Senior Director of Philanthropy, Arts Umbrella (Vancouver)

Arts Umbrella


Reporting to the President & CEO, the Senior Director of Philanthropy will play a pivotal role in enhancing Arts Umbrella’s ability to positively impact the communities it serves by increasing the funds raised on an annual basis. The Senior Director of Philanthropy will build on past success, and will challenge and inspire the organization to meet its even higher aspirations.

As a member of the Senior Administrative Team, the Senior Director is responsible for providing overall leadership to a team of 10 development and events staff, with the possibility of including the marketing team as the position evolves.

The Senior Director will create and oversee the strategic approach to increasing the funds raised for Arts Umbrella by enhancing existing relationships, building new ones, and creating an atmosphere that is open to opportunities.

About Arts Umbrella

With a mission of “inspiring kids for life through the arts,” Arts Umbrella is a not-for-profit arts education center for children and youth ages 2 to 19. Arts Umbrella fosters the creativity of young people by providing innovative and quality visual and performing arts programs that inspire intellect, spirit, and passion. Delivering both tuition-based and free outreach programs, Arts Umbrella touches the lives of 16,000 children a year. Programs range from general to pre-professional courses in theatre, dance, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, photography, media arts, and more.

Why Arts Umbrella

For 35 years, Arts Umbrella has been offering a lively, positive, and supportive work environment and an opportunity to make a difference. We are passionate about the arts and believe that through education we can positively impact our community and our world. Arts Umbrella is an organization with a heart, where self-expression and creativity are valued and nurtured.

Annual Objectives

  • Supports the President & CEO, colleagues, and the Board of Directors in providing information, counsel, and support in order to effectively fulfill fundraising responsibilities.
  • Within the context of Arts Umbrella’s Strategic Plan, leads strategic planning efforts for development and establishes a long-term development plan with key objectives and tactics that must be undertaken to realize that plan. These are represented in annual operating plans that include a comprehensive & integrative range of fundraising and donor stewardship activities.
  • Oversees all special events activities and ensures that Arts Umbrella develops and enhances the profile and support for the organization amongst all its public including parents, alumni, the corporate community, volunteers and staff.
  • Works with the Revenue Development Committee of the Board in support of its meetings and activities to create and implement an integrated fund development program, which increases revenues to support the strategic direction of the organization.

For more information, to receive the full position prospective,
or to apply please contact:

Gerard Consulting Logo Web

Gérard Consulting – Fundraising Talent Management
Phil Gérard, President

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled. We thank all applicants for their interest, however, only those candidates invited for an interview will be contacted.

CFRE: Should You Bother?

Vanessa Abaya

By Vanessa Abaya

I achieved my CFRE in 2008 and whenever I’m asked whether it’s worth it, I often answer: “It depends on why you want to achieve your CFRE.” There are many opinions about the CFRE, ranging from dismissive through to essential. My own reasons for maintaining my CFRE are relatively personal.

Establish a solid education foundation - Certification requires a minimum amount of education credits. As a CFRE, I regularly attend conferences, roundtables and other education offerings to ensure that I have a strong grasp of trends and developing programs that will help advance my on-the-job practice.  As a CFRE, I also have the occasional privilege to share my experience and knowledge with colleagues. I am a stronger and more confident teacher and speaker because of this educational foundation.

Commitment to our profession – For many of us, we chose this field because we wanted to change the world for the better. I am proud to be a fundraising professional and I cannot imagine having a different career. I am grateful to CFRE for advancing the role of fundraisers everywhere.

Understanding volunteerism – Another aspect to the CFRE is volunteer requirements. As fundraisers, we spend so much time working with volunteers, but sometimes fail to appreciate how much they have to balance in their own career and personal lives in order to contribute effectively to our respective organizations. Through the CFRE, I have gained a deeper understanding of the challenges that volunteers face everyday. With this understanding, I have become a better partner to our valuable volunteers.

While I am proud of my CFRE, it becomes meaningless when it’s not combined with real-world experience. When I am interviewing a candidate for a position or when I’m trying to ascertain a colleague’s mastery of our profession, the CFRE is only one of many criteria I consider. Unfortunately, I have met enough colleagues with their CFRE who I would consider lacking in direct fundraising experience and unable to deliver on the job. Ultimately, experience matters.

Should you bother becoming certified? If it enhances your pursuit of excellence in our profession, you may want to consider writing the exam. Certification is a significant investment and you will have to think carefully about your own reasons for wanting those four letters after your name. Until you decide if the CFRE is for you, please continue to contribute in the advancement of our profession through sound practice, an ethical approach to fundraising and active participation in our professional associations.

