive student and young alumni journey to generate a donor and volunteer pipeline with annual increases in engagement, participation, and annual giving dollars
  • Multi-year peer-to-peer volunteer programs that include up to 500 class ambassadors and reunion volunteers aimed at increasing annual giving dollars and donors through peer communication, engagement, and donor retention
  • Enhance the strategy by increasing engagement with alumni who identify with diverse populations, including the Black Alumni, Latino Alumni, and API Alumni of SMU, among others with comprehensive programming that increases engagement, cross-constituency collaboration, volunteerism, and event attendance.
  • Drive philanthropy that directly fuels annual giving scholarships for each group, respectively.

Board Management:

  • Oversee a cohesive and collaborative recruitment, direction, and engagement strategy for up to seven boards, including alumni, young alumni, three affinity groups, the parent leadership council and student philanthropy council boards.
  • Establish the direction for sub-committees including those on standard boards, reunions, and other targeted areas.
  • Build and source training that activates volunteers for increased engagement and philanthropy through regular meetings and interaction.

Event Planning and Execution

  • Set the strategic direction for the team tasked with executing an active, year-round calendar of 75-100 alumni engagement events, both on and off campus.
  • Spearhead the execution of four alumni scholarship and recognition award program events annually.
  • Serve as SMU’s ambassador for activities involving relevant constituencies.

Marketing and Communications

  • In collaboration with AGAR and DEA colleagues, supervise the direction of marketing and communications plans associated with all constituent programming under the team’s purview, including corresponding solicitations, invitations, training resources, website updates and social media activations.
  • Oversee new technology implementation, training materials and channels as needed to equip all programs and volunteers for optimal success.

Reporting and Cross-Departmental Collaboration

  • Proactively evaluate programs using benchmarking data to guide decision-making.
  • Generate, analyze, and present regular reports to the Assistant Vice President of AGAR to optimize future activity. Prepare reports for the Board of Trustees and other senior leadership.
  • Serve as liaison to DEA and other SMU colleagues on matters involving constituent engagement strategies.
  • Provide cross-departmental support and implement best practices to optimize strategy so that it complements overall AGAR/DEA goals and tactics.

Staff and Budget Management

  • Responsible for management and development of a diverse team of full-time employees.
  • Maintain fiscal stability through forecasting, budget preparation, control, and implementation.
  • Champion the responsibility for generating revenue to support alumni programs and projects, in accordance with the university’s fundraising policies and guidelines.



  • A strategic thinker who understands how development services support all facets of university fundraising efforts and can translate a concept into action as part of building and inspiring a strong team.
  • A leader capable of cultivating a professional and open environment in which information is readily shared with a variety of constituents is essential, as are integrity and collaboration.
  • A hardworking, self-motivated individual who fully dedicates energy to a cause and is willing to “go beyond the job description”, including extending extra effort when necessary to see projects to successful conclusions.
  • A service-oriented person who engenders support among colleagues, staff, and the community through knowledge, experience, creativity, vision, and dedication to the mission of SMU.


  • A minimum of seven (7) years of professional experience is required, ideally in the field of alumni relations and/or annual giving in a nonprofit environment.
  • A minimum of three (3) years of supervisory experience is required, preferably a team of seven (7) or more.
  • Experience building holistic programmatic infrastructures with supporting timelines and leading project management workflow within digital programs.
  • Experience driving multi-channel marketing practices and techniques, including copy creation.
  • Experience managing volunteers, boards and advisory councils is required.
  • Experience with cross-departmental collaboration and demonstrated leadership for mass engagement events is required.
    CFRE and PMP certification a plus.

Skills and Knowledge

  • An in-depth understanding of how all facets of higher education fundraising, including alumni and constituent engagement, annual giving, major gift solicitation, gift planning, and development services, among others contribute to the university’s overall development goals.
  • Experience developing and implementing strategic plans, preferably in a capital campaign arena.
  • Able to move comfortably among a variety of constituents, including boards and high-profile donors.
  • Knowledge of best practices for parent and student engagement programs or skill with marketing segmentation, research, forecasting, and metrics to achieve specific goals.
  • Superior written and oral communication skills, with exceptional attention to detail.
  • Proficiency with one or more major fundraising CRMs is required, with a preference for exposure to Blackbaud and Salesforce CRM.
  • Project management software competency is required, with a preference for or Asana.
  • Educational fundraising and donor management technology, such as Gravyty.
  • The ability to build consensus within a complex organization such as SMU.

Personal Characteristics

  • A motivated self-starter who takes initiative, anticipates challenges, and follows through to deliver results.
  • An individual who balances a sense of urgency in addressing the needs of multiple constituencies with the patience required of a team-oriented environment.
  • A personable and engaging individual with a consistently professional appearance when interacting with internal and external constituents.
  • A positive individual possessing high levels of initiative and comfort working with teams or as an independent practitioner.
    Intuitive, perceptive, and skilled at reading both people and situations as well as flexible and willing to adapt, especially when advancing multiple projects and priorities.
  • An insightful, articulate, accomplished, and persuasive leader committed to the support of university advancement.
  • An individual who embraces diversity and fosters inclusion in all aspects of life.

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