Director of Development

Yerkes Future Foundation
Wisconsin, United States
$120,000.00 - $160,000.00
Closing date
Feb 27, 2024

View more

Position Type
Fundraising, Capital Campaigns, Major Gifts
Museum, Research
Employment Type
Full Time


Yerkes Observatory is known globally as the birthplace of modern astrophysics and remains a landmark in the history of science. Since 1897, the Observatory has welcomed world-renowned astronomers, astronauts, Nobel Prize winners, scientists, and educators. Located on Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, the Observatory was founded and operated by the University of Chicago for 125 years.

In 2020, the Yerkes Future Foundation (YFF) assumed long-term stewardship for preserving and expanding the Observatory. The community-based foundation hired a director and the first few staff and launched a $25M campaign to restore the observatory and fifty acres of historic Olmsted-designed grounds. The campaign has already raised $19M, primarily from major local donors, with the goal recently extended to $40M.  

The goal of the Foundation is to transform the observatory and its grounds into a unique public pilgrimage site for astronomy and discovery. From ongoing astronomical research to sci-fi film festivals, four newly-built miles of walking trails to the first commissioned outdoor sculpture, public talks by science luminaries and cultural influencers to school programs and nighttime star parties—Yerkes will cross-pollinate science, ecology, culture and curiosity in order to become a national leader in growing the public’s understanding of—and engagement with—science. Yerkes has already hosted talks, programs or residencies with Grammy-winning musicians and composers Eighth Blackbird, Brooklyn-based artist Ashley Zelinskie, former US Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith, astronomer and public educator Dean Regas, and former Senior Scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope and Nobel prizewinner Dr. John Mather.

Major restoration work has been ongoing and will continue for many years ahead. Since the observatory re-opened to the public in summer 2022 for tours and programs, more than 45,000 ticketed visitors have taken tours or attended events, with tens of thousands more enjoying the open-access landscape. 

Learn more about Yerkes Observatory and Yerkes Future Foundation here.


As the inaugural Director of Development, this position will build on the tremendous fundraising success achieved by the leadership, Board of Directors, and surrounding generous community, formalizing a comprehensive development program. The observatory invested a year of work with fundraising consultants at Campbell & Company and staff to create the baseline systems required to scale up the development efforts of the organization, including setting up the CRM and populating it with high-quality data and growing staff capabilities. The Director of Development reports directly to the Executive Director and will work closely with the Deputy Director & Head of Science and Education to help develop and tell the story of the many facets of the observatory’s mission and potential. This position is responsible for the strategic direction, development, organization, expansion, and assessment of all philanthropic avenues to increase financial support for the Yerkes Future Foundation. This Director of Development leads all aspects of the organization’s fundraising plans including but not limited to: major gifts, annual giving, leading campaigns, corporate/foundation relations, governmental grants, sponsorships, planned giving, volunteers and special events.

The Director of Development is responsible for overall leadership and supervision of all development work. A successful Development leader will demonstrate entrepreneurial skills, be a great storyteller, is creative, adaptive, and relational and will be comfortable participating in the visioning and building of a new organization for which few models exist. This role currently oversees two positions, one direct report and one indirect report; depending on the experience of the selected candidate, it may oversee an additional position being created in 2024 to lead communications. This role requires an individual who is adept at making conversation, and demonstrates ease and confidence in navigating relationships with donors and community members. This role also requires active participation with the team in hands-on work. It is not unusual at Yerkes to see the Director lighting an exhibit, the astrophysicist/deputy director picking up ice for an event, and staff at all levels engaging board members and donors. All employees are expected to center, model, and champion Yerkes Future Foundation’s values.


Within the first 12 to 18 months, the Director of Development will achieve the following major objectives:

  • Build strong, trusting relationships with the Executive Director, the leadership team, the Board, and key donors; establish a visible and dynamic presence as a leader throughout the surrounding community and with stakeholders in nearby metro areas, particularly Chicago.
  • Manage, lead, and develop the team’s skills to maximize philanthropic growth.
  • Lead campaign strategy and work closely with Executive Director to ensure ambitious yet achievable goals are set and achieved.
  • Strengthen Board philanthropic engagement by utilizing each member’s unique skillset and seeking their support with fundraising and networking.
  • Establish and launch a planned giving program, which given the organization’s 125-year legacy is seen as having significant potential to advance endowment growth in the coming decade.

The ideal candidate will possess most of the following qualifications:

  • At least five or more years of progressive leadership experience in development or advancement; experience leading major and planned giving, capital campaigns and community relations preferred.
  • Proven track record of building a development program or team, achieving revenue goals, major gift solicitation, and donor cultivation; thorough understanding of a diversified funding base including government grants.
  • A genuine commitment to the mission, vision, and values of the Yerkes Future Foundation and a general interest in the work of the Observatory; experience in science or astronomy would be an advantage.
  • Is entrepreneurial, strategic, collaborative, a strong storyteller, has strong relationship building capacities, as well as comfort navigating parameters that are both known and unknown.
  • Demonstrated experience collaborating with and developing a passionate Board of Directors, each bringing unique skillsets and abilities.
  • Demonstrated ability to prospect, cultivate, and manage new donors, while effectively stewarding and re-engaging the Foundation’s existing donor base.
  • Excellent financial analysis skills; ability to develop and manage both revenue and expense budgets.
  • Comfort and expertise in leveraging metrics and data for reporting and goal-setting.
  • Demonstrated success in building productive, collaborative, long-term relationships with senior leaders, staff, boards, volunteers, and donors; a flexible and creative work-style that prioritizes both relationships and evidence-based results.
  • Persuasive writing and verbal skills, including public speaking and strong interpersonal skills.
  • Well-developed sense of and/or appreciation of high-quality design and aesthetics.
  • Ability and commitment to working with diverse groups of people.
  • Comfort and familiarity with Development technology and donor database management software, ideally Virtuous.
  • Willingness and ability to travel when needed.
  • A bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree is desirable.

Yerkes Future Foundation has retained Campbell & Company to conduct this search. The team for this project includes Sarah Beraki, Vice President, and Alex Catuara, Senior Consultant. The detailed position guide is linked here.

Yerkes Future Foundation has engaged Campbell & Company since 2022 for support in building a strong foundation for development work and systems. The new Director of Development will continue to receive consultation from, and work with, Campbell & Company for continuous growth and improvement of the development program.


The Yerkes Future Foundation (YFF) subscribes both to the letter and the intent of all applicable laws and regulations regarding the hiring and promotion of employees. The Foundation recognizes that it must actively seek to attract and retain a diverse workforce, and that diversity in all dimensions is beneficial to furthering its mission.

The following is YFF’s formalized Equal Employment Policy statement which has been approved and adopted by the Board of Trustees:

The Yerkes Future Foundation’s overall goal for employee relations is founded on the principle of the respect for the status and rights of individuals. Therefore, the Observatory provides equal employment opportunity for all applicants and employees, regardless of their race color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, genetic information, ancestry, disability, veteran's status or any other characteristic.


 If you need reasonable accommodation during our application, hiring, or onboarding processes, please contact Erin Cullen at Upon hire, all reasonable accommodation requests are handled by the Yerkes Observatory team.

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