Senior Director, External Relations

  • Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  • La Jolla, San Diego, CA, USA
  • Sep 18, 2020
Full time   Development/Advancement/Fund Raising

Job Description



Application Instructions:

Employment History Include your last ten (10) years of employment history, or length of your employment history if less, including all position (even those that are not relevant to this position) and periods of unemployment. Incomplete information could disqualify you from further consideration.


Reporting directly to the Vice President, External Relations (VPER), the Senior Director, External Relations (SDER) will have the responsibility of building a major and principal gifts program ($100,000+ gifts)  for individual, foundation and corporate donors primarily to the Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI) at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, as well as other initiatives and fundraising programs as assigned. The SDER will create strategies and implement plans for the identification, cultivation, solicitation and tracking of prospects and donors of 6-, 7- and 8-figure potential. Working closely with the VPER, External Relations colleagues, key faculty and senior administrators, the SDER will pursue fundraising strategies to gain access to high net worth donors and prospects on a local, national and potentially international level, and may be expected to travel to represent the Institute. The SDER will supervise and mentor a team of three front-line fundraisers, one Development Specialist and one Development Coordinator.


Portfolio Management (80%)

  • Working with the VPER, creates a plan to identify, cultivate and solicit individuals of a high net worth and demonstrated capacity in San Diego and other cities with Salk constituents and potential prospects for HPI. Sets clear annual fundraising goals in the 6-, 7- and 8-figure range and uses established plan to support and meet goals.
  • Works with Foundation Relations team to develop strategies for identifying and securing principal gifts from assigned foundations.
  • Creates and implements exclusive programs and pipeline-building events centered on HPI and other scientific priorities of the Institute that further the engagement of high net worth prospects with the Salk.
  • Works collaboratively with the VPER, senior faculty, the Senior VP of Finance and Administration (SrVP) and the President to provide greatest exposure of the Institute leadership to the prospect/donor base.
  • Builds a personal prospect portfolio and establishes annual fundraising benchmarks and goals, both individual and team, by which achievement can be measured.
  • Works with Director, Development Services and the Prospect Research Analyst to explore new methods of prospect identification and cultivation.
  • Supports the development of short-term and long-range cultivation strategies and solicitation timelines for major gift prospects.
  • Serves as Salk ambassador in community, introducing and engaging contacts and network with the Institute, connecting them with programmatic entry points. Works up pipeline strategically and deliberately.
  • Identifies and cultivates strategic corporate partnerships for the Institute.
  • Prepares proposals and solicitation materials, as needed.
  • Strategically designs and arranges appropriate opportunities for the VPER, the SrVP, the President and senior faculty to meet with donors and volunteers; designs interactions to increase interest in and support of the Salk initiatives.
  • Works collaboratively with Communications, Planned Giving, Annual Giving and Foundation Relations to create strategies that ensure consistent and seamless best practices in relation to donors.
  • Works with Donor Relations to create and implement a successful stewardship program to ensure regular contact with major donors through various activities and communications. Extends the courtesies of the Institute to donors and volunteers as appropriate. Provides vehicles for donors’ continued awareness of current needs and objectives in order to encourage continued giving.
  • Works collaboratively with Development Services to ensure planning and implementation are based on best available research and activities are efficiently and effectively tracked for pipeline development.

Supervision and Program Management (20%)

  • Provides supervision and mentoring to the Director, Annual Giving, Director, Special Giving, Associate Director, External Relations, Development Specialist, and Development Coordinator. Additional supervisory responsibilities may evolve.
  • Provides oversight of the programs and events of entire team purview.
  • Provides project management, direction and fundraising expertise for Salk, including prospect identification, qualification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. Designs appropriate strategies to achieve goals and provide reports on fundraising for specific projects.
  • Working with the Senior Director, External Relations Administration, creates and maintains a strategic budget plan that uses allocated resources most advantageously.
  • Participates in External Relations Senior Management Team and Frontline Fundraisers meetings on a regular basis.
  • Represents External Relations on occasional Institute-wide committees.
  • Develops and maintains a climate supportive of skill and knowledge enhancement; communicates career development opportunities to staff.
  • Screens applications, interviews candidates and either makes selection decisions or recommends individuals for hire.
  • Trains and assigns work to new and continuing employees. Provides guidance on performance standards and Institute policies and procedures. Independently conducts performance evaluations, including communication with subordinate.
  • Makes recommendations for employee salary increases, bonuses, and promotions.
  • Determines what discipline should be imposed for subordinates, with authority to apply such.




  • 7+ years’ experience in development, with significant history of major gifts work and achievement. This includes working with the public in cultivation, gift solicitations, stewardship and donor recognition.
  • Demonstrated success at raising major gifts ($100,000+) in development and implementation of strategic solicitation plans that incorporate a concise definition of goals, targeted audiences and strategies in line with an institution’s goals and initiatives.
  • Proven success in writing proposals directed to individuals, foundations and corporations.
  • Demonstrated knowledge in the technique of donor prospect research with the ability to extract the pertinent/critical information from various sources.
  • 5+ years’ experience with supervision and budget management.


  • Knowledge of foundational research and experience in fundraising for biomedical or health related research.
  • Prior experience in a larger (500+) non-profit organization.




  • Bachelor's degree from a fully accredited academic institution.




  •  Demonstrated knowledge, accountability and comprehension skills to strategically plan and determine priorities for projects, programs and activities appropriate to major gift fundraising.
  • Demonstrated ability to develop and implement persuasive cultivation ideas and techniques for prospects and donors.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of sophisticated electronic databases, gift recording and accounting systems used for institutional fundraising programs.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, with excellent grammar and syntax usage; ability to make presentations to constituents.
  • Ability to inspire confidence by displaying a strong sense of ethical conduct that will effectively motivate and persuade diverse groups.
  • Demonstrated ability to maintain confidentiality and to use good judgment, discretion and sensitivity while handling development issues.
  • Good interpersonal skills, self-confidence and ability to be flexible and to manage complex situations.
  • Ability and willingness to travel.



  • Must have access to reliable transportation and a California driver's license.
  • Occasional evening and weekend work is required to attend donor events.
  • Travel is required.
  • Must be willing to work in an animal-related research environment.
  • Satisfactory completion of the lnstitute's background investigation.


This position requires constant adjusting focus, grasping, hearing, keying, seeing, sitting, talking, analyzing, calculating, communicating, reading, reasoning, writing and working inside. 


Application Details

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