Position Opening: Senior Director of Development, Discovery Place

Position Description: Senior Director of Development


Client: Discovery Place
Location: 301 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
Founded:  1946
Reports To: Chief Advancement Officer

Discovery Place — Organizational Description

We inspire curious thinkers to discover the wonders of science, technology and nature.


Discovery Place is a private 501c(3) not-for-profit education organization dedicated to inspiring exploration of the natural and social world through extraordinary exhibitions and educational programs that inform, challenge and engage audiences of all ages. Discovery Place delivers its mission through 4 Museums –  Discovery Place Science, Discovery Place Nature, and Discovery Place Kids – Huntersville and Rockingham – as well as over 1,000 outreach programs each year.

Our Museums

As one of the leading hands-on science centers in the country, Discovery Place Science offers visitors the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a fun, interactive and informal setting. Located in one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas, Charlotte, N.C., Discovery Place offers a family-friendly experience surrounded by the excitement of a bustling urban community.

Visitors to Discovery Place Nature may walk among free-flying butterflies, observe live animals in their habitats, buzz around with insects or lounge in our planetarium. Daily programming including puppet shows and hands-on activities provide the opportunity for structured learning and informal play for the young and old alike.  The Museum is adjacent to Freedom Park and located in one of the community’s finest residential areas.

The first Discovery Place Kids museum opened in Huntersville, N.C., in October 2010, followed by our Kids -Rockingham location in 2013. Providing an extraordinary and rich play experience that engages children’s imagination and inspires learning, these museums are designed to serve children ages 0-5 and their parents or caregivers.

For the seventh consecutive year, Discovery Place was ranked the most visited museum and historic attraction in the Charlotte region by the North Carolina Museums and Historic Attractions Survey. Discovery Place saw 733,728 visitors in 2017, also making it one of the top five most visited attractions in the state. It was the only Charlotte institution to earn a spot in the top five.

Priority Initiatives

In 2014, Discovery Place launched its newest initiative, the Discovery Place Education Studio, a professional development center for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educators. The new professional development program has served nearly 11,000 educators since opening in July 2014 at Bank of America STEM Center for Career Development. Our educators alongside teachers, providing coaching and problem-based learning workshops that combine best practices in formal and informal education and offer teachers skills that can be adapted to meet the needs of their own classrooms.

Discovery Place also launched Welcome, a program that provides $1 Museum admission for families with EBT cards or WIC vouchers. Since launching in late December 2014, Welcome has already served 100,000+ people.

In late 2016, Discovery Place unveiled a new brand identity with new logos, websites and name changes in celebration of the organization’s 70th anniversary.  Discovery Place four regional museums as well as multiple education, professional development and community outreach programs were integrated under one brand called “Discovery Place,” a unified organization that provides STEM education to the Carolinas.  This included the renaming the science museum at 301 N Tryon St. in uptown Charlotte as Discovery Place Science, and the renaming of the Charlotte Nature Museum at 1658 Sterling Road adjacent to Freedom Park as Discovery Place Nature.

As Discovery Place looks to its future, we are planning for the reinvention of two of our facilities – Discovery Place Nature and Discovery Place Science.

Over 70 years ago, Discovery Place Nature (formerly the Charlotte Nature Museum) became the first nature museum in the southeast, giving rise to a science education movement in Charlotte. Today, the original institution is at risk of obsolescence, tucked away on the edge of one of Charlotte’s most visited parks and active greenways.  Lacking the ability to provide modern educational resources and the required space to effectively engage our growing region, the revitalization of this institution has become an urgent necessity.  In June 2017, Mecklenburg County included a $16 million allocation in their capital budget to build a new facility that can serve 160,000 visitors annually.  Discovery Place is privately raising an additional $19 million to fund the design, fabrication, and installation of the exhibits and animal experiences both inside and outside the facility, as well as to secure an endowment for the operations of this Museum.  The expected project completion date is 2021 – the 75th Anniversary of Discovery Place.

Simultaneously, this year Discovery Place received significant funding from the City of Charlotte to study its two-block campus in the heart of Uptown Charlotte.  As one of the gateway projects of the North Tryon Vision Plan (along with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), the new master plan will consider how a reimagined museum could interact with the existing streetscape and spur the growth of STEM education in the area.  The world-renowned design firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro will be partnering with the local firm of Jenkins Peer to create a masterplan and conceptual design, anticipated to be completed summer 2018.