Vanessa Abaya has worked as a fundraising professional for a variety of organizations over the past 17 years, including the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, ROM Governors, AIDS Committee of Toronto, and the Vancouver Playhouse.   She recently returned to Vancouver, after building a solid track record as a major gift fundraiser in Toronto.  She currently serves as Senior Director of Philanthropy at BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, managing the major gift, leadership giving and planned giving programs.  She is an active volunteer with AFP, most recently serving on the Board of the Vancouver Chapter.  She obtained her CFRE designation in 2008.

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Engagement: Beyond a Form Email or Letter in the Mail

John Grant-Cropped

By John Grant

I met Oprah this week. Well, not the Oprah, but someone who is pretty much as equally as big of a deal in my world. I had a rare opportunity recently to sit in on a session with someone who I’ll dare say is my hero in the advancement and alumni engagement world. He’s an individual who I find inspiring, has a proven track record, and who makes me want to jump out of my seat and make a difference.

I’m not able to summarize everything that I took away from our time together (you’ll have to pay him for that information!), but one element that is critical to recognize is that our success as fundraisers and alumni relations professionals is based on one fundamental principle: authentic engagement.

Our prospects (often alumni) are busy people. They have multiple competing interests, and every organization they’ve ever interacted with is likely sending them emails or ‘personalized’ letters in the mail seeking a gift of time or money. So how do we stand out?

For those of us who work in post-secondary institutions, our alumni are a particularly unique stakeholder; they’ve invested years on our campuses, forging important relationships and creating memories that will undoubtedly last for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. The bottom line is that they have some form of attachment to some aspect of the organizations we’re working for. The key for us is to figure out the source of that attachment to which we can build upon.

If we begin to reach out to prospects and alumni in an authentic manner what we do is start to think less about what we need (the gift or their time), and think more about what they need (to feel that they’re making a difference or to provide a conduit for that difference to occur). As the Marketing Officer in our office always touts: “We need to go back to the basics of communication and think about what the audience needs.”

So what does authentic engagement look like? Here are a few places to start:

  1. Have a conversation – like, a real one. I recognize this is increasingly challenging as we’re all being stretched thin with more to do with fewer resources. However, think about starting small and even hosting some basic focus groups or one-on-one interviews with prospects or target segments of your alumni audience. A conversation involves dialogue – which means two-way communication. An online survey doesn’t cut it; but one over the phone – or better yet in person – in a somewhat casual tone, could prove to be quite fruitful and yield interesting solutions to issues you may be facing.
  1. Try to help. Find out what interests them or what keeps them up at night. What problems exist in the world that they’re keen to see resolved and what role could you or your organization play in helping to overcome those challenges? Perhaps they can make a gift through your organization to help find a solution to one of their problems, or maybe they have a particular talent or skill they can offer to your students or faculty members. Bottom line: find a number of opportunities that could meet their needs and let them pick the best fit.
  1. Make them know that they make a difference. How many times have you registered for an event and not shown up because something else came up or you changed your plans? Now how many of those event organizers emailed you after the event saying “Wow, we really missed you and hope you can join us next time”? Think about the potential impact that could make on you. If nothing more, it’ll get you to think about them for another brief moment and to maybe reconsider missing a future event. If they made a financial gift or donated their time, how have those made an impact as well?
  1. Be patient. My “Oprah” mentioned that it generally takes about nine meaningful interactions with a major giving prospect – over a 21 month period – before they’ll make a gift to your organization. That sounds like – and is – a long time when you’re trying to accomplish your goals for the year. However, you’ll likely discover some interesting information about them during that time, and even find other opportunities to harness their interest along the way. Again, consider things like initiatives that involve mentoring students (e.g. through a speed-mentoring event, in-class presentation, or as a speaker at an alumni event), sharing stories about their favourite professors, or how your institution made a difference in their lives. All of this is really gold in its own right – and will no doubt help you and your colleagues in multiple capacities.

You’re dying to know who my “Oprah” is, right? Jim Langley is his name and you can learn more about him here.

John Grant has been working with Simon Fraser University for the past decade, nearly half of which has been devoted to Alumni Relations. His primary responsibilities include building strong relationships with campus partners to explore, encourage, and promote opportunities to expand alumni engagement. A large component to this role is to serve as a type of consultant to internal groups to make recommendations that improve overall alumni engagement including communications strategies, program options, and performance tracking systems. He and his wife won the SFU Humanitarian Staff Achievement Award for establishing a financial award for undergraduate student leaders. John holds a BA in Communication and Psychology, a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration, and a Master of Education in Post-Secondary Leadership.



A blog about fundraising careers and fundraising issues. By Gérard Consulting – Fundraising Talent Management


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