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Job Opportunity: Director, Foundation Relations, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Vanderbilt University – (2001123)

Posted by on Friday, December 18, 2020 in Job Opportunities .

Director, Foundation Relations, Office of the Vice Provost for Research – (2001123)

Home Department: The Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Please apply online at

Position Summary

The Director of Foundation Relations (FR) within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research is responsible for setting the vision and mission of the FR Team in accordance with institutional policies and practices. The Director will serve as the chief relationship manager for a portfolio of foundation prospects, driving strategy and maximizing opportunities with these institutional funders. The Director will work with representatives of major foundation funders, as well as in partnership with Vanderbilt leadership, faculty, and relevant administrative colleagues across campus. The Director will be responsible for building and managing a growing foundations portfolio; planning and implementing foundation fundraising strategies; and identifying, cultivating, and soliciting philanthropic investments from strategic foundation partners to advance Vanderbilt University’s priorities and initiatives. Note that this position will only have responsibilities related to foundations which solicit proposals via a Request for Proposal (RFP) process; other foundations, including family foundations, will remain under the purview of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR).

About The Work Unit

The Director will lead a team within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) providing foundation development and support services to Vanderbilt University (VU) leadership, faculty, and program staff throughout all VU colleges and schools. The FR Team strives to match the interests and priorities of private foundations with Vanderbilt’s research and programmatic strengths, as well as to advance the University’s academic, research, and institutional goals through lasting partnerships with foundations. These partnerships help develop solutions to scientific, technical, and social challenges, as well as enrich the excellence of faculty research and teaching.

The goal of the OVPR is to promote Vanderbilt’s distinctive research culture, which aspires to improve the human condition through path-breaking discovery and innovation. The office develops strategies and provides services to enhance extramural support for research and its application to significant challenges, advance a cohesive and vibrant trans-institutional research agenda, and build strategic partnerships around shared priorities.

Key Functions And Expected Performance

    • Proactively research, identify, cultivate, and solicit foundation prospects and opportunities that align with core VU strengths with a goal towards developing long-term relationships with key funders to engage and support VU’s programs and priorities.
    • Develop strategic plans for seeking foundation funding for grand challenges and other interdisciplinary projects that impact and embody VU initiatives.
    • Provide strategic leadership and implement best practices to achieve the goals and vision of the FR Team. Manage and support the FR Team in coordinating, implementing, and enhancing foundation relations activities, including proposal development, reporting, and donor visits.
    • Develop extensive knowledge of Vanderbilt’s mission, programs, activities, resources, faculty, and research. Establish and maintain strong and effective relationships with leadership and faculty in the VU colleges and schools and other internal constituencies to develop a strategy based on a mapping of institutional strengths to foundation priorities along major cross-disciplinary areas.
    • Work with Vanderbilt colleagues across campus to ensure foundation funders (national, regional, and local) have a strong working knowledge of VU’s strengths and areas of expertise. Work cooperatively with DAR to ensure a synergized effort around engaging with foundations.
    • Identify a portfolio of foundation prospects based on capacity for support, existing relationships with Vanderbilt, and alignment of programmatic priorities, and manage this portfolio through all phases of the development process.
    • Develop a program for foundation leadership visits to campus, as well as visits by VU leadership and faculty with foundation boards, leaders, and program staff, around areas of strategic strengths and sponsor priorities.
    • Build and launch a development database to manage, coordinate, and track opportunities, interactions, projects, and relationships with foundation funders.
    • Provide guidance and resources to leadership and faculty in support of the pursuit of foundation opportunities by individual researchers.
    • Oversee the hiring, training, supervision, and retention of FR staff, and provide opportunities for professional growth that increase the capacity and stability of the team.
    • Inspire and motivate the FR Team by fostering a work environment that encourages new ideas and team-based efforts, celebrates achievements, and sets and meets strategic goals.
    • Develop familiarity with and work within relevant University research and administrative policies and procedures (e.g., sponsored projects, technology and licensing, budget and finance).
    • Perform other duties and responsibilities, as assigned.


Supervisory Relationships

This position is responsible for managing the entire FR Team within OVPR. This position reports administratively and functionally to the Vice Provost for Research.

Education And Certifications

    • A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education is necessary.
    • A Master’s degree or Ph.D. from an accredited institution of higher education is strongly preferred.


