January 7, 2019 – Major gifts officers are among the most vital roles for medical research organizations. The position involves identifying potential donors, cultivating relationships and, above all, garnering much-needed contributions from key supporters.
Recruitment firms that can find the right person for this top-level fundraising position are much-valued partners of not-for-profits everywhere. And for recruiters, the business of finding major gift officers is booming. Recently, Tom Rosenwald and Deborah Carroll of executive search firm Buffkin / Baker were tapped to find the next major gifts officer for Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
Weill Cornell’s major gift officer plays an important role in expanding the organization’s capacity to take full advantage of its leadership and philanthropic opportunities, said Buffkin/ Baker. The position’s primary focus is identifying, cultivating, soliciting, closing and stewarding principal gifts ($100,000 and up). The major gifts officer will report to the senior principal gifts officer and work closely with faculty, volunteers (e.g., board members) and staff to develop principal gift opportunities.
The Right Candidate
Buffkin Baker said that the right candidate will have about three to five years of direct fundraising experience, preferably in an academic/medical setting or a comparable environment. The individual must have flexibility and skill in working with physicians, colleagues and donors in a complex organization as well as a strong grasp of fundraising concepts. Fundraising experience in an academic medical setting is important for this role and experience with fundraising database programs such as BBEC, Raiser’s Edge and Benefactor is highly desired.
Founded in 1898, Weill Cornell Medicine is among the top-ranked clinical and medical research centers in the country. In addition to offering degrees in medicine, Weill Cornell also has doctorate programs in biomedical research and education at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. And with neighboring Sloan-Kettering Institute and the Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medicine has established a joint M.D.-Ph.D. program for students to intensify their pursuit of Weill Cornell’s triple mission of education, research and patient care.
Buffkin / Baker is a specialty boutique search firm composed of industry leaders in their respective fields, with each having over a decade of retained search experience. Their focus as search professionals is to recruit leaders in digital marketing/advertising, technology, healthcare, media/entertainment, finance, higher education and non-profit. The firm serves public, private, venture and private equity-backed companies. Its office locations include Nashville, New York, Washington, D.C., and Winston Salem, with affiliate offices in London. The company is a member of Panorama Search, an international federation of retained firms with 18 firms and over 30 offices globally.
Mr. Rosenwald serves as a partner in the firm’s marketing services practice focusing on senior level search in corporate, digital, and mass marketing communications. He is engaged in board, executive and senior level assignments both nationally and internationally for a wide range of private, public, venture-backed, and private equity-backed companies. Mr. Rosenwald is also involved in business development and client management for the firm.
Ms. Carroll joined Buffkin Baker as a principal in July. Previously, she worked with MediaLink, a global group of industry experts in the media, marketing, advertising, entertainment and technology sectors. She built the group’s retained executive search practice, recruiting “firsts” for clients ranging from AT&T and GE to Maker Studios, Twitter, the Guardian and many more. In her career, Ms. Carroll has identified and recruited talent in consumer products, management consulting, worldwide financial services, manufacturing, publishing, telecommunications, healthcare, as well as domestic energy (gas, electric, nuclear).
Unique Role, Growing In Prominence
Major gifts are the largest donations an organization receives. Major gift officers lead all major giving areas for non-profits and fundraising organizations. From identification to cultivation to solicitation to stewardship, they build relationships with prospective donors.
Major gift officers at a large non-profit are likely to be part of a team of officers, whereas a smaller organization might have an existing staff member take on the responsibilities.
Here is a sampling of a few search firms that have been tapped to find new major gift officers for organizations from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:
Aspen, CO-based Aspen Leadership Group was selected by Ithaca College to lead its efforts to find a new major gifts officer. Ithaca’s major gift officer is expected to be a front-line fundraiser with the responsibility of managing a portfolio of prospects made up of alumni, parents and friends with the giving potential of $100,000.
Development Guild DDI recruited Peter Trainor as the major gifts officer for the Pine Street Inn in Boston. Pine Street was looking for an executive with four to seven years of progressively responsible experience in a successful individual giving program as well as a proven track record in managing individual relationships and securing five-six figure gifts.
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