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Job Title:
Director of Advancement, IL-0301-00; $135,468 - $273,700 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund- Indefinite (Non-Federal)
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all qualified candidates.

Note: First consideration may be made 14 days following the opening of this vacancy.


The SAO seeks candidates for its inaugural Director of Advancement, the lead executive responsible for conceptualizing, organizing, and implementing a comprehensive and strategic fundraising program in support of the SAO’s mission, and strategic priorities. This constitutes a unique, high-profile opportunity for a fundraising leader to help bring to fruition the next generation of ground and space-based telescopes. The Director of Advancement will be a trusted partner to the SAO Director in collaborating with, cultivating, and soliciting the active support and involvement of the SAO advisory board and donors in philanthropic activities, including high-priority leadership and principal gifts. The Director of Advancement will oversee the SAO advancement team’s work and ongoing expansion, as well as collaborate with other colleagues both at SAO and across the Smithsonian’s Office of Advancement to plan, direct, and optimize fundraising strategies and initiatives. The SAO advancement team currently includes an Assistant Director of Advancement. Advancement positions are ready to be recruited to support foundation and corporate grant management, principal gifts, membership and online giving operations, gift processing, and prospect management. SAO’s advancement staff will grow each year to meet its ambitious fundraising goals.


The Director of Advancement has overall responsibility to plan, direct, implement, and evaluate the annual and long-range fundraising activities for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The Director of Advancement is responsible for managing and coordinating all aspects of a development program designed to advance the SAO mission and goals. The incumbent supervises a team of staff in development operations and programs and works closely with the Director to solicit the active support and involvement of the Advisory Board. The Director of Advancement reports to the SAO Director. Working with the Director, Deputy Director, and Associate Directors, the Director for Advancement is a member of SAO’s executive leadership team and works closely with the senior management team to set priorities, formulate policy, and develop strategies to accomplish SAO’s strategic goals for research, collections, and public outreach.


Program Management: 

  • Provides expert advice to the Director on all aspects of fundraising and advancement, makes substantial recommendations for policy changes and new program directions; plans, establishes and leads major fundraising initiatives to support the broad and ever-evolving programmatic needs of the SAO.
  • Serves as the principal fund-raising officer for SAO. Assist the Director by setting fund-raising goals and managing resources to ensure those goals are met. Manages cultivation, solicitation and stewardship through a team of advancement officers.
  • Develops solicitation strategies and coordinates implementation by department gift officers, the SAO Director, other senior staff, Advisory Board and key volunteers.
  • Maintains a rigorous commitment to frontline fundraising for SAO priorities. Works with Smithsonian Institution advancement leadership to develop targets and opportunities for Smithsonian campaigns.
  • Manages a personal portfolio of prospects and donors at the highest levels of giving capacity, including both individual and institutional sources, as well as provide strategy and direction over the full SAO portfolio.

Strategic Planning:

  • Serves as the senior fundraising authority for SAO, counseling senior scientists and other staff on matters relating to private funding, advising which funding sources might be appropriate for particular projects and the best manner of approaching them.
  • Regularly briefs senior staff on fundraising plans, priorities and activities; reviews staff contacts with outside parties to identify possible cultivation and stewardship opportunities; and advises and assists other department staff in donor engagement. In this capacity, coordinates work of other staff planning for and securing private support for major initiatives.
  • Provides strategic focus and tactical direction for the campaign and annual development operation. Develops the overall strategic plan for a campaign model that supports the overall mission of the organization; and involves all staff and volunteers in the planning and development process to utilize their expertise and cultivate their support.
  • Engages and collaborates with the Smithsonian Institution in building consensus in support of the Smithsonian Institution campaign and the SAO mission.

