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Senior Director/Director of Donor Relations

Northern Illinois University Foundation
Illinois, United States
Salary Commensurate with experience
Closing date
Apr 24, 2024

NIU Division of Advancement

The division of University Advancement (UA) exists to energize and rally the private sector to partner with the NIU community, harnessing crucial resources for our collective future. Our mission is all about empowering these connections to drive NIU’s growth and innovation. Our focus includes amplifying our students' influence locally, nationally, and globally, fostering a world where their ideas and actions make a real difference. Northern Illinois University is in the Leadership Phase of a Comprehensive Campaign focused on student success, faculty excellence and elevating the innovative, entrepreneurial, and creative ecosystem of the institution.

Position Details             

The Director of Donor Relations is responsible for the design, development, implementation and administration of a high performing, comprehensive campus-wide donor relations program, in collaboration with the Senior Director of Strategic Communications/Marketing and Senior Leadership.  The position will focus on executing a comprehensive Donor Relations program designed to drive fundraising growth, ensuring every donor is appropriately thanked, aware of their impact, and inspired to give more. The Director serves as a key leader in the strategic communication elements of the Campaign in support of messaging, storytelling, stewardship, and partnership with the campus community.

60% Strategic Planning & Execution

  • Design, implement and direct a comprehensive integrated donor-centric stewardship plan to build donor trust and fulfillment through strategic and meaningful contact, experiences, and outstanding donor service.
  • Develop, implement, and manage institution-wide stewardship plan that includes continuous outreach to faculty and staff to ensure funds utilization compliance with donor intent; creating a centralized information hub to assist with crafting, deployment and tracking of donor acknowledgments; and customize donor events based on established cultivation and stewardship plans.
  • Work closely and collaboratively with the Gift Planning team to develop and implement an annual engagement plan for major and annual fund donors.
  • Manage all inventory of naming opportunities related to new and existing facilities, including oversight and project management related to the execution of donor communications and the installation of physical elements of donor recognition.
  • Develop and coordinate the timely delivery of comprehensive and engaging stewardship reports to donors, ensuring accurate reflection of the impact of their contributions. This includes gathering data, crafting personalized narratives, overseeing the production of supporting multimedia elements in partnership with UA Communications Team, and maintaining ongoing communication to foster strong, trusting donor relationships.
  • Create a quantitative and qualitative measurement system to evaluate the effectiveness and success of all stewardship and recognition programs utilizing the data to improve standards and further the success of fundraising goals.
  • Conduct routine analyses of applicable inter/intra departmental processes, policies, and related materials through the deployment of donor surveys and/or focus groups to understand and improve the donor experience and increase retention and giving.
  • Develop annual departmental goals, objectives, key performance metrics and associated budget which support the advancement of the Division’s mission.
  • Maintain working knowledge of industry best practices and standards to promote departmental longevity and divisional efficacy.


30% Donor Stewardship & Communication

  • The Director must create and maintain a positive and professional relationship between the university and its donors, alumni, and constituents; collaborate with various UA units to determine effective donor stewardship strategies; and elevate the overall philanthropic experience to support donor cultivation at NIU.
  • Serve as subject matter expert on donor guideline agreement process and implementation, in collaboration with the Gift Planning team, provides collaboration and training to division and university collaborators.
  • Utilize qualitative and quantitative inputs from a wide range of leaders across campus to inform and develop highly customized stewardship plans for lead and major gift donors, lifetime and deferred/bequest giving societies, and annual fund donors. Collaborate with UA Communications/Marketing and identify areas of integrated marketing opportunities to tell donor impact stories and emotionally connect donors to NIU.
  • Serve as primary stewardship portfolio manager for major donors assigned to Executive- and Senior-level gift officers. Facilitate and execute stewardship efforts for annual fund donors, lifetime donors and donors of deferred/bequest gifts.
  • Manage and maintain regular stewardship interactions and communications to demonstrate donor impact, foster meaningful relationships and cultivate donors to their highest level of philanthropy.
  • Lead the development and execution of strategic recognition and stewardship events, and programs for key donors and giving societies, in collaboration with UA Events Team and other necessary departments.
  • May serve on scholarship review committee, as needed.

10% People Management

  • The Director is responsible for the management of the Donor Relations Team, including day to day management and mentorship.
  • Actively participates in divisional initiatives and priorities to foster an engaged and motivated work environment.
  • Develops and participates in employee performance evaluation processes in relation to individual progress toward/achievement of departmental metrics as applicable. metrics-based goal setting with analytics supporting department prioritization and performance management and coordinate department resource planning and team management.


Education and Experience Required

  • Bachelor’s degree.
  • Three (3) or more years of Donor Relations experience in a nonprofit or university advancement environment.
  • Proficient user of Microsoft Office programs such as excel, SharePoint, Teams, etc.
  • Proficient user of constituent resource management tools such as Salesforce, Raiser’s Edge, etc.


Education and Experience Preferred

  • Experience working in a higher education environment.
  • Two (2) or more years of experience interacting with donors in live, virtual and phone settings.
  • Experience managing teams.
  • Familiarity with digital stewardship and engagement platforms such as ThankView, MailChimp, etc.
  • Membership and/or previous involvement with professional development organizations such as Association of Donor Relations Professionals, Donor Relations Guru, etc.
  • Experience working as part of a comprehensive campaign effort.

Physical Demands and Requirements

The physical demands described here are respective to those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to talk and hear. There is a high level of keyboarding and virtual meeting use. The employee may be required to walk; use fingers and hands to feel, grasp, operate or handle objects, tools, or controls; and reach with hands and arms. Must be able to lift and carry 20 lbs. regularly.

Hours: While established University office hours are 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, donor work may be professionally conducted at times and places consistent with donor availability. This may include nights, weekends, and trips outside the University’s primary locations (DeKalb, Naperville, Chicago). Therefore, some travel is required and a professional commitment to a variable schedule is required.

Specify the number of employees reporting directly to this position, including student employees: This position provides management for two direct reports, with potential for oversight of student workers.

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