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Major Gifts Officer

Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX

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The University

The vision for Southern Methodist University (SMU) has always been bold. It is an enduring aspect of SMU’s character, exemplified by its mission to create, expand, and impart knowledge through teaching, research, and service, shaping world changers who contribute to their communities and excel in their professions in a global society. Founded in 1911, this nationally ranked comprehensive research university with a liberal arts tradition empowers the bold, curious, and creative with limitless opportunities to effect real change and solve 21st-century problems. 

As president of SMU since 1995, R. Gerald Turner is leading an era of unprecedented progress. President Turner’s tenure has included two highly successful major gift campaigns: The Campaign for SMU: A Time to Lead (1997 – 2002), followed by SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign (2008 – 2015). Together, these historic major gift campaigns raised more than $1.6 billion for student scholarships, endowed faculty positions, academic programs, and capital projects, including new academic, student life, and athletics facilities.  SMU is about to embark on the public phase of a third comprehensive campaign.

The optimistic outlook of Dallas is at the heart of SMU, and SMU’s enterprising spirit has helped shape Dallas into a global gateway for people of all backgrounds who want to change the world. The 234-acre main campus near the heart of Dallas is a vibrant environment of energy and creativity. Through its eight schools, SMU boosts intellectual capital and shapes future leaders by attracting exceptional students, faculty, and staff. The spark of innovation powers an academic enterprise that spans the arts, business, engineering, humanities, law, sciences, teaching, and theology. It also promotes data literacy across disciplines and ignites the vast potential at the intersection of data science, high-speed computing, gaming, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence to fuel research, creative scholarship, and transformative teaching. As Dallas’ university, SMU offers students life-changing access to the future-forward momentum of Big D – one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions – for incredible learning, research, social, and career opportunities.

Campus Profile

Today, SMU is home to a student body of more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students – from all 50 states and 83 countries who take advantage of small classes, hands-on research opportunities, leadership development, community service, and innovative programs. Students of color constitute more than 31 percent of the student body. Forty-nine percent of undergraduates and 48 percent of graduate students are female. More than half of undergraduates are from outside Texas. Three out of four undergraduate students receive grants and/or scholarships. Among students reporting a religious preference, 28 percent are Catholic, 14 percent are Methodist, 46 percent are from other

Protestant denominations, and 12 percent represent other faiths (including Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism).

As home to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, SMU is the only private university with a presidential library on its main campus. The Bush Center serves as a resource for the study of the life and career of the 43rd president of the United States and promotes an understanding of the Presidency, American history, and important issues of public policy.

Well into its second century of achievement, SMU upholds a steadfast commitment to its mission. The aspirations and optimism that led to the school’s founding more than a century ago continue to drive the future-focused academic enterprise, shaping world changers – the problem solvers, the influencers, and the leaders who will make an impact around the globe.

Under the leadership of President R. Gerald Turner, SMU has made unparalleled progress in academic quality, infrastructure, and financial strength, and seeks to advance even more in the years to come. To that end, the school’s Strategic Plan 2016 – 2025 outlines University objectives to be achieved by 2025 and maps six enduring goals: to enhance the academic quality and stature of the University; to improve teaching and learning; to strengthen scholarly research, creative achievement, and opportunities for innovation; to sustain student development and a supportive campus experience; to broaden global perspectives; and to increase revenue generation and promote responsible stewardship of resources.

The Opportunity


Reporting to the Assistant Vice President of Principal & Major Gifts, the Major Gifts Officer is a fundraising, portfolio-driven position with prospect management responsibilities including qualification, cultivation, solicitation & stewardship of prospective & current donors for major gifts exceeding $100,000. The portfolio will be broad-based to solicit gifts for any fundraising priority, but may also focus on a U.S. geographic region, constituency and/or funding initiative; therefore, frequent travel with overnight stays may be required. The Major Gifts Officer serves as primary point of contact for the portfolio, including prospect management & strategy development, personal visits, fundraising proposals, correspondence & volunteer involvement, and stewardship. Internally, this individual will work with School and Athletics fundraisers, Gift Planning, Corporate and Foundation Relations teams, Annual Giving & Alumni Relations colleagues, and other SMU central development staff to develop cultivation and proposal strategies for the major gift portfolio of 100 to 120 donors and prospective donors.  Primary responsibilities include:

