The Athenian School Director of Advancement Danville, CA
THE SEARCH The Athenian School, a premier independent, coeducational residential and day school in the San Francisco Bay Area, seeks an exceptional and experienced director of advancement to provide strategic vision, leadership, and direction for all fundraising initiatives. This is an exciting opportunity for an accomplished, innovative professional to partner with a visionary head of school during a dynamic time of growth, in part fueled by the recently completed $12.5 million Make It Meaningful capital campaign. The successful candidate will work collaboratively and creatively with the head of school, the Board of Trustees, and colleagues across campus to strengthen and transform the advancement program by implementing best practices to support a superb Athenian educational experience for each and every student.
Reporting to Head of School Eric Niles, the director of advancement will serve as a member of the senior leadership team. The director will design and implement a comprehensive, integrated strategy and the necessary infrastructure to proactively address the distinct needs of the school’s internal and external constituencies. The director will assess existing development practices and seek input from key stakeholders, including senior administrators, faculty and staff, trustees, parents, and volunteers to build and lead a best-in-class advancement program and cultivate a culture of philanthropy. The director will participate in the identification, cultivation, and solicitation of major gifts, and will lead efforts to realize the philanthropic potential of Athenian’s alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends. The director will launch systematic initiatives to identify and cultivate the next generation of donors while maintaining and strengthening ties to existing donors; seek out new philanthropic opportunities with determination; and work across the institution to create a strong and consistent message about the school to its constituencies. The director will be an active and visible member on campus and in the local community, and will possess a deep appreciation for the history, traditions, achievements, and aspirations of The Athenian School.
Success for the director will, in part, be defined by an ability to educate, involve, and cultivate strong relations with all members of the Athenian community as related to the fundraising process. The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated ability to establish and maintain strong, collaborative working relationships, the skill to manage and develop a team ready to address the ongoing challenges and aspirations of the school, and a successful track record of elevating the performance of fundraising programs, resulting in sustainable growth for an institution. The candidate must also possess the authenticity, cultural competency, and communication skills necessary to be an effective representative of Athenian and a key liaison to its diverse internal and external constituencies. In accordance with its core values and mission, The Athenian School is especially interested in recruiting members of diverse communities and individuals with a commitment to multiculturalism.
The Athenian School has retained Ms. Rachel Ellenport of Isaacson, Miller, an international executive search firm, to assist with this recruitment. Please direct all applications, nominations, and inquiries to Isaacson, Miller as indicated at the end of this document.
THE ATHENIAN SCHOOL “We cultivate the personal qualities of each student to become an integrated human being with integrity, strong moral character, aesthetic sensitivity, and physical well-being. The Athenian community requires students to face life directly through open communication, while developing their inner strength to exceed their perceived potential and emerge compassionate, responsible adults.”
Excerpt from The Athenian School Mission Statement, The Athenian Way
The Athenian School was founded in 1965 by Dyke Brown, a former Ford Foundation executive and a disciple of experiential education leader Kurt Hahn. Dyke envisioned a school in the image of Periclean Athens—the full development of each citizen. Far ahead of his time, Dyke realized the importance of intellectual exploration, multicultural and international understanding, environmental stewardship, education for democracy, outdoor adventure, and community service as integral parts of a strong academic curriculum. Intellectual growth, fitness of body and character, commitment to humane values, aesthetic sensitivity, and readiness for adult citizenship and leadership are Athenian’s objectives for each student. Nearly 53 years later, Athenian’s ideals have become a model for education in the 21st century, and today Athenian has a strong reputation, robust enrollment, and healthy finances.
The Athenian School sits on 75 acres of idyllic land at the foot of Mt. Diablo. Founded as a boarding high school, Athenian continues to be a 24/7 community of learners. In 1979, the middle school was added, accepting day students in grades six through eight. The demand for an Athenian education from the local community prompted the school to begin admitting more day students in the 1970s, and the school made a transition from its start as a boarding school to primarily a day community.