Supervision and Department Management:

  • Directs the Office of Advancement, performing all supervisory duties to include hiring, managing and coaching staff members, establishing performance goals, approving leave, taking disciplinary actions if necessary, and monitoring activities and outcomes.
  • Liaises with the Director, board members and volunteers with donor engagement efforts and solicitation plans. Assists in staffing the SAO advisory board and its development committee to develop and maintain their role as volunteer fundraisers.
  • Collaborates with development partners in other Smithsonian units, and with the Smithsonian Office of Advancement development program to ensure coordination of fundraising processes.
  • Collaborates with other senior SAO leaders and professional staff to ensure that resource allocations and external communications are integrated with SAO program objectives.
  • Communicates to staff, external constituents and partners the overall needs, purpose and goals of fundraising. Ensures the highest quality for necessary communications and reports for internal and external constituencies, proposals and presentations to prospective donors.
  • Establishes a positive and engaging leadership style that emphasizes open, transparent and clear communication. Coaches and counsels staff and encourages a supportive team-based approach to planning and implementation, introducing and readjusting operations to meet strategic plan initiatives and fundraising goals.
  • Maintains a positive and inclusive workplace culture within the advancement team. Relates well to people from varied backgrounds and different situations; is sensitive to cultural diversity, race, gender, disabilities, and other individual differences. Complies with all laws, regulations, and agency policies regarding the treatment and acceptance of all individuals and protection of civil rights.


The successful candidate will possess the following skills and experience:

  • An advanced degree and strong academic credentials that will be credible to donors and other stakeholders is preferred.  Must display a passion for astronomy, although an academic background in astronomy is not required.
  • Progressively responsible experience in development leadership positions, which includes work in all functional areas (individual giving, institutional giving, annual giving, planned giving, stewardship, Board relations) and participation in a major capital campaign (planning, implementation, management and successful conclusion) preferably within a large major cultural institution, nonprofit organization, educational institution, or other environment of similar complexity. 
  • Demonstrated ability to provide management oversight, leadership, and direction with at least 5 years of supervisory experience preferred, including experience creating and managing a budget.  Demonstrate a strong record of recruiting and developing exceptional people and fostering a transparent work environment where collegiality is a key to success.
  • A proven and inspirational frontline major gifts fundraiser with a long track record of success in securing six and seven-figure gifts and greater. Demonstrated strength in prospect discovery and in building effective strategies to compel new major donor targets to invest in the museum’s programs and mission. Experience in translating annual giving strategies that groom the next generation of leadership and major gift donors.
  • Particular strength in developing the case for support and strategic, complex, and innovative fundraising plans, and executing against those plans to achieve goals and objectives. Experience working directly with the most senior levels of an organization is very important, as is the ability to effectively strategize and engage various groups and constituents.
  • Direct experience in international fundraising and the cultural sensitivity it requires; a global orientation and knowledge of strategies and trends in global philanthropy. Must have experience working with individual and institutional donors on a global scale.
  • Demonstrated ability in planning and executing integrated, strategic communications in support of achieving fundraising goals. Experience identifying and coaching project spokespeople. A functional understanding of how to effectively leverage various communication mediums and distribution channels for optimal exposure and impact.
  • Experience identifying, nurturing, and working with Board members and other museum supporters, and an appreciation for their role in building an effective fundraising network.
  • The ability to extract and analyze data to make effective, efficient decisions about donor strategy and process. A working knowledge of modern data management practices and techniques, including database information systems, data modeling, and analysis. Familiarity with technology and other innovations that can streamline the development process and contribute to the integration of advancement functions.

Qualification standards can be found:

Please submit your resume and proof of education if substituting education for experience.

Please submit your resume and cover letter detailing how you meet the requirements of the position.
We are only accepting applications online for this position. To apply please visit:

Conditions of Employment:

  • Successful completion of pre- and post-employment background investigation.
  • May be required to serve a one-year probationary period.
  • Direct Deposit/Elect Funds Transfer required for salary payment.
  • Incumbent of this position will be required to file a Confidential Statement of Employment and Financial Interests (SI Form 1085) following appointment.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

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