Aspen Leadership Group Seeks Chief Development Officer for Denver Zoological Foundation

December 6, 2018 – Aspen Leadership Group, an executive search firm that specializes in recruiting top talent for philanthropic organizations, has been enlisted to find a chief development officer for the Denver Zoological Foundation (Denver Zoo) in Colorado.

The CDO will be charged with providing strategic and tactical leadership on all Denver Zoo fundraising, said the search firm, also based in Aspen. As an external ambassador, the CDO 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. The individual 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. Other duties include assuming responsibility for hiring, managing and evaluating staff and providing leadership to staff and volunteers within the development department.

The CDO will report to the Denver Zoo’s president and chief executive officer. “This position allows for the zoo to engage and connect with the community, build relationships, and help achieve its mission,” said Aspen Leadership Group. “Combined with strong earned revenues, governmental support, the development efforts can help the zoo continue to be a leader in animal care, conservation and education.”

“This person will help take a program that is in its infancy to a leadership program,” said the search firm. “The Denver Zoo is one of the most recognized and respected organizations both locally and nationally. With a new CEO that embraces fundraising, a new master plan, and many other efforts in place, the selected candidate will have many of the critical tools needed to build a successful program.”

Mission Oriented

Qualifications for the role include: the ability to act as a results-oriented and collaborative member of the CEO’s senior leadership team; the ability to thrive in a mission-oriented environment and be motivated by the zoo’s mission and brand; experience cultivating multi-million-dollar gifts, including supporting donor strategies, solicitation approaches, and donor stewardship; and demonstrated case histories of closing gifts.

Candidates should be comfortable working in the non-profit world, said Aspen Leadership Group. Capital campaign experience is required, as is a range of experience including major gifts, corporate and foundation giving, planned giving and a track record of results across all these areas.


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Other qualifications include: strong planning and analytical skills, and proven experience in developing and effectively implementing an organization-wide development plan; success working closely with and building executive team, board, and staff relationships including examples of working with diverse groups; and strong communication skills, both verbal and written, effective across a variety of constituencies including donors, corporate partners, and community partners.

Candidates should also have: 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. A bachelor’s degree is required for the CDO role, as is a minimum of seven to 10 years of professional experience in development and fundraising for not-for-profit organizations. A minimum of five years of management experience is also needed. An advanced degree or professional fundraising certification is preferred.

Philanthropic Specialists

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, which was 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

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