Athenian enrolls approximately 524 students, 85 percent of whom are day students from throughout the East Bay. The 60 boarding students hail from more than 16 different countries, and nearly 50 percent of students are people of color. Twenty-two percent of the student body receives financial aid, totaling $2.9 million during the 2017-2018 academic year. One hundred percent of the class of 2017 gained admission to four-year colleges. Respect for student ideas and leadership runs deep and, to reflect the value of equality and mutual respect, all community members are on a first-name basis. To foster intrinsic motivation, the school does not give academic or other awards.
A Round Square School As a founding member of Round Square, an international network of more than 100 schools on six continents, Athenian embraces the philosophy that binds the schools. This philosophy is rooted in six main values: international understanding, democracy, environmental stewardship, adventure, leadership, and service. These values are embedded in everything Athenian does; Athenian students have countless opportunities to experience and explore these themes. Through the Round Square membership, upper and middle school students have unmatched opportunities to go on exchange, service trips, and international conferences through sister Round Square schools. Over 40 percent of the sophomore class has gone on exchange in recent years, in addition to several dozen students each year participating in other Round Square activities.
THE ATHENIAN EXPERIENCE The Athenian School recognizes the best way to master academic subjects is to experience their application first hand. In the school’s rigorous academic program, students from the East Bay and around the world immerse themselves deeply in coursework, inspiring each other to think critically, problem solve, and collaborate as global citizens. Athenian graduates thrive in the nation’s best colleges and are poised for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution. In classes that average 15 students, Athenian’s more than 70 faculty members enliven the classroom with their love of teaching and learning. They engage students and awaken imagination by making connections. Teachers get to know each student well and guide them in the direction that best suits their interests and ambitions.
The Athenian School offers a robust course catalogue with clear requirements for all students. Upon graduating, Athenian students will have developed a depth and breadth of knowledge in the humanities, math, science, engineering and design, world languages, arts, and physical education. Middle school students benefit from Friday Focus Days, daylong activities that bring together elements from multiple disciplines, allowing for experiential and interdisciplinary education, deep intellectual investigation, and collaborative learning. As a member of the Bay Area BlendEd Consortium, Athenian also offers a set of blended classes combining face-to-face and online instruction bringing together students from four other Bay Area independent high schools.
The Athenian Wilderness Experience (AWE) As part of Athenian’s commitment to developing students who are empathic, resilient, and have an appreciation for and comfort in the outdoors, students participate in a required 26-day backpacking trip during their junior year in either the High Sierras or Death Valley. Learning to collaborate, problem-solve, and empathize, students work together to navigate off-trail terrain, cook group meals, rock climb, and set up camp. The entire Athenian community is affected by this program, as the students’ absence is felt by all; they return with energy, inner confidence, and new perspectives that infuse the school community at large. One of several rites of passages, AWE is a central part of the Athenian experience that exists free from technology, routine, homework, and other daily responsibilities.
Engineering and Design Athenian has come to be a leader in the maker movement, combining curriculum and machinery for hands-on learning opportunities. Students discover how to create and make through classes in the fine arts, sciences, and humanities. Upper school students can work in Athenian’s Maker Studio (soon to be replaced by the Carter Innovation Studio) in science and engineering classes, Athenian’s robotics collective, and the airplane project (where students build real, skyworthy airplanes). Around 90 students (mostly middle school students) participate in the airplane project annually, assembling a fully functional, FAA-approved two-seat plane by hand. Students are empowered to innovate, create, make, build, and collaborate as they learn design thinking, shop safety, project-management skills, and an “I can do that!” attitude.
Athletics Athenian encourages all of its students to participate and represent the school in interscholastic athletics. The athletics program focuses on developing student-athletes who display good sportsmanship, are positive role models, and follow through on commitment. Stressing team over individual achievement results in the development of strong social bonds beyond grade levels. Athenian students participate in athletics in extraordinary numbers, with 83 percent of the upper school student body playing at least one team sport.
