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Henry Vilas Zoological Society

Director of Development




Director of Development

Henry Vilas Zoological Society

March 2017


Founded in 1914, the Henry Vilas Zoological Society is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is a organization created to provide support for the Henry Vilas Zoo. We are one of ten AZA accredited no-charge zoos – but a no-charge zoo isn’t free to operate.  Since it was founded, the scope of the organization has grown, and today it runs all business revenue operations, development operations and serves as the outward facing organization for the Henry Vilas Zoo. Over the past 3 years, the zoo and its development program have experienced significant growth, both in terms of revenue and revenue opportunities, and in terms of number of visitors.

In 2016, we welcomed over 830,000 guests from across our region, and established the Henry Vilas Zoological Society’s endowment in addition to the completion of two consecutive and significant capital campaigns – the Arctic Passage (2015) campaign and the Wisconsin Heritage Exhibit campaign (2016). As we look forward, we know that we are on the cusp of leading the way as an organization that is all about CONSERVATION, EDUCATION and COMMUNITY. 


Henry Vilas Zoological Society’s next Director of Development will join this thriving organization and will play a significant role in taking us to the next level from here, and helping us continue to thrive. He or she will inherit a committed staff and fundraising operation that is poised to maximize the potential of the zoo’s strong philanthropic efforts.  In partnership with the Society’s Executive Director, the Director of Development will capitalize on the zoo’s reputation in the community, and capacity and generosity of its donors to enhance and grow the zoo’s comprehensive development program and, ultimately, to lay the groundwork for and execute the zoo’s next capital campaign.

Reporting to the Executive Director, and working with the Society’s Board of Directors and Auxiliary Board, the Director of Development will have responsibility for developing and implementing goals, strategies and programs that generate philanthropic gifts for current use, capital improvements and endowment.  He or she will ensure the success of all development efforts including the Feeding the Zoo annual campaign, membership program, major and planned giving programs and event program.  In partnership with the Executive Director, he or she will develop and implement an endowment campaign, and lay the ground work for the zoo’s next capital campaign.

In addition, this person will partner with the Manager of Communications to develop critical messaging on mission of the organization, and the need for support from the community as one of only 10 FREE AZA accredited institutions in the United States.  The Director of Development will over see development team staff. Specific duties include:

  • Creating and implementing a strategic development plan to meet short and long term fundraising goals and to strengthen the culture of philanthropy among Henry Vilas Zoo guests, board members, volunteers and current donors and members.
  • Direct oversight of and responsibility for Annual Giving Campaign. 
  • Growing a strong sense of community among key constituencies through special events, fundraising programs and relationship building, and ensuring that the activities of the advancement office are inclusive in nature and value the contributions of all members of the Zoo community.
  • Cultivating and soliciting major donors either directly or by facilitating the work of the Executive Director
  • Partnering closely with the Manager of Marketing and Communications to maintain effective and consistent messaging to both internal and external constituencies regarding Friends of Henry Vilas Zoo’s mission, activities, and long-and short term goals.
  • Oversight of the growing Young Professionals program or PACK, as it is called and collaborative oversight of the Auxiliary Board, a fundraising and external relations board of the Society. 
  • Overseeing the day to day operations of the development office and making certain that processes and systems are efficient and fully support the department’s activities.
  • Ensuring that the development team is properly structured and staffed and that the staff members are provided with the necessary training to perform their responsibilities optimally.
  • Mentoring and guiding development staff, including setting clear goals and providing regular informal feedback and bi-annual evaluations.
  • In partnership with Executive Director, design and deliver philanthropy education programs for Board members, leadership volunteers and members to ensure that all community members understand the importance of giving.
  • Continually seek new avenues of funding.
  • Using technology creatively and effectively for donor communications, solicitations and stewardship.
  • Ensuring that financial and donor data are appropriately collected, used and reported and promoting ongoing collaboration between the development team and the operations team


  • 5-7 years of Development experience with track record for increasing responsibility.
  • Requires a Bachelor’s degree, and strong writing skills. 
  • Experience closing 5 and 6 figure gifts.
  • Proven track record in securing major individual, corporate and foundation funding.
  • Demonstrated experience developing and executing strategic funding plans and programs, managing budgets, and producing quality deliverables in stated timeframes.
  • Ability to develop strong relationships and connections within market of service.
  • Knowledge of capital campaign process a plus.
  • Knowledge of current and evolving trends in major gift giving and solicitation.
  • Articulate, energetic and driven.
  • Proven success in meeting development goals.
  • Calculated Risk-Taker.
  • Team player and inclusive.

Further Comments:

Friends of Henry Vilas Zoo is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search.

The above description is intended to describe the general content, identify the essential job functions, and set forth the requirements for the performance of this job.  It is not to be construed as an exhaustive statement of job functions or requirements.

How to Apply

A resume, and cover letter should be sent via email or mail to:


Alison Prange

Executive Director

606 South Randall Avenue

Madison, WI 53715

Experience Required

5-7 years

How to Apply

Resumes and cover letters should be sent via email to

Henry Vilas Zoological Society
606 South Randall Avenue
Madison, WI 53715
Phone: 608-258-9490

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