Major Gifts and Events Manager

Pilot Light Job Description

About Pilot Light

Pilot Light is a Chicago-based nonprofit founded in 2010 by Chefs Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, Jason Hammel and Justin Large that is dedicated to teaching children how to make healthier choices for themselves, their families and their communities by connecting the lessons they learn in their classrooms to the foods they eat on their lunch trays, at home, and in their communities. To accomplish this mission, Pilot Light partners chefs and teachers in its Institute for Food Education to make learning about food in schools a priority for children through food-based classroom curriculum in everyday subjects like math and science. These experiences feed young minds by igniting children’s curiosity for the food on their plates and demonstrating its connection to every aspect of what they do and learn.


The Major Gifts and Events Manager is a new full-time position at Pilot Light.  You will report to the Executive Director and work with her and the Institutional Giving Manager to budget, plan, and execute comprehensive annual and long-term development plans.  You will be responsible for identifying, cultivating, and soliciting individual prospects, stewarding relationships with existing and potential major donors, developing and executing two annual fundraising campaigns in December and June, and organizing small stewardship events for current and potential major donors.

You will also manage Pilot Light’s two major events, including the organization’s annual Feed Your Mind Gala and a new conference, Citizen Food, in the spring of 2020.  Feed Your Mind is Pilot Light’s largest fundraising initiative and currently raises approximately 50% of the organization’s annual revenue. In 2020, the organization will celebrate its 10th year and Feed Your Mind will be developed to celebrate this momentous occasion.  Citizen Food will be a 1.5 day conference event designed to highlight the good being created in communities through food, spotlighting innovative and inspiring grassroots and community-based initiatives in Chicago and nationwide. The event will draw a new audience to Pilot Light and spotlight the organization’s work to provide all children with access to classroom-based food education.  

As Major Gifts and Events Manager, you will be skilled at inspiring, influencing and engaging people. You will consistently demonstrate support of the Pilot Light’s Vision, Mission and Core Values by striving for excellence and contributing to the team.

Travel may be required on occasion, as well as attending weekend and evening donor functions. 



  • Maximize revenue for Pilot Light through its two major events, its annual Feed Your Mind Gala and a spring conference focused on the public and food industry partners
  • Lead both events, with support from volunteer committee members and co-chairs
  • Manage and train teams of event staff and volunteers, as needed
  • Work closely with webmaster and marketing team to create marketing materials, as needed, for events and campaigns
  • Collaborate with the Institutional Giving Manager to execute event sponsorships and ensure a positive experience
  • Ensure successful production of events through coordination with contractors and vendors
  • Coordinate delivery and execution of auction items with Pilot light stakeholders and winners and ensure these items are properly represented leading up to and during events
  • Oversee ticketing and seating for event guests; and
  • Organize at least four small events and gatherings annually to steward and cultivate major gifts


Individual Gifts Portfolio:

  • Identify prospects, research and analyze development options in order to predict opportunities
  • Develop, execute and monitor development strategies to enhance cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of donors
  • Stewarding donor relationships positively so that donors remain committed to Pilot Light and make gifts to the best of their ability
  • Responsible for updating records in CRM as appropriate and creating moves management/cultivation plans in the system
  • Make periodic visits, explore specific needs, and resolve problems in order to build and maintain donor relationships
  • Collaborate with Executive Director, Institutional Giving Manager, Board of Directors, and other team members to develop prospect lists based on giving histories, research, and anecdotal knowledge
  • Create individualized cultivation strategies for a select number of donors each quarter based on guidance from senior management, and overall best practice fundraising strategies
  • Oversee and participate in appropriate recognition opportunities for donors, which may include events and web-based and printed materials


  • Communicate the mission of Pilot Light within the community in order to connect current and prospective donors with outcomes
  • Advocate for Pilot Light and its funding priorities to external constituencies


  • Utilize data management tools in order to review and analyze pertinent information and monitor results
  • Support staff with the development of an annual plan that includes clear goals and objectives for growing individual and major gifts as well as metrics to monitor success
  • Create reports and update a metrics dashboard as required by Executive Director and Board that accurately reflect event and individual gift activities and progress 
  • Work with the leadership team to design strategic and operational plans for major gift fundraising, including development of revenue targets
  • Collaborate with the Institutional Giving Manager and Executive Director to support local, state, federal and philanthropic funding proposals 


  • Perform all other duties that may be assigned in the best interest of Pilot Light


  • Exemplifies Pilot Light’s Core Values and a commitment to Pilot Light’s mission;
  • Able to navigate complex donor environments with judgment, sound strategic thinking, and tactical skill;
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, including ability to communicate effectively and professionally with staff and board members and to build productive relationships with major gifts prospects;
  • Ability to thrive in an entrepreneurial environment and manage a high volume workload at a fast pace with strong attention to detail and a high bar for quality;
  • Experience with developing major gift solicitation and program development;
  • Experience with project management, in particular with event planning;
  • Adaptable and flexible, and able to handle several priorities simultaneously in a fast-paced environment;
  • Demonstrated ability to work with a high degree of autonomy and accountability and to be a team player;
  • Superb writing and communications skills and exceptional attention to detail;
  • Demonstrated ability to set vision and direction and then execute towards that vision; 
  • Strong reasoning and strategic thinking skills; ability to demonstrate good judgment;
  • Must have sensitivity to racial, cultural and ideological diversity
  • Bachelor degree with 5+ years of development and events work and experience;
  • Proficiency in G-Suite tools and Quickbooks is preferred; and
  • Development database experience (Neon CRM experience desirable).

This position requires a high level of flexibility, attention to detail, strategic and creative thinking, and a high level of exemplary organizational and communication skills. Candidates must also have a strong desire to work in an environment that require participation in an array of projects and tasks. You will report to Pilot Light’s Executive Director and work closely with Pilot Light’s Board of Directors and staff, in particular its Institutional Giving Manager.  

Pilot Light is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, age, or any other characteristic protected by law. 

Location:  The Director will report to our office in Chicago.

Position Type: Full-time. Pay competitive and commensurate with experience.   

Start Date: Position currently available.

Salary Range: $50,000-$60,000

How to apply:

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


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