Director of Development

Role: Director of Development

About Pilot Light

Pilot Light is a Chicago-based nonprofit founded in 2010 by four exceptionally successful and philanthropic chefs: Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, Jason Hammel, and Justin Large. The founding chefs had a simple vision: teach students how to make informed food choices for themselves, their families, and their communities. To accomplish this mission, Pilot Light partners with teachers by providing them with food-based classroom lessons that integrate into everyday subjects like math and science. These experiences feed young minds by igniting children’s curiosity about the food on their plates and demonstrating its connection to every aspect of what they do and learn.


The Director of Development is a full-time exempt position and reports to the organization’s Executive Director. This position is Pilot Light’s primary fundraiser and is responsible for managing fundraising, organizing and executing events, and serving as the chief steward for all donors. The successful candidate is a passionate advocate for food education, is attentive to communication, and committed to cultivating internal and external relationships. 

Pilot Light’s development efforts over the last seven years have been multi-pronged and successful. Our annual “Feed Your Mind” gala is a highly anticipated, culinary-driven event and a key revenue driver. Despite evolving formats, the event has sold out each year. Further, grant revenue has increased steadily and is derived from a diverse combination of corporate, foundation, and government entities. Gifts from corporations via percent of sales and matching gift programs also represent a growing portion of Pilot Light’s revenue. All revenue is tracked and reported in a CRM system that has been in place for four years. The Director of Development will be supported by Pilot Light’s Senior Development and Strategy Consultant and Development and Communications Assistant in their efforts.

Candidates should have 5-10 years of development experience, possess creativity, initiative, strong interpersonal/relationship building skills, superb writing skills, excellent organizational/project management skills and proficiency with CRM systems. Marketing experience is preferred. This is a full-time, hybrid position. This position will require flexible availability for occasional evening and weekend work, particularly around special event periods.


Donor Management (60%)

Overall Development Strategy

  • Partner with the Executive Director and external consultant on overall development strategy, budgeting, moves management, stakeholder relations & events.
  • Oversee Pilot Light’s Recognition Circles, a stewardship program that encompasses donor recognition events, communications, and dedications; update the program as needed.
  • Serve as Pilot Light representative at engagement opportunities.

Individual Donor Relations

  • With Executive Director and Board of Directors, establish annual individual giving goals
  • Nurture and expand  our relationships with existing individual donors. Establish regular in-person and virtual touch points, connections, communication, information sharing and follow-up activities
  • Build relationships with prospective donors to maximize financial donations, achieving annual giving goals

Major Donor Relationships

  • Build relationships with and steward the current portfolio of approximately 25 major donors
  • Engage and work with the Executive Director, Board of Directors, and staff to identify, research, and engage prospective major donors 
  • Create individualized cultivation strategies for a select number of major donors each quarter and overall best practice fundraising strategies.

Analytics and Reporting

  • Create reports and update a metrics dashboard as required by the Executive Director and Board that accurately reflect events and individual gift activities and progress
  • Seek out and analyze data to inform development strategies
  • Update records in CRM and document donor conversations as appropriate; create moves management/cultivation plans in the system
  • Manage information tracking processes regarding acknowledgements, recognition, ongoing communications and continued cultivation of past, current and prospective donors 

Events (20%)

Annual Gala

  • Work with/oversee the event co-chairs, production contractor(s), volunteers, and vendors from concept to execution of all aspects of the annual gala
  • Responsible for the development of all marketing and communication materials, across all communication platforms 
  • Work with featured program participants on program creation, scripts, visuals, and other needed materials
  • Post-event, serve as primary point of contact for all live auction winners

Other Stewardship Events

  • Conceive, develop and execute other impactful stewardship events

Communications (20%)

  • Collaborate with internal  programming team to create  compelling, informative, and stakeholder-friendly communications materials
  • Develop marketing and communications plans for annual giving campaigns.
  • Actively participate in the creation of development materials, including authoring and reviewing  newsletter pieces, solicitation letters, success stories, social media copy and acknowledgment letters.


Alignment with Organizational Mission and Culture

  • Strong personal commitment to Pilot Light’s core values, mission, and programs
  • Experience in and passion for entrepreneurial organizations on a high growth trajectory; is nimble and flexible
  • Commitment to personal growth and development on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access
  • Works well with others; collaborative team member who respects and appreciates the skills and talents across the organization

Demonstrated Functional Experience 

  • 5+ years of development experience with strong marketing instincts and experience
  • Visionary leader with strong executional skills; able to set vision/direction and create and implement the executional plan 
  • Experience navigating complex donor environments with judgment, sound strategic thinking, and tactical skill

Expertise in Project Management

  • Solid project management work experience
  • Able to handle several priorities simultaneously in a fast-paced, high volume environment;
  • High degree of result-orientation and accountability
  • High attention to detail in all aspects of work

Personal Competencies

  • Strong reasoning and strategic thinking skills
  • Good instincts and judgment
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, including the ability to communicate effectively and professionally with colleagues and stakeholders
  • Superb written and verbal communications skills 
  • Proficiency in G-Suite tools, WordPress, and Quickbooks is preferred
  • Development database experience (Neon CRM experience desirable)

Pilot Light embraces a philosophy that recognizes, values, and actively seeks diversity among its team.  We seek to attract, develop, retain and promote a talented diverse workforce in a culture where all employees will contribute to their fullest potential.  All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, citizenship, pregnancy or maternity, national origin, status as an individual with disability, age, ancestry, protected veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable federal, state or local law.

Location: Chicagoland; hybrid work environment.  Must be an Illinois resident and authorized to work in the U.S. 

Position Type: Full-time. $70-90K + benefits depending on experience.

Start Date: Position currently available. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.

How to apply:

Interested applicants should complete the survey found at this link.  Please note that you will be required to submit your resume and cover letter through the form.


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