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Principal Gifts Specialist

Position Summary

The Principal Gifts team of the Development and Alumni Relations division engages Rice University’s most passionate donors who have the capacity to make a transformative impact on its mission. Working closely with the President and the Academic Executive Leadership team, the Principal Gifts team fosters close relationships with new and established high-net-worth individuals as well as oversees the coordinated engagement strategies to secure eight and nine-figure gifts in support of the University’s highest priorities. The team also supports the strategic engagement of Rice University’s most powerful advocates serving on its Board of Trustees and related working committees.

Reporting to the head of the Principal Gifts team, the Principal Gifts Specialist is a trusted partner who performs a wide variety of high-level support and activities required to provide complex, confidential support to the principal gifts program, as well as administrative support to 2–3 principal gifts officers. The Principal Gifts Specialist will support the Principal Gifts team in the cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of trustees, donors, and prospects, helping to deepen donor engagement and facilitate new and increased gifts.

Primary responsibilities of the Principal Gifts Specialist include anticipating and overseeing impeccable preparation and execution for meetings and presentations, as well as coordination of important meetings and events at the highest level, ensuring that the Principal Gifts team operates in an informed and effective manner. The Principal Gifts Specialist is also responsible for responding to inquiries, anticipating leadership needs and proactively solving problems and/or independently handling issues as necessary, managing and writing incoming and outgoing correspondence and briefings, and serving as an effective liaison with internal and external contacts while conducting the activities of the office in a professional, organized, and efficient manner. The Principal Gifts Specialist will be responsible for researching and interpreting high-level concepts for the development of proposals and presentations. This position will interact and collaborate with colleagues in Major Gifts, Gift Planning, Constituent Relations, Marketing and Communications, Development Research and Analysis, and Development and Presidential Events on cultivation and stewardship for principal gift donors and prospects to further fundraising strategies and goals. The Principal Gifts Specialist uses the available CRM to enter data, produce donor reports, perform analysis and research, and track prospects and donors. The Principal Gifts Specialist will handle confidential and sensitive matters with utmost discretion and will use excellent judgment and decision-making to ensure integrity and professionalism.

This is an opportunity for a creative, highly organized, and detail-oriented self-starter with strong writing and interpersonal skills to be an important part of a dynamic team as Rice University builds on its success through its strategic plan and plans for its next campaign.

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Three years of experience in an executive administrative position, with extensive professional interaction with all levels of staff and leadership that are internal and external to an organization in academic, non-profit, or professional office environment
  • Skills Required
    • Ability to establish and manage priorities and handle numerous time-sensitive projects with conflicting and varied deadlines
    • Ability to accomplish goals working through formal and informal channels, with diplomacy and tact
    • Demonstrated creativity, problem solving, critical analysis, initiative, judgment and decision-making skills
    • Excellent planning and organizational skills
    • Excellent interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills
    • Strong knowledge of relevant subject matter
    • Advanced organizational skills and attention to detail
Essential Functions
  • Leads the planning and operations for a department, function or program that requires subject matter expertise
  • Organizes, manages, and completes special projects
  • Evaluates programs, policies and procedures
  • Identifies issues, and develops alternative solutions which may include changes to programs, policies and procedures
  • Develops recommendations to modify processes within the department, program or function
  • Plans and schedules calendar(s), resolves calendaring conflicts, and arranges travel
  • Processes and monitors financial transactions
  • Performs all other duties as assigned
Additional Functions
  • Manages meeting schedules for the Principal Gifts team (external and internal stakeholders), including polling parties for availability, sending out invitations, securing format or location, ordering catering, developing presentations, etc.
  • Executes executive travel arrangements and reimbursements, following internal approval processes
  • Builds personal understanding of Rice’s academic enterprise, as well as its donor community, to best match opportunities with donors and continually surface new avenues for engagement
  • Develops and maintains a log of Rice academic and programming activities having development potential for prospects and donors
  • Attends the bimonthly Principal Gifts meetings, taking notes, making assignments and outlining assignments post-meeting
  • Assists with special projects, as assigned, such as related to presidential, VP, AVP or principal gifts officer prospect engagements
  • Updates all information from meetings and principal gifts prospect development activities in the campus-wide advancement system (OwlConnect, powered by Blackbaud CRM)
  • Serves as liaison from the Principal Gifts team to the following teams:
    • Development Research and Analysis
    • Constituent Relations
    • Development and Presidential Events
    • DAR Marketing and Communications
  • Serves as liaison from the Principal Gifts team to the following offices:
    • Office of the Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations
    • Office of the President, Provost, Finance, Research and Innovation
    • Deans of Academic Schools
  • Represents and works on behalf of the team in cross-university activities, to internal and external constituencies, and via outreach activities, while building a network of relevant contacts
  • Works with front-line fundraising staff, donors, volunteers, and other university staff to assist in establishing and maintaining relationships with all university constituencies
  • In partnership with the Principal Gifts team, serves as a liaison with other schools, units, initiatives, and working groups
  • Interacts with donors at the request of the Principal Gifts team in response to inquiries
  • Professional, open office environment
  • 4+ years of experience in an executive administrative position
  • Experience working in an academic setting
  • Fundraising exposure in an educational or non-profit setting
  • Experience, coursework or other training in development or fundraising principles
  • Experience coordinating programs, events or initiatives in an educational or non-profit organization
  • Experience composing correspondence for a high-level executive or manager
  • Skills
    • Proficiency with fundraising database software, Microsoft Office Suite, Outlook Calendar, Excel/Google Sheets, and internet research
    • Demonstrated ability to write professional correspondence using correct grammar
    • Working knowledge of office etiquette standards
    • High level of maturity and emotional intelligence with capability of exercising good judgment
    • Ability to handle sensitive and confidential information appropriately and tactfully
Rice University HR | Benefits

Rice Mission and Values

Mission and Values | Rice University

Rice University is an Equal Opportunity Employer with commitment to diversity at all levels, and considers for employment qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, genetic information, disability or protected veteran status.

Faculty and staff are expected (but not required) to have completed a full vaccination series for COVID-19, currently defined as full course COVID-19 Vaccine (typically two shots of a WHO-approved COVID-19 Vaccine or one J&J) and a COVID-19 booster. Rice does not require documentation for COVID-19 vaccination at this time for faculty and staff. More information can be found here:

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