Eric Niles, Head of School Mr. Eric Niles joined Athenian as head of school in 2008. Previously, he served as assistant head of the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY, where he worked since 2002. Eric earned his undergraduate degree in economics at the University of Pennsylvania and has a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Over the course of his tenure, Eric has led the school through an exciting time of strategic planning and campus enhancements. Working with Mithun architects and Turner Construction, the school completed a master planning process and then began implementation of that plan in 2016. Current campus master plan projects are focused on enriching the Athenian student experience by better aligning existing learning spaces with Athenian’s mission. From the beginning of construction to its anticipated completion in the summer of 2018, the school will complete $25 million dollars of construction. The 30,000 square feet of buildings will include the new Knoll Classroom Buildings, three new buildings that will provide flexible learning spaces to foster collaboration and hands-on, experiential learning opportunities; the remodeled Freeman Commons to house administrative functions and student mailboxes (completed summer 2017); a new Kate and Dyke Brown Hall to replace the original gathering/dining space for the school; and a Carter Innovation Studio. The $12.5 million Make It Meaningful Campaign supports these efforts.
Board of Trustees The Board of Trustees is responsible for furthering The Athenian School’s mission and ensuring the school’s success. In some ways, the board focuses not on the school of today but the school of the future. As such, they are instrumental in setting the long-term goals for The Athenian School, which include continuing to redefine academic rigor to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students; engaging and impacting our world through an ongoing commitment to the Pillars of Round Square; seeing the Athenian campus as a “community center” that will connect and serve varying constituencies; and securing the financial resources needed for the school’s present and future.
FINANCES AND FUNDRAISING The Athenian School’s longstanding tradition of excellence is fueled by the ongoing generosity of its parents, alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, faculty, and friends. This support profoundly impacts the daily student experience, making outstanding opportunities possible in the classroom and beyond. The Athenian School’s operating budget for the 2017-2018 academic year is $20.5 million. The current value of Athenian’s endowment is $9.5 million.
Make It Meaningful Campaign On July 1, 2014, the Make It Meaningful campaign began with a four-year, $12 million goal. Created to help fund three facility improvements, the goal of the campaign was to create a campus hub that inspires student collaboration and innovation. A school-wide philanthropic effort to raise funds to support Athenian’s vision and priorities, Make It Meaningful was publicly launched on October 6, 2017. The campaign exceeded its goal and concluded with $12.5 million raised. The school raised an additional $4.2 million during the campaign in annual gifts.
Athenian’s previous campaign, “The Pillar Campaign” began in 2004 and was completed in 2008. The campaign raised approximately $12 million—$2.1 million in annual gifts, $1.5 million in deferred gifts, and $8.4 million in campaign funds—exceeding its set goal. The campaign focused on endowment and a variety of capital projects including The Eleanor Dase Center, a state-of-the art music center.
Annual Giving Last year, annual giving raised more than $960,000, and Athenian is on pace to surpass the $1 million mark in 2018. Over the last four years, the annual fund has grown from about 60 percent participation to 93 percent parent, 100 percent faculty, and 100 percent trustee participation in 2017. The school seeks to sustainably grow the fund and to significantly enhance alumni participation rates. In addition to bolstering the annual fund, the next director will be charged with strengthening major and planned giving support to the school. Fundraising priorities include educational programs, financial aid, and long-term campus renewal.
DIRECTOR OF ADVANCEMENT Reporting directly to the head of school, the director of advancement is responsible for providing innovative leadership and strategic vision to all aspects of the school’s fundraising activities and constituent relationships. As a member of the senior leadership team, the director will work closely with colleagues to establish priorities and devise strategies to meet school-wide objectives. The director will also partner closely with and engage, educate, mentor, and otherwise support trustees, key volunteers, administrators, faculty, and staff in their respective fundraising efforts, ultimately resulting in a significant expansion of major gifts and constituent engagement, and increased, sustainable philanthropic support for the school.
The next director will further define and advance the case for support and set new levels of expectation for fundraising, alumni and parent programs, and stewardship. The director will devise and execute a comprehensive advancement program that is grounded in best practices across all functional areas in an effort to elevate existing annual, major, capital, and planned giving programs; promote and strengthen alumni and parent involvement through creative and relevant programming; inspire existing donors through innovative stewardship; and ensure the efficiency and responsiveness of advancement services.
