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Chief Advancement Officer, Francis W. Parker School

POSITION:                Chief Advancement Officer

ORGANIZATION:      Francis W. Parker School

LOCATION:                330 W. Webster Avenue Chicago, IL

REPORTS TO:           Principal



Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a democratic society and global community.



Francis W. Parker School is a private independent school that was founded in 1901 by Colonel Francis W. Parker.  Colonel Parker envisioned a school that held the child at its very center in order to educate students to become creative citizens in a democratic society and global community. He believed that education should include the complete development of an individual — mental, physical, and moral— and that occurs in the vibrant context of community life. Called “the father of progressive education” by the philosopher John Dewey, Parker believed educators should organize schools to meet the needs of society by engaging students along paths of inquiry, generated in part by their own interests, curiosities and a commitment to contribute to making a difference in the world. As in the past, today the School strives to be as Colonel Parker writes, “a model home, a complete community and an embryonic democracy.” 

Through inquiry in the academic subjects, experience in the visual and performing arts, and participation in physical activity and community service, the School intends to inspire each student to strive for excellence and creativity in order to know the pleasures of learning and the value of contributing to the progress and improvement of society. Students grow expansively with Parker. Parker, in turn, grows through the faculty’s intimate understanding of each student and its vibrant approach to engaging students in learning about the world and their relationship to it. Parents, too, experience new worlds of appreciation through their engagement in community life at Parker. 

Unique among Chicago schools, Parker is an educational community with all 14 grades united on one campus in one building; educating students from junior kindergarten through 12th grade. Parker is organized in three major divisions: Lower School (JK – 3), Intermediate (4 & 5) & Middle School (6 – 8), and Upper School (9 – 12).  Currently 934 students are enrolled at Parker with an 8:1 student to teacher ratio. Approximately 20% of the students receive tuition assistance and there is over $4M annually awarded in financial aid. The operating budget for the 2015–16 year was $31M and the endowment was valued at $43M. Tuition covers 86% of the cost of educating a student. Annual giving and endowment draw provide the other 14%. Parker is led by an experienced administrative team in partnership with an engaged Board of Trustees comprised of parents, alums, civic and community leaders.



External relations are essential for the ongoing fundraising efforts of the School.  Presently development efforts generate approximately $5M annually from a range of sources including parents, grandparents, alumni, corporate giving and events.  Areas of growth include increasing corporate support and alumni participation in the annual fund as well as continually developing strong relationships with principal and major donors with the capacity to make seven plus figure gifts.  Parker recently completed an ambitious $94M Founding Our Second Century (FOSC) Campaign, that made possible the complete renovation of the 6-acre campus and significant growth in the endowment. 

With that campaign wrapped up, mini-campaigns are currently underway. Recently, a successful campaign raised $5M to fund a complete renovation of the library, construction has begun and will be completed in time for school to begin. The School is raising funds to support additional programs and personnel expansion in the growing math program as well as in the school-wide interdisciplinary STEM based program TIDES (Technology, Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship for Society). In addition, Parker actively raises necessary funding to deepen its historic efforts to integrate into the curriculum perspectives and values cultivated through our growing DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programming. Moreover, there is also a major focus to increase Parker’s endowment goal to $62M, a figure based on the Independent School Management (ISM) industry recommendation of two times general operating expenses. 

Intentionally, the operating model has tuition and fees covering a major portion of the operating costs, about 86%. In FY 2015-2016 78% of parents participated in the Parent Annual Giving Program (PAGP), contributing more than $1.2M.  $1.4M was raised for the financial aid program at the biennial Parker Auction.

Alumni giving has been climbing.  In 2016 alumni giving was approximately 8% and this past year approximately 13% of Parker alumni are making annual gifts ranging from $10 to $50,000.  The goal for alumni giving is 20%.

The School has been focusing on strengthening its brand and image to achieve its aggressive fundraising goals and to stay on top of its competition.  There recently was a comprehensive marketing study completed which is helping to shape content going forward.  A major focus is on differentiating Parker from other independent day schools and clearly and succinctly defining and providing progressive education.

Admissions efforts have focused on growing enrollment and ensuring that Parker continues to have the power of diversity to shape the foundation of the learning community. 

Parker’s Advancement Office has evolved greatly in recent years due to strong leadership and an excellent team with a passionate commitment to the Parker community. Continuing to lead the talented staff in Advancement in a collaborative non-hierarchical fashion will be critical to the ongoing success of the Advancement department. 

The opportunity now exists to bring in an innovative and talented leader who can build on the solid foundation already in place.



Reporting to the Principal, the Chief Advancement Officer provides strategic direction and vision to Development, Communications and marketing aspects of Admissions. The CAO is a member of the School’s 12 person Administrative Team. Along with the Principal, Chief Financial Officer and the Assistant Principal, the Chief Advancement Officer helps coordinate the core strategic thinking for the School.

