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Senior Director for Advancement

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
New York, United States
Salary Not specified
Posted Date
Jun 17, 2024

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Position Type
Animal Protection, Education, Research
Employment Type
Full Time


Founded more than 100 years ago by pioneering Cornell University ornithologist Dr. Arthur A. Allen, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Lab) is an independent administrative unit of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dedicated to advancing the understanding and protection of the natural world, the Lab joins with people from all walks of life to make new scientific discoveries, share insights, and galvanize conservation action. It brings together world-class science, teaching, and public engagement with the agility and real-world impact of a nonprofit organization to meet its mission of interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

The Lab’s Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity is home to a community of 250+ faculty, scientists, postdocs, students, and staff members, including professionals in ornithology, animal behavior, bioacoustics, citizen science, conservation science, data science and statistics, ecology, evolutionary biology, community engagement, fundraising, marketing, multimedia productions, online and K-12 education, science communication, technical hardware and software engineering, and app development.

Dedicated to science, service, and impact, the Lab is an expert and trusted voice and partner for communities around the globe. The Lab leverages the benefits of being part of a top research university and the freedom to pursue its mission-driven goals through a nimble, entrepreneurial culture of innovation, discovery, and service. It maintains close academic and collaborative relationships with many individuals and departments across Cornell University, both at the Main Campus in Ithaca and at the Cornell Tech Campus in New York City, as well as with hundreds of other academic and nonprofit institutions worldwide. Its engaged Administrative Board consists of local, national, and international civic leaders, business executives, marketers, philanthropists, and scientists, linked by their shared passion for nature, science, and the inspirational roles birds can play in conservation.

The Cornell Lab engages millions of people around the world in learning about birds, contributing citizen-science data, and supporting conservation. The Lab serves communities of nature lovers, birdwatchers, citizen-science participants, K-12 teachers, underserved communities, and lifelong learners united by its mission to celebrate and protect birds. The Lab also serves academics, conservationists, policy makers, and corporate partners who help advance scientific discoveries and conservation impact. The Lab has reached 45 million visitors on its digital platforms ( and, and the Merlin Bird ID mobile app has been downloaded 17 million times. More than 983,000 citizen-science participants from every country in the world have contributed over 1.7 billion observations to and to other citizen-science projects powering groundbreaking science and conservation initiatives. More than 350,000 lifelong learners have enrolled in the Lab’s Bird Academy classes, and more than 190,000 members and donors financially support its mission, 97% of whom are not Cornell alumni or parents. The Lab has already exceeded the $250 million goal for its “Spark Campaign,” securing $271 million as of April 2024 (well in advance of the campaign’s anticipated close in 2026) and an average of $58.2 million in new gifts and commitments each year over the last three fiscal years. The campaign is part of Cornell University’s broader five-year, $5 billion campaign, “To Do the Greatest Good.”

The Lab is seeking a Senior Director for Advancement to provide overall leadership and direction for fundraising, branding, marketing, and communications. The Senior Director works with the Lab’s dynamic, multidisciplinary teams as well as with partners in the central Division of Alumni Affairs and Development and in University Relations to advance the Lab’s global-scale mission at a time of tremendous urgency and consequence for public engagement and conservation action. The Lab’s strategic plan calls for the organization to broaden its audiences and donor base to include and engage people of diverse cultures and lifestyles in learning and scientific discovery – and to galvanize the ability to inspire philanthropy and on-the-ground action as well as to influence policy and public opinion through data-intensive science, powerful visualizations, inspiring multimedia and storytelling, and creative partnerships. The Senior Director will supervise, mentor, and motivate the Advancement group staff of 40+ (including six direct reports).

While a broad range of backgrounds will be considered, the ideal candidate will have the following qualifications/experience:

  • Passion for the missions of the Cornell Lab and Cornell University, knowledge of birds and/or nature highly preferred.
  • Minimum of 7-10 years of experience in progressively responsible development leadership positions, which includes work in all functional areas of development and leadership of a major capital campaign. Experience in conservation and knowledge of trends in environmental partnerships, fundraising, and communications preferred but not required.
  • Demonstrated track record of successful frontline fundraising for an institution of higher education, nonprofit organization, or other environment of similar complexity with multiple stakeholders. Previous work experience in a hybrid centralized-decentralized fundraising model preferred.
  • Hands-on major and principal gift experience, including cultivation through solicitation and stewardship, as well as experience working with planned giving, corporate and foundation relations, and marketing and annual fund strategies for developing the next generation of leadership donors.
  • Particular strength in developing strategic and comprehensive fundraising and communications plans, executing against these plans to achieve goals and objectives, developing fundraising and communications strategies, and creating and managing a budget is critical; experience working directly with the most senior levels of an organization is very important.
  • A strong record of recruiting and developing exceptional people and fostering a transparent work environment where collegiality is key to success; five-plus years of significant supervisory experience preferred.
  • Ability to develop trust and strong collaborative working relationships; experience nurturing and motivating high-level volunteers and expressing appreciation for their role in building an effective network.
  • Experience in international fundraising and communications, and the cultural sensitivity it requires, knowledge of the players, strategies, and trends in global philanthropy.
  • Strong computer skills, which should include desktop software, databases, and networked information systems; familiarity with technology and other innovations that can streamline the development and communications process and contribute to the integration of advancement functions.
  • Bachelor’s degree.

Download the full position description via the following link:

The Cornell Lab is committed to fostering a healthy workplace that values diverse perspectives and backgrounds as well as supporting growth and advancement opportunities. The Lab is an inclusive community, and we recognize that diverse, inclusive communities create more innovative and impactful work to address global challenges and benefit humanity and nature. The Lab welcomes staff who are still learning in their careers and who are motivated to take on new challenges in all aspects of professional development and mentorship.

Cornell University embraces diversity and seeks candidates who will contribute to a climate that supports students, faculty and staff of all identities and backgrounds. We strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented and/or marginalized identities to apply.
Cornell Core Values

The annual salary for the role is currently anticipated to range from $235,000 to $250,000 depending on relevant work experience, education, and unique applicable skills.

Visa sponsorship is not available for this position.

Cornell University has retained the DSG Fundraising & Advancement Practice of the Diversified Search Group to assist in this confidential search process. Inquiries, nominations, and applications (current resumes and cover letters) may be submitted via the following link or directed to the leader of the search team:

Gerard F. Cattie, Jr.
Managing Director and DSG Fundraising & Advancement Practice Leader
Diversified Search Group
The Chrysler Building, 405 Lexington Avenue, 49th Floor, New York, New York 10174 | 212.542.2587

Candidates should also click here to complete Cornell University’s voluntary Equal Employment Opportunity survey for the position of Senior Director of Advancement, noting the requisition #WDR-00045693 and posting date of 6/21/2024 for this opportunity with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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