Experience And Skills

    • Five years of relevant experience in foundation relations and fundraising management at a top research university, a foundation, or a comparably complex organization, with a proven record of successes.
    • Demonstrated success in building meaningful and long-term relationships with donors and strategic partners.
    • Advanced knowledge and understanding of philanthropic and fundraising best practices. A deep understanding of research in academic settings.
    • Demonstrated experience, sensitivity, and diplomacy in foundation-related fundraising. ? Experience with fundraising databases and knowledge of prospecting tools and reports within fundraising systems or other prospective donor relations systems.
    • Excellent judgment, interpersonal, and communication skills to articulate a compelling case for major philanthropic support of programs, present institutional objectives persuasively, and translate complex concepts into compelling fundraising proposals.
    • Demonstrated ability to think strategically and creatively to craft and implement fundraising plans.
    • Demonstrated managerial talent in guiding foundation-related fundraising efforts, with a proven ability to lead and motivate others and earn the respect of associates at all levels.
    • Demonstrated success in taking initiative, meeting deadlines, adapting to changing priorities, and managing multiple projects simultaneously.
    • Strong analytical skills to evaluate opportunities, develop effective plans and strategies, assess feasibility, and evaluate results.
    • Ability to function effectively in a complex organizational environment demanding high energy, discretion, patience, enthusiasm, and humor.
    • Ability to coordinate activities with other offices on campus who are also involved in working with Foundations (notably DAR).
    • Values the importance of equity as an organizational operating principle and is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion.


Key Characteristics of a Successful Team Member in this Work Unit:

    • Holds oneself accountable; takes responsibility for failures as well as successes; and recognizes that trust is required to hold a team together.
    • Shares information; communicates proactively; transmits knowledge; asks for advice and considers it thoughtfully.
    • Genuinely values teamwork and co-workers.
    • Expects and delivers excellence. Is proactive and focused on creative problem solving. Welcomes input to making things better. Places a high value on learning and improving.
    • Is motivated. Manages time, activities, and outcomes well so that progress stays on track. Balances multiple, competing priorities simultaneously without becoming overwhelmed.


General Characteristics of a Successful Vanderbilt University Staff Member: ACCOUNTABILITY: Owns decisions, outcomes, work products, etc. that are within the scope of one’s role.

    • Works through Issues – Recognizes that the work is about successful outcomes, if things aren’t going well, outcomes suffer; is willing to have crucial conversations if things aren’t going well; doesn’t just complain to management… does everything possible to remedy the situation directly first
    • Reliable – Does what they say they will do, when they say they will do it; shows up for work when expected; doesn’t push the burden of work volume or deadlines to others
    • Integrity – Holds oneself accountable; takes responsibility for failures as well as successes, recognizes that trust is required to hold a team together
    • Acceptance of Feedback – Takes constructive criticism with grace, and makes improvements without taking it personally or holding grudges; when wrong, owns it – freely admits mistakes


COLLABORATION: Works inclusively to build trust and accomplish tasks, goals, and initiatives. Understands, anticipates, and appropriately responds to internal and/or external customers’ needs.

    • Optimism – Is friendly, tirelessly cordial, polite, and genial; comes in to work with a good attitude and doesn’t bring their own personal “little black clouds” into the work environment
    • Teamwork – Genuinely values teamwork and co-workers, makes them feel valuable and important by acknowledging what they do well; doesn’t expect from others effort that one is unwilling to do themselves, finds ways to acknowledge other’s strong suits
    • Honest and Transparent – Doesn’t have hidden agendas, doesn’t play people against each other; is authentic and forthright
    • Helpful Nature – Offers to help lighten the load for others in times of need; volunteers rather than waiting to be asked; understands that almost no one works in a silo and needs the help of others to do their job well; recognizes that by helping others first, others will likely reciprocate


COMMUNICATION: Provides information clearly and accurately in various settings, ensuring understanding and participation. Understands how best to present information to different audiences and understands how information may be perceived.

    • Shares – Shares information. Communicates proactively. Transmits knowledge; recognizes that “knowledge is power” is less effective than “sharing knowledge is power.” Asks for advice, and considers it thoughtfully
    • Is Nice – Asks caring, interested questions and is a good listener — smiles and is grateful; sends appropriate notes of thanks to others who have helped; avoids gossip or saying negative things about co-workers; patient and generous; makes suggestions rather than stating hard and fast opinions. Avoids being negative, sarcastic, and cynical
    • Praises Publicly; Criticizes Privately – When dealing with a difficult co-workers or customers, “pretend your children are watching” how the situation is handled; good manners help keep a cool head; gives credit where credit is due
    • Responds Promptly – Recognizes that when emails and phone messages aren’t returned in a timely way, it sends the message that the other party is not important; responds even if just to acknowledge receipt and provide a timeframe by which the requester can expect a full response


DRIVE & GRIT: Is focused on professional excellence and strives to facilitate and support the same for colleagues in and outside their team, effectively manages through challenges and opportunities while seeking to understand and learn from professional experiences.

    • Perspective – Maintains a sense of humor and perspective; can laugh first and foremost at oneself
    • Raises the Bar – Expects and delivers excellence; is a creative problem solver; is proactive; welcomes input on making things better — places a high value on learning and getting better
    • Resilience – Is resilient in the face of daunting challenges and setbacks; bounces back readily.
    • Adaptability – Reads cues and adapt accordingly; adjusts style and approach to accommodate the styles and needs of others; can anticipate and effectively de-escalate potential conflicts


ENGAGED: Appreciates the values and mission of the organization, works to contribute to the university, and understands how their work affects the university and university community.