    Direct accountability for prospect cultivation, solicitation & stewardship.Maintain a vigorous schedule of personal visits to cultivate & solicit prospects and steward donors.Strategic guidance regarding the involvement of other fundraising colleagues, volunteers, and faculty, Deans, Vice President for Development & External Affairs, Provost and President of SMU.Plan and document strategy, specific prospect activity and constituent updates for each assigned prospect, using DEA systems including but not limited to BBEC, FileMaker Pro and WebNow Imaging.Coordinate with DEA colleagues to draft proposals, correspondence, and other material for prospect/donor information, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.Prepare regular activity reports and provide consistent and timely communication to DEA leadership, colleagues and constituents on next steps, strategies, and proposals for all Major and Principal Gift-level prospects.Comply with SMU prospect assignment, management and clearance process.Fully participate in DEA fundraiser meetings and training sessions.Ability to work well in a team environment, and with related external constituencies.Attend SMU events for development purposes in working with donors, as determined by the Asst. VP of Principal and Major Gifts.Work with DEA staff to reach objectives set for operational, endowment and capital initiatives. Responsibilities include close coordination with fundraising colleagues, Development Research and Prospect Management, Donor Relations, and Records and Gift Administration to share important biographical and relevant philanthropic information regarding alumni, parents and friends in the portfolio.

The Ideal Candidate


A documented track record of successfully soliciting and managing current and prospective donors at the major gifts level ($100,000+) OR experience generating substantial revenue in a goal-oriented for-profit environment. Five (5) years professional work experience required.

A proven track record of successful face-to-face individual gift solicitation or sales.

Successful experience in making cold calls as well as developing cultivation and solicitation strategies.

Prior experience in a research-rich environment preferred.

Higher education fundraising and capital campaign experience preferred.

Skills & Knowledge

Ability to understand the needs and interests of university faculty, staff and administration as well as major gifts donors in order to develop relationships between them and the university.

Demonstrated leadership and the ability to successfully manage multi-functional areas.

Must have excellent interpersonal skills and a demonstrated record of completing assignments.

Highly developed relationship management skills grounded in superb communication and effective listening.

An insightful, articulate, accomplished, and persuasive individual committed to the support of university advancement.

A knowledge of how best to utilize/maximize/analyze prospect research.

Strong proficiency with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel) is required.

Proficiency with Blackbaud Enterprise or other constituent records database(s) is preferred. 

Personal Characteristics

A motivated self-starter who takes initiative, anticipates, challenges, and follows through to deliver results.

A personable and engaging individual with a consistently professional appearance when interacting with internal and external constituents.

A positive individual possessing high levels of initiative and comfort working with teams or as an independent practitioner.

Ability to move comfortably in a wide variety of social settings, including among people of substantial influence and wealth, and the ability to forge solid personal relationships.  

An individual who embraces diversity and fosters inclusion in all aspects of life.

Intuitive, perceptive, and skilled at reading both people and situations as well as flexible and willing to adapt, especially when advancing multiple projects and priorities.

An individual who balances a sense of urgency in addressing needs with the patience required of a team-oriented environment.

A hardworking, self-motivated individual who fully dedicates energy to a cause and is willing to “go beyond the job description”, including extending extra effort when necessary to see projects to successful conclusions.

A service-oriented person who engenders support among colleagues, staff, and the community through knowledge, experience, creativity, vision, and dedication to the mission of SMU.

Other Considerations

Compensation    Competitive with comparable organizations, and commensurate with capability, experience, and prevailing market trends

Location               Dallas, Texas

Travel                    Travel on a monthly or bi-weekly basis is required to attend University-related functions and visits with prospects and donors

After Hours          This position requires occasional work during the evenings and on weekends

Education             Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution required, master’s degree preferred



Contact Information

Carlos Peña

Email address | [email protected]

Travis Hillier

Email address | [email protected]

Peña Search | 214.775.0903


EEO Statement:SMU will not discriminate in any program or activity on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. The Executive Director for Access and Equity/Title IX Coordinator is designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies and may be reached at the Perkins Administration Building, Room 204, 6425 Boaz Lane, Dallas, TX 75205, 214-768-3601, mailto:[email protected] 

Primary Location: USA-TX-Dallas
Job: Development
Organization: DEA - Development/Alumni
Schedule: Full-time
Shift: Day Job
Employee Status: Regular
Job Type: Staff
Job Level: Individual Contributor
Travel: Yes, 50 % of the Time
Job Posting: Mar 24, 2022, 1:16:39 PM
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