The Role

The Senior Director of Development is responsible for leading annual support growth for Discovery Place (DP), which includes the management of the fundraising and membership programs.  The Senior Director of Development, in tandem with the Chief Advancement Officer, will be responsible for creating a climate of engagement with DP’s external constituencies that will encourage private philanthropy, corporate partnerships and government and foundation investments in support of DP and its programs. This includes the planning, organization, coordination and implementation of membership, fundraising and sponsorship programs as well as major fundraising events, to attract support from individuals, corporations, foundations and government to meet the annual operating needs of Discovery Place.

The Senior Director of Development works directly with donors and prospective donors, directs the fundraising and membership teams, and collaborates with other leaders throughout the organization to coordinate efforts and secure resources. The successful candidate will work closely with DP’s Chief Advancement Officer to foster the organization’s philanthropic culture, creating strategies for prospect identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship that leverage the organization’s significant human capital.

Professional Responsibilities

Development Planning

  • With the Chief Advancement Officer, craft annual development plans outlining strategies to sustain and increase annual support from individuals, corporations and foundations
  • Create multi-year strategies for implementing a moves management model of donor development, moving constituents from member to donor society member to major gift donor

Membership & Annual Fund Management

  • Lead the membership team (currently 10,000 members) assuring continued growth and retention of members
  • Oversee management of two annual fund giving societies – the Helix Society ($300-$750) and the Prism Society ($1,500+) – including planning and implementation of cultivation, solicitation and stewardship efforts
  • Manage a portfolio of 100 Prism Society prospects/donors annually
  • Oversee management of donor engagement activity including annual fundraiser (One Night Wonder), exhibition openings, Prism and Helix Society events, and membership events

Volunteer Management

  • Manage Trustee and volunteer engagement on Prism Society and One Night Wonder activity
  • Manage the Discovery Place Guild, a volunteer group that raises funds in support of our mission

Team Management

  • Supervise, mentor and lead three (3) direct reports (Manager of Individual Giving, Manager of Donor Engagement, and Director of Corporate Relations), who in turn lead a membership and annual fund team of five (5) full-time and one (1) part-time employees
  • Conduct annual evaluations of the membership and annual fund team staff members, suggesting ways to develop internal talent and providing corrective measures as needed

Development Systems Management

  • Ensure DP has a strong system for maintaining up-to-date and accurate records of contacts with donors and prospects, overseeing Altru CRM data systems and facilitating strong fidelity of data and timely use of reporting
  • Partner with Department Heads and staff leaders to ensure DPs goals and objectives are achieved, with particular focus on the Finance and Marketing Departments
  • Develop and manage an annual fund budget, achieving revenue and expense targets

Professional Development

  • Maintain fluency of trends in philanthropy
  • Actively participate in professional fundraising associations and industry groups to stay abreast of new practices and innovations in the development field, employing appropriate best practices at DP

Required Qualifications & Competencies

The ideal candidate would have the following capabilities and qualities:

  • Bachelor’s Degree required, with a preference for candidates with an advanced degree and/or continuing education in advancement, fundraising and philanthropy; CFRE designation is strongly preferred
  • 10 years + experience in development/fundraising
  • Extensive experience in managerial and leadership roles in development or a specific area of fundraising; experience with moves management fundraising strategies strongly preferred
  • Donor cultivation and solicitation experience required
  • Proven ability to work as a team player with diverse groups of people and excellence in managing and developing teams
  • Excellent interpersonal and customer service skills
  • Superior communication skills (written and verbal)
  • Highly motivated, action-oriented self-starter with strong organizational skills, especially planning and coordination. Ability to excel in a fast-paced environment
  • Excellent time and task management skills as evidenced by a proven ability to efficiently and effectively handle multiple tasks at the same time with appropriate delegation
  • High level of integrity, professional maturity and sound judgment
  • Availability to work outside of traditional business hours
  • Excellent skills and experience with Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook, working with databases and internet research; experience with Raiser’s Edge or Altru (Blackbaud) software a plus – but the ability to learn and become proficient with this dynamic software is a must
  • Decision-making skills in an ever-changing environment; ability to adapt, plan for and manage multiple projects in a fast-paced setting
  • Sense of humor, creativity and an appreciation of how philanthropy helps build community
  • Sound judgment in maintaining confidentiality of donor information
  • Passion for the mission of Discovery Place

Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience. Health and retirement benefits offered.

To Apply

Discovery Place is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to inclusive hiring and dedicated to diversity in its work and staff. Employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sex, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable state or federal law. Discovery Place, Inc. encourages candidates of all groups and communities to apply for this position.

Beginning November 27, 2017 all inquiries, nominations and applications are to be directed via email to Next Stage Consulting: search@nextstage-consulting.com.  Applications must include a cover letter and CV.  Please indicate in the subject line of your email the position and organization to which you are applying and where you learned of the opportunity. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE.

Please note that only those candidates invited for screening will be contacted.

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