Vice President of Development

Openlands, a Chicago based non-profit conservation organization, seeks a highly skilled individual to maintain and cultivate valued relationships with individuals and organizations who invest in Openlands’ efforts to preserve the natural open spaces of northeastern Illinois.

About Openlands:

Openlands was among the first urban conservation organizations in the country, beginning in 1963. The organization protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities.

Working at both a regional scale and within Chicago’s neighborhoods and utilizing a number of conservation tools—land acquisition, ecological restoration, community engagement and education, technical assistance and planning, and policy and advocacy―Openlands adopts and implements long-term solutions that balance the growth of our region with the responsibility to protect and care for our open spaces and natural resources for generations to come. In its 50+ years of work, Openlands has preserved thousands of acres of landscapes; Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, and park spaces of all sizes in Chicago and the suburbs.

With 28 professionals and an annual operating budget of $7M+, Openlands has an ambitious programmatic agenda. In Chicago we offer a range of programs including Birds in my Neighborhood—revealing nearby nature to children, Space to Grow—engaging communities in creating green and vibrant schoolyards, and tree planting and tree care throughout many neighborhoods. Across the region we acquire and restore land in Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, continue our years of work in the Calumet region, advocate for and protecting Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and lead efforts to ensure high-quality local farmland and local food.

Position Overview:

Openlands’ Board of Directors recognizes the ambitious programmatic agenda outlined above requires a skilled development team. Currently, the department has a staff of three plus an intern and is responsible for the oversight, planning, execution, and growth of a comprehensive development plan.

As part of Openlands’ Executive Team, the Vice President of Development contributes to the development of organization-wide strategies and direction, and ensures development objectives are aligned with Openlands’ strategic plan and annual work plans. Development strategies have included major gifts, foundation and corporate grants, planned gifts, campaigns, special events, and donor stewardship activities.

The VP of Development engages Openlands’ board and staff in identifying, cultivating, and stewarding donors. This includes encouraging and facilitating board members’ efforts to share their passion for the work of Openlands with others and engaging program staff in conversations with donors.

Reporting to the President & CEO, and in collaboration with senior staff, the VP of Development will build on the momentum of current fundraising efforts. S/he will lead the development staff and Board of Directors in raising the financial support required for operations, special projects, campaigns, endowments, and other initiatives. Moving forward, there is particular interest in launching a comprehensive campaign and broadening the base of individual donors.

The successful candidate must have a keen interest in the mission of Openlands and have demonstrated experience leading a fundraising program to raise funds from a variety of sources. S/he will also be comfortable soliciting gifts from a diverse set of donors and have significant experience overseeing a capital campaign. S/he must be independent, highly organized, extremely personable, comfortable with public speaking, and possess excellent written communication skills. The candidate must be adept at effectively managing multiple projects, budgets and staff, and should have familiarity with donor databases, non-profit financial best practices, and fundraising best practices.

Key Responsibilities:

Strategic Planning, Implementation, and Tracking

  • In partnership with the board, President & CEO, and other senior staff, contribute to the implementation of Openlands’ strategic plan
  • Develop and manage a capital campaign built around a portfolio of projects including land preservation, park and ecological restoration, urban tree planting, and the Lakeshore Preserve
  • Oversee the comprehensive fundraising plan that includes individual, foundation, corporate, planned gifts, and special event contributions
  • Track and evaluate all fund development activities and provide regular reports to the President & CEO, Board of Directors, and senior staff advising on areas of concern, providing strategies to accomplish goals
  • Develop and monitor budgets with the development team
  • Prepare annual budget and revenue projections, and track throughout the year in collaboration with President & CEO and Vice President of Finance

Staff Oversight and Engagement

  • Supervise and support a creative, energetic, and high-performing development team of staff and interns in carrying out the development objectives
  • Work closely with Openlands’ staff to understand and support program needs and identify fundraising opportunities
  • Support and develop staff’s ability to assist with fundraising

Board Support and Engagement

  • In partnership with the President & CEO, enhance Board engagement in donor identification, cultivation, and fundraising activities
  • Work with committees comprised of Board Members and other individuals on all aspects of a capital campaign
  • Prepare and present regular updates to the Board of Directors on development efforts
  • Manage Board recruitment efforts including candidate identification and cultivation
  • Facilitate meetings of the Development Committee of the Board as well as the Governance Committee of the Board

Key Requirements:

  • BA/BS degree required, advanced degree preferred, Certified Fund Raising Executive certification a plus
  • 10+ years of development, fundraising, executive-level non-profit management, or related experience with demonstrated experience in annual fundraising and capital campaigns; experience in all aspects of donor development, including planned giving, major gifts, and corporate and foundation giving, with a proven track record of donor identification and solicitation success
  • Familiarity and experience with the Chicago philanthropic community
  • Strong analytical, strategic thinking and management skills, including an understanding of non-profit financial statements
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills and ability to make compelling public presentations
  • Experience managing complex programs and balancing multiple priorities effectively
  • Experience with donor database and fundraising software a plus
  • Ability to work on diverse teams or with a diverse range of people

To Apply:

The search process will reinforce Openlands’ belief that achieving diversity requires an enduring commitment to inclusion that must find full expression in our organizational culture, values, norms, and behaviors. Throughout Openlands work, they support diversity in all forms, encompassing but not limited to age, ability, economic circumstance, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so interested parties are encouraged to apply early. Applications must include: 1) a cover letter that speaks to the ideal qualities and skills outlined in this position description; 2) a resume.

Applications should be sent with the subject line containing ‘Vice President of Development’ to

Openlands offers a complete benefits package and competitive salary commensurate with experience.

Openlands is an equal opportunity employer.