ABOUT START EARLY
Since its beginning in 1982, Start Early has persistently
pursued a mission to advance quality early learning for families
with children, before birth through their earliest years, to help
close the opportunity gap. For many children, the odds are stacked
against them before they are even born, and the impact lasts a
lifetime. This is particularly true for those living in communities
left under-resourced by decades of historical and institutional
racism. The global coronavirus pandemic only further highlighted
and exacerbated these inequities. Through direct service programs,
professional development solutions, and research and policy
efforts, and leveraging a growing body of scientific evidence about
early brain development, Start Early is building capacity at every
level, within homes and classrooms and across programs and systems,
to develop and refine effective solutions towards equitable early
childhood experiences. Private dollars are used to apply that
science to develop innovative programs, and then leverage public
funding to support their implementation and replication. Start
Early’s ultimate vision is that every U.S. community has a
comprehensive, equitable prenatal-to-five system that ensures that
all children – regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic
situation, geography, or ability – enter kindergarten ready to
The Chief Development Officer (CDO) is a new role which
represents an exciting opportunity to build capacity for next-level
fundraising by the industry leader in the early childhood space.
The CDO should be a confident, skilled listener and an
equity-focused, results-driven leader who will provide overall
leadership and strategic direction to meet Start Early’s annual and
multi-year private revenue and strategic goals. The CDO oversees
all development programs which include philanthropic gifts from
individuals (from annual giving, major giving, and planned giving),
foundations, donor advised funds, and corporations.
This proven leader will focus on developing and growing
fundraising programs and initiatives, ensuring effective
integration and collaboration across the organization and fidelity
to Start Early’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB)
efforts. In addition to playing an active role in donor cultivation
and solicitation, this individual will serve as an inspiring,
visionary leader who will expand the current high-performing
Development team into a fully national effort, centered on
principles of equity and anti-racism, that maximizes new
opportunities across foundation, individual, corporate, and other
emergent revenue streams.
The CDO serves as a member of Start Early’s Executive Team and
reports to the President. The CDO will lead a full-time staff which
includes three direct reports: the Vice President, Development; the
Managing Director, Strategic Advancement; and the Vice President,
Educare Learning Network. To facilitate workplace flexibility and
encourage travel, this individual may work remotely, ideally in a
metropolitan city with a major airport.
Within the first 12 to 18 months, the CDO will achieve the
following major objectives:
- Plan, develop, and implement a visionary, long-term strategic
plan for Development that centers fundraising at the organization
as part of the annual strategic and budget planning cycle
- Work closely with the Chief Marketing Officer to better
translate organizational and programmatic strategy into compelling
fundraising opportunities to grow and diversify the donor
- Center DEIB in Start Early’s fundraising, from what is being
pitched, to how materials are presented, to diversifying the donor
- Optimize the structure of the Development department and
partner with the Business Development Operations team to manage
progress of more robust and efficient fundraising program based on
metrics, analytics, and best practices
- Collaborate closely with the President and Managing Director of
Strategic Advancement to ensure existing donor relationships are
maintained, and begin to transition ownership to Development
The CDO will have the following primary responsibilities:
LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT
- Develop and implement a visionary, strategic development plan
along with the infrastructure needed to support a sustainable,
growing, comprehensive fundraising program and increases the pool
of individual and corporate prospects and donors significantly,
particularly in regions outside of Chicago, while centering Start
Early’s DEIB commitments.
- Lead, build, inspire, and support a high-performing development
team with clear portfolio assignments, ensuring strong moves
management and increasing donor retention and engagement.
- Serve as a strategic advisor and thought partner to Executive
Team, Development staff, and volunteers in terms of prospecting,
cultivation, and donor strategy.
- Cultivate a culture of philanthropy across the organization
that reflects Start Early’s DEIB commitments and anti-racist stance
and that can be a model in the philanthropic sector, ensuring that
all staff understand the role they play in helping to advance the
- Articulate the organization’s work in a way that is motivating
to a wide range of donors and empowers fellow staff to communicate
funding priorities by developing a strong “case for support” for
the organization and key programs with clear, distinct impact
stories that will resonate with funders.
- Directly manage a portfolio of Start Early’s top funders,
focusing on a pipeline of six- and seven-figure prospects.
- Establish clear business development goals that position staff
to grow large and diverse donor programs across revenue
COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIPS
- Serve as an advocate for the Development team at leadership
tables; collaborate with other department leaders and communicate
Development’s vision, scope, and key priorities so that other
divisions of the organization are developing strategies that are
aligned with Development’s.
- Partner with the Vice-President, DEIB and with members of the
Development staff and program teams to advocate for new,
innovative, cutting-edge approaches to fundraising that center
equity and maintain awareness of emerging trends in the
- Partner with Chief Marketing Officer on shared vision and
strategies for external relations and collaborate in the execution
of projects such as the online giving program and mid-level giving
program to ensure a healthy pipeline of new donors into the
- Manage Board giving; in partnership with the Chief Marketing
Officer, work with the Strategic Advancement Committee of the Board
and fully leverage member involvement; collaborate with Board
members to identify, qualify, and engage prospects.
- Oversee revenue tracking in partnership with Chief Financial
Officer; collaborate with Finance team to ensure dollars are
managed well and that donor intent is honored while also making
sure organizational needs are met.
- Provide high-level oversight for special events, including
Start Early’s annual luncheon, fully leveraging opportunities to
engage donors and prospects.
The ideal candidate will possess most of the following
- At least seven to ten years of senior-level leadership
experience managing successful comprehensive fundraising teams,
with a track record of building and scaling development programs,
particularly in the area of individual major gifts and/or corporate
- Ability to tap into and expand upon a national network of
- An entrepreneurial mindset that brings fresh perspective, takes
risks, and makes new recommendations, respecting the history of how
development has functioned previously but understanding what
emerging best practices in fundraising look like.
- Outstanding written and verbal communication skills with
storytelling acumen and the ability to translate complex
information into widely accessible and donor-friendly
- Strong mentorship and team leadership skills with the ability
to cultivate an environment in which staff are set up to
- A mindset of abundance that fosters collaboration between Start
Early and partner organizations and facilitates collective
fundraising for shared objectives.
- The ability to work in a highly collaborative environment and
seek input from a wide variety of sources, including actively
seeking and hearing perspectives outside of one’s own, while also
balancing that with firm decision-making skills.
- DEIB expertise; demonstrated success incorporating equity into
all aspects of the fundraising process and an ability to access new
funders who prioritize DEIB principles and who represent diverse
- Experience with analytics and with using data to inform
- An understanding of how to craft strong relationships in a
remote environment and forge cross-departmental camaraderie,
particularly between Program and Development colleagues.
- The ability to bring others along in promoting a strong
organizational vision within a rapidly evolving environment.
- Confident yet humble in presenting themselves on equal footing
with other executive leaders and donors.
- A knowledge of public grant opportunities with an understanding
of how to best leverage those revenue streams.
- Solid financial management skills with experience in
fundraising and budget analysis, forecasting, and planning.
- Technological proficiency, including experience with donor
management fundraising software applications, calendar management,
and database entry.
- Ability to travel as necessary and attend program and
fundraising activities as needed, including evenings and
- A bachelor’s degree or equivalent relevant experience is
We recognize that few candidates might meet every single piece
of knowledge, experience, or education listed here. Research shows
that women and people of color, among many other historically
excluded groups, are less likely to apply to jobs unless they meet
every single qualification. Start Early is dedicated to building a
diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace, so if you're excited
about this role but your qualifications don’t perfectly align with
everything in the job description, we still encourage you to