Detroit Zoological Society
  • Development
  • Royal Oak, MI, USA
  • Salary
  • Full-time

Full medical, dental and 401k benefits. Generous paid time off, Zoo membership and more!

The Director of Individual Philanthropy is responsible for the planning and successful implementation of a comprehensive program to secure major gifts to DZS through the identification, qualification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of identified individual prospects and donors. S/he will also oversee the DZS's efforts to encourage and steward planned gifts. 

The Director will personally manage a portfolio of approximately 150 major gift donors and prospects and match their philanthropic interests with the organization's funding priorities, including advancement of its capital and programmatic plans, education, conservation, animal welfare and sustainability programs, and to grow its endowment.  S/he will also be responsible for coordinating efforts among all DZS staff who cultivate, solicit and steward major gift donors, and will directly supervise the manager of individual philanthropy. 

The Director will conduct multiple approaches simultaneously and will work with Board members, other volunteers and colleagues in cultivation and solicitation as appropriate.  S/he will organize and document these efforts utilizing the DZS prospect management system and donor database and will meet agreed-upon metrics for prospects under management, strategic contacts, face-to-face meetings, solicitations, and gifts secured.      

The Director of Individual Philanthropy will support, both publicly and privately, the principles of the Detroit Zoological Society. S/he will support and enhance a clean, safe, enjoyable, and educational experience at DZS facilities by actively engaging in the enforcement of Customer Service Standards, and specifically by knowing and understanding the Detroit Zoological Society's "SCOPE" of service, animal care, community relations and park appearance guidelines; by enforcing safety and security policies, and following all other policies set by the organization. The Director of Individual Philanthropy will maintain a professional manner when dealing with all constituencies and always preserve a high level of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality.

This job description is by no means all-inclusive and may be subject to change during a performance period due to the needs of the Detroit Zoological Society and its leadership. This document will be reviewed on a continual basis and will be modified as needed.

Authority and Accountability

The Director of Individual Philanthropy has the authority to carry out the job requirements and responsibilities and is accountable to the Chief Development Officer (CDO).

Principal Duties and Responsibilities

Responsible for securing major gifts from individuals for the Detroit Zoological Society's capital, programmatic and endowment priorities by planning and implementing a comprehensive major gifts program.

  • Prioritize, plan and execute strategies to secure major gift commitments (generally $50,000 and up) from past/current donors and members, and other prospects identified through prospect research or by Board members, Development Committee members, the Executive Director/CEO or CDO .
  • Ensure the coordination of DZS efforts designed to engage and advance the philanthropy of high-potential individual donors, and that these efforts move forward at an appropriate pace.
  • Meet with donors and prospects, provide tours and experiences, arrange opportunities to meet with DZS program staff, the Executive Director/CEO and/or the CDO in order to engage, cultivate and solicit prospective individual donors.
  • Prepare (or oversee preparation of) materials and briefings for engaging individual donors and prospects.
  • Meet established benchmarks in prospect management, face-to-face meetings, solicitations, stewardship and other actions as well as gifts secured (this applies to personal and team goals).
  • Organize, coordinate and document donor contact and plans using the DZS donor database and prospect management system.
  • Encourage and assist individuals in exploring, executing and documenting planned gifts.
  • Provide excellent stewardship for individual major gift donors, expressing gratitude for past support, conveying the impact of their giving, and ensuring that they remain connected to the DZS mission.
  • Maintain the integrity and confidentiality of the donor database.
  • Exercise sound judgement in the use of DZS resources to achieve goals and appropriately manage expenses related to the major gifts program.
  • Participate in DZS activities and events as required.
  • All other responsibilities and tasks as assigned by the Chief Development Officer.

Working Conditions

Regular work schedule fluctuates and will match the schedule of donor encounters and best hours to make contact with individual donors and prospects.  In addition, attendance at several seasonal weekend and evening events will be required.  The work environment is generally comfortable and most work is indoors although the position may require work outdoors with exposure to seasonal weather conditions for special events, tours, openings, etc.  This individual will be exposed to computer monitors and may have some exposure to outside weather conditions, as well as the output from air conditioning and heating systems and fluorescent lighting.

Physical Requirements

The Director of Individual Philanthropy must have the ability to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. This position requires the individual to sit for long periods of time as well as moderate physical effort on a daily basis such as walking, bending, stooping, and standing for an extended period of time. The Director of Individual Philanthropy must be able to use the telephone and computer, and be able to lift and move up to 20 pounds. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities Required


  • Bachelor's Degree in Philanthropic Studies, Communications, Public Relations, Journalism, English, or related field and ten years of fundraising experience.
  • Demonstrated record of accomplishment in major gifts fund development using sound fundraising principles and techniques.
  • Ability to think strategically while executing tactically in order to meet growing funding needs.
  • Superb written and verbal communication skills, with proven ability to represent DZS publicly, passionately and accurately to potential donors in person and through written communications.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to work with diverse constituencies and engage high-level volunteers and individual donors.
  • Strong organizational and time management skills; detail-oriented; good decision-making and problem-solving skills; excellent listening skills.
  • Familiarity with major gift program key performance indicators and an ability to meet them personally and to hold others accountable.
  • Initiative and independence in carrying out responsibilities, with the ability to thrive in a mission-driven environment with strong culture and values.
  • Aptitude for the management and effective use of information systems and technology in support of a major gifts program.
  • Computer proficiency in Word and other Office products, as well as a complex donor database and prospect management system.


  • Seven years' experience in coordinating and managing a charitable major gifts program, including the use of a prospect management system.
  • Experience in major gifts fundraising with a zoo, museum, cultural or educational institution.
  • Fundraising experience in metropolitan Detroit.
  • Professional writing experience in fund development.
  • Advanced expertise in using the Raiser's Edge or other advancement software.
  • Passionate commitment to the DZS mission, vision and strategic growth goals.
Detroit Zoological Society
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