The director will serve as the head of school’s principal advisor on all advancement matters. Additionally, the director will personally engage a select portfolio of major gift prospects and donors. With a budget of $115,000, the director will lead and manage a small staff, and articulate clear and achievable goals for advancement as well as lead and inspire the staff to meet and exceed expectations. The director will build a culture of high achievement and accountability, and further integrate the advancement program to allow for strong, collaborative, and professional relationships among the department’s various functions and across the school. The director will ensure that the advancement operation effectively engages Athenian’s 1,600 solicitable alumni, as well as parents and friends, in the life of the school. In addition to the position’s formal duties, the director of advancement must be an integral member of the Athenian community, which includes being a positive role model for students. A strong level of integrity, authenticity, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, good humor, and personal resilience will be critical to success.
Following are the specific responsibilities and duties of this position:
Leadership Support and Engagement • In collaboration with school leaders, identify key fundraising priorities and assess the fundraising potential of the school; serve as architect and builder of a comprehensive fundraising program that is rooted in best practices to build greater capacity, particularly in annual, major, and planned giving; and set a course for growing the endowment, in keeping with the mission and core values of the institution.
• Bring together, as well as guide and support, senior administrators, faculty, staff, board members, and other volunteers to develop fundraising goals and strategies for each giving program and to cultivate and solicit prospective donors.
• Guide the head of school’s outreach to donors; ensure that he is well briefed and that his time spent is highly productive and personally rewarding.
• Provide the highest level of personal support to the board and volunteer leaders for their activities on behalf of Athenian; ensure that their volunteer experience is meaningful, productive, and enjoyable, and that the board’s intellectual and emotional connection to the school and each other is strengthened.
• Cultivate strong working relationships with administrators, faculty, and staff across the school to better integrate advancement throughout the Athenian community. Ensure that advancement is seen as a collaborative, responsive partner able to professionally address both opportunities and concerns.
• Enhance communication in all levels of the organization, keeping donors and the public informed, providing vehicles for more effective board and staff communication, and ensuring increased giving opportunities.
• Educate the Athenian community (parents, faculty, alumni, administrators, and friends) on the importance of philanthropy and its role in helping the school achieve its goals.
Staff Management and Programmatic Elevation • Recruit and train a diverse and high-quality staff that is well prepared to meet the ongoing challenges of the school. Oversee advancement personnel activities, including the hiring, defining of job responsibilities, and performance review process for each staff member.
• Establish strategies to expand the pool of major gift prospects and identify and cultivate the next generation of donors. Deepen relationships with current donors while launching systematic initiatives to identify and target other individuals capable of making major financial contributions. Manage a portfolio of major gift prospects and donors and ensure that timely steps are taken toward solicitation.
• Evaluate, strengthen, and enhance existing annual fund programming. Develop and implement new innovative programs to identify and acquire prospective donors, increase donor retention, and upgrade and renew existing donors.
• Develop and implement a systematic plan for alumni and parent relations. Recognize a wide array of audiences who are positively disposed and looking for mechanisms to stay involved with the school.
• Oversee all alumni relations programming, including on-campus events, such as reunions and alumni days, and off-campus events such as regional gatherings, dinners, and all other cultivation and fundraising events.
• Revitalize data gathering, maintenance, and analysis in keeping with industry best practices.
• Collaborate with the director of communications on all advancement-related communications and marketing activities, including print, electronic, and video publications.
• Assess the current structure and budget of the advancement operation, making adjustments as necessary to fully leverage financial and human resources and promote greater efficiency.
• Take on additional projects as directed by the head of school.
QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCE This position requires astute leadership, cultural competence, exceptional judgment, superb communication skills, and the ability to work collaboratively and adeptly with a wide range of internal and external constituencies. The director of advancement will embody key elements of the desired expertise, experience, and qualities. This is an aspirational list and we encourage candidates to apply who strive for, but may not currently possess, all of these qualities:
• An appreciation for the history, traditions, achievements, and aspirations of The Athenian School; a growth mindset, and the ability to effectively articulate the head of school’s vision to a diverse audience.
• At least seven years of progressively responsible fundraising and managerial experience in advancement. Depth of knowledge in all key areas of advancement; a demonstrated ability to plan, manage, and close a capital campaign.
• Demonstrated ability and experience building upon an existing advancement program, resulting in a transformative increase in philanthropic revenue for an organization. Success increasing the effectiveness of an advancement program and its staff through established objectives and performance standards.
