March 5, 2019 – Virtually every industry needs top-drawer chief development officers. CDOs play a key role in planning, coordinating and administering capital campaigns, corporate giving and galvanizing new donors while keeping previous funders content. Implementing funding strategies that “keep the lights on,” according to recruiters specializing in the function, is job one.
Recently, Aspen Leadership Group, an executive search firm that specializes in recruiting top talent for philanthropic organizations, placed fundraising veteran Noelle DeLage as the new chief development officer for the Denver Zoological Foundation (Denver Zoo).
“We have ambitious plans to improve and modernize the zoo over the coming months and years, and Noelle will play a critical role in helping generate the support that moves those projects along,” said Bert Vescolani, president and CEO of the Denver Zoo. “Noelle is an accomplished fundraiser who brings exceptional creativity, experience, energy and community knowledge to the zoo.”
The Denver Zoo wanted an individual with a track record of taking organizations to the next level through strong development initiatives; experience in the development and implementation of budgets, budget management and grant development; and respect for confidentiality.
Ms. DeLage fit that bill. She has spent more than 20 years in various development and fundraising positions. She started her career with the Denver Art Museum, and most recently worked as assistant vice chancellor of advancement at the University of Colorado Denver. There, she led a major gifts team that contributed significantly to the highest fundraising totals in the university’s history, and secured the institution’s largest estate gift to transform international programs for architecture students.
As CDO, Ms. DeLage will be charged with providing strategic and tactical leadership on all Denver Zoo fundraising. As an external ambassador, she will be expected to advance the non-profit’s mission and goals by actively participating on its executive leadership team to execute the vision and strategic direction for the future of the zoo. Ms. DeLage will also be instrumental in planning, organizing and implementing a range of fundraising programs that will enable Denver Zoo to obtain capital improvement, operating and endowment resources.
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“There is so much positive energy among the leadership, staff and board members at Denver Zoo right now,” said Ms. DeLage. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to deepen the zoo’s connection to the community and increase philanthropic support for animal care, conservation, education and facilities.”
The Denver Zoo is among the most popular cultural attractions in Colorado. It traces its origins to the donation of an orphaned American black bear cub to the mayor of Denver in 1896. The mayor then gifted the cub to the keeper of Denver’s City Park, who founded the zoo with this animal, soon joined by monkeys, elk, bison and birds. With the opening of the zoo’s first designed exhibit in 1918, Bear Mountain, Denver Zoo became the first American institution to use naturalistic enclosures rather than cages with bars or fences. In 1956, the zoological foundation assumed fiduciary, operational, management and fundraising responsibilities for the zoo. Through the help of donors and support from the six-county Denver metro area’s cultural tax, Denver Zoo has evolved into a dynamic campus in Denver’s City Park. Increasingly, and with strong support from the board, Denver Zoo is integrating its conservation and sustainability work in the field with its collections, activities and messaging at home.
Aspen Leadership Group, established in 2013, conducts searches for board members, presidents, executive directors, chief development and advancement officers, and development and advancement professionals.
Founder Ronald Schiller has 26 years of experience in executive search, fundraising and administration of non-profit institutions. Mr. Schiller is a nationally recognized advisor to presidents, board members and other leaders in higher education, arts and cultural organizations, healthcare and social and community services. His focus is executive search and strategic consulting. In this capacity, he draws on his long experience as a fundraising leader, executive team member, board member and search consultant.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media