    • Eager – Enthusiastic, wanting to learn, wanting to continue one’s personal and professional development and expertise
    • Hard-Working – Is industrious as well as efficient (busy isn’t the same as productive); can juggle multiple competing priorities simultaneously without becoming overwhelmed
    • Believes – Believes in the work being done and in the importance of the organization’s mission
    • Creative Thinking – Goes beyond the boundaries of the job description, willingly takes on new challenges, and finds creative solutions rather than always awaiting direct instructions


JUDGMENT & PROFESSIONAL ACUMEN: Makes appropriate decisions and evaluates risk and uncertainty to create ideal outcomes, exhibits an eye for the macro and the micro, and works to ensure others are able to do the same.

    • Autonomous – Self-managing; self-motivated; manages time, activities and outcomes well so that progress stays on track; cleans up after themselves
    • Maturity — Exhibits professional maturity; doesn’t pass the buck to dodge accountability; doesn’t engage in petty office politics or inappropriate social conduct
    • Detail-Oriented – Even small mistakes can create big issues; attention to detail work indicates care about the outcomes
    • Assumes the Best – Assumes that others are working as hard as you are on things that are as important as what you are working on; just because you don’t know what someone does, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything


Additional Characteristics Of a Successful Vanderbilt University Leader

ACCOUNTABILITY & EXECUTION: Owns decisions, outcomes, work products, etc. that are within the scope of one’s role.

    • Holds everyone in the workgroup accountable for accomplishing the outcomes of the unit. ? Lets the buck stop with them; owns the outcomes for the work unit and doesn’t throw subordinates under the bus if things go wrong
    • Practices what they preach; doesn’t set expectations of others that they don’t live up to themselves
    • Pitches in to help the team when it really needs help
    • Communicates early and often, even as information is evolving
    • Is willing to learn from their direct reports.
    • Welcomes inquiry and recognizes mistakes as learning opportunities
    • Thinks creatively when tackling a challenge; questions the status quo in search of better ways. Looks for insights, assesses risks


COACHING, DEVELOPMENT & TEAM FOCUS: Leads by example, works to ensure that members of the team have the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful.

    • Ensures that team members have the tools and resources to do the job
    • Praises publicly; is genuinely appreciative of the accomplishments of members of the team ? Criticizes privately; focuses more on how to do it better next time than how it went wrong this time
    • Willingly shares expertise with team members; actively coaches
    • Is clear with the deliverables and outcomes needed, but allows members of the team to tackle the problems in the way they see fit, without micromanaging every process; understands that the destination – rather than the exact route – is what’s important
    • Cares about their employees as people, not just as “resources”
    • Makes this a fun place to work; Enhances comradery, builds trust, and invites members of the work group to be their authentic selves
    • Addresses problems among the workgroup when they arise, rather than letting them fester


DECISION MAKING & DIRECTION SETTING: Takes responsibility for and make effective decisions through understanding the needs of the institution, collaborating and communicating, and identifying the strategic and operational imperatives of the university.

    • Makes decisions, even in the face of incomplete information, rather than avoiding making decisions.
    • Seeks first to understand before making decisions; doesn’t act first and ask questions later; solicits input from a diverse group of others including members of the work group, others stakeholders, and naysayers/critics, when faced with complex challenges, before making a decision. Identifies options and homes in on pros and cons of each option; Lets others know where they are in their decision-making process
    • Shares a clear vision for the work of the unit, and is clear about what outcomes are expected. ? Provides clear guidance and direction, doesn’t change direction with the wind; communicates in ways that are clear and succinct, rather than confusing or ambiguous
    • Communicates early and often, even as information is evolving
    • Champions the work unit’s cause, and makes compelling business cases for its needs ? Is willing to course-correct if things aren’t going as planned, even after decisions have been made and communicated


Please apply online at

Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
At Vanderbilt University, we are intentional about and assume accountability for fostering advancement and respect for equity, diversity, and inclusion for all students, faculty, and staff. Our commitment to diversity makes us who we are. We have created a community that celebrates differences and lets individuality thrive. As part of this commitment, we actively value diversity in our workplace and learning environments as we seek to take advantage of the rich backgrounds and abilities of everyone. The diverse voices of Vanderbilt represent an invaluable resource for the University in its efforts to fulfill its mission and strive to be an example of excellence in higher education.

Vanderbilt University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. Women, minorities, people with disabilities, and protected veterans are encouraged to apply.
The Chronicle of Higher Education. Keywords: Fundraising Director, Location: Nashville, TN – 37240

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