• Proven management skills in establishing a team- and goal-oriented environment that empowers staff through active communication and delegation and that builds confidence, promotes diversity of thought, and celebrates achievements. An approach to management that leads by example, bringing out the best in staff and yielding pride, ownership, and a sense of team effort.
• The credibility, maturity, and sound judgment required to effectively engage and leverage Athenian leaders and volunteers in the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of key prospects and donors.
• The cultural competency and political sophistication to navigate a complex and highly participatory academic community; the desire and ability to build bridges and strong collaborative relationships with all members of an institution and with diverse alumni and constituents.
• Superlative interpersonal and listening skills with the ability to garner trust and confidence; a demonstrated ability to work well with people at all levels of an organization, across a diverse range of educational and social backgrounds. A high degree of comfort working with international constituents; cultural sensitivity as well as a commitment to diverse perspectives and interest in global cultures.
• Superior written and oral communication skills; the ability to understand and translate information for all audiences adopting the school’s message and voice; clarity, crispness, and elegance in writing and speaking. The ability to succinctly communicate a vision and process to the head of school and other key constituents, appropriately utilizing data and metrics as a foundation for advancement programs.
• A highly organized working style and strong attention to and appreciation for detail.
• A sharp eye for operational efficiency and the best use of resources, including a demonstrated understanding of budgets and the ability to manage them.
• An understanding of and appreciation for the use of technology in building an extended community.
• The flexibility to travel and work evenings or weekends as required.
Compensation and Location Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience. It is possible that on-campus housing may be available for the successful candidate.
The Athenian School is 30 miles east of San Francisco, nestled among the Danville, Diablo, and Blackhawk communities. Danville is known for its small-town atmosphere and quality of life, including highly rated public elementary schools. Athenian’s 72 acres open up to wild space on Mt. Diablo for outdoor adventure in its backyard. A massive solar array provides over seventy-five percent of the school’s power and is just one of many ways Athenian strives to be a green campus. The school’s proximity to Silicon Valley, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco provides endless opportunities for dining, cultural, and social experiences.
TO APPLY This search is being led by Rachel Ellenport with Rachel Partin, Billy Parker, and Michael Mozzicato. For more information, to make a nomination, or to apply for this role, please visit www.imsearch.com/6595.
The Athenian School is an equal opportunity employer. Applicants are evaluated without consideration of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.
Internal Number: www.imsearch.com/6595
About The Athenian School
The Athenian School is a distinctive independent school that prepares its students for college and for lives of meaning and purpose. Athenian encourages students to become life-long learners and infuses them with confidence, independence, personal responsibility and a sense of community. Enrollment in grades 6-12 is 524 students, including 58 boarding students, 48 of whom are international students. For more information about Athenian’s unique educational program, applicants are encouraged to visit our website: www.athenian.org.
Every employee is an Athenian community member, and as such, embraces the cornerstones of Athenian’s philosophy: respect; open, direct communication; honesty; fairness; responsibility; and dedication to the students in their intellectual and personal growth. Additionally, active support for environmental conservation, international understanding, equity, inclusion, justice, participatory government, outdoor education, and service is essential. Cultural competence is an expectation of employment for all teaching and professional staff at Athenian. As a school that from its founding has valued the worth and integrity of each individual, we ar...e particularly interested in candidates with a proven commitment to teaching and working in a diverse, multicultural setting.
Athenian School strives to attract and retain a faculty and staff of the highest caliber. We have a unique community here, filled with many differing opinions, backgrounds, ideologies and experiences. We have students from all over the globe, our families include a mom and a dad, two moms, two dads, single parents, guardians and stepparents. We have many faiths and those who are non-observant. We represent all income levels. What we share is a belief in Athenian’s mission. By embracing diversity in all forms — gender and gender identity, sexuality, faith, ethnicity, socio-economic status — we encourage students to take intellectual risks, to challenge their own assumptions and to learn to work collaboratively as global citizens and advocates for positive change. We ask that all candidates take time to read about Athenian’s history and philosophy.
The Athenian School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, faith, sex, gender or gender expression, age, ability, sexual orientation, familial or marital status. The Athenian School is actively seeking to create a more culturally diverse school community and as such, we encourage people of color and members of the LGBTIQ community to apply.