The person we seek will make a significant contribution to development efforts by working with the Principal, Board of Trustees, parents and alumni to ensure ongoing fundraising success as well as working with the highly functional development staff to strengthen on-going annual fund and alumni relations. As an extension of the Principal’s Office, the Chief Advancement Officer is in a highly visible role and will participate in activities by attending special events, participating in appropriate programs and representing the School to outside constituent groups such as civic, cultural, and other academic institutions. 

In addition to working directly with the Principal, and serving as a member of the Administrative Team, the Chief Advancement Officer oversees a staff of 19 and directly manages five direct reports including the Director of Major Gifts, Associate Director of Development Operations, Associate Director of Advancement, Director of Communications and the Director of Admission and Financial Aid. The successful candidate will provide collegial leadership to the team in a manner that sustains the existing unified team approach to all external relations efforts.  To fulfill this aspect of the role, the Chief Advancement Officer must also be knowledgeable about the wide variety of ways the educational program touches on relationships with cultural and educational institutions outside of the School. 

The person in this position will also be involved in creating a framework that will guide all communications and outreach efforts resulting in a consistent and compelling message.  The successful candidate will be responsible for promoting and enhancing the visibility of the School by establishing partnerships with the media and other organizations be they in the cultural, academic and/or business communities. 




  • Act as the lead gifts officer for the School and determine all major and principal gift strategies, including development and management of the Principal’s prospect portfolio.
  • Manage a portfolio of 80 – 100 major and principal gift prospects, and meet solicitor fundraising benchmarks in association with the current Development Plan.
  • Ensure all annual and major gifts fundraising goals and benchmarks are met.
  • Act as staff to the Stewardship and Advancement Committee, lead members in strategic discussions to refine and expand the vision for fundraising as well as to oversee matters of fundraising policy as needed.
  • Report to the Principal’s Office, Administrative Team, Board of Trustees, and Stewardship and Advancement Committee on the progress of the School’s existing Development Plan.
  • Steward the engagement and activity of fundraising volunteers for major and principal gifts.
  • Work with development office staff to recruit and steward the engagement and activity of fundraising volunteers for the Alumni Association Giving Committee, Parent Annual Giving Committee, Special Events Committee(s) and more.
  • As needed, work with the Principal and educational leadership to develop language and messaging for fundraising special initiatives.
  • As needed, work with the Principal, Board of Trustees, and the Alumni Association to develop goals, language and messaging for future Capital and Endowment Campaign efforts.


  • Oversee all strategic communications.
  • Oversee the progress of the existing comprehensive strategic marketing plan, ensuring priorities are met and the existing plan of action to reach goals consistent with the School’s strategic plan is enacted.
  • Work closely with the Director of Communications and the Associate Director of Advancement on the development of major print and electronic publications (school magazine, annual report, endowment reporting, end of year donor reports, etc.).
  • Develop public relations strategies as needed, inclusive of the drafting of press releases, holding statements, direct responses to media inquiries, internal FAQs documentation, and internal stakeholder communication.


  • Support the Admission Office in determining, evaluating and addressing needs and opportunities through the lens of the School’s existing strategic plan.
  • Work with the Director of Admission and Financial Aid and the Principal on ensuring policy and management of processes surrounding admission and financial aid work.



We seek an accomplished and visionary leader who possesses a thorough knowledge of the role of institutional advancement preferably in an independent school environment. A seasoned professional who has the passion and drive to present Parker to the Board, parents, students, alumni, donors, prospective donors, community groups, and all key internal and external constituents is sought.  The final candidate will demonstrate a commitment to the mission and vision of progressive education and the School.

The successful candidate will have a proven track record of securing major gifts, managing campaigns and developing strategic plans.  Demonstrated experience in board relations, marketing, development, and alumni relations is needed. The ideal candidate will have experience soliciting principal and major gifts and will bring familiarity with the range of tools available to secure major gifts including planned giving.  Someone who actively seeks out new prospect or donor relationships, who likes the cultivation and stewardship process, and who can successfully close gift opportunities is highly desirable. S/he will also possess the ability to create and direct an integrated communications function and through good planning, careful analysis, reasoned judgment, and managerial leadership, move towards attainment of the School’s vision.

As a team leader and team builder who can earn the respect and acceptance of senior-level management, the candidate of choice must demonstrate superb communication skills (written and oral) and be comfortable as the spokesperson for Parker via presentations in both large assemblies as well as one-on-one meetings. S/he must provide evidence of a management style that builds alliances inter- and intra-departmentally and emphasizes consensus building, participative management, embracing diversity, high ethical standards, collegiality and effective teamwork.

The qualified candidate will be someone who strives for excellence in all facets of service. S/he is a self-starter and strategic thinker who has an entrepreneurial personality yet is a team player. S/he can easily adapt to a fast-paced environment where success is achieved through effective cross-department coordination. Creativity, integrity, and excellent judgment, a sense of urgency, a balance between analytical and intuitive skills and a willingness to “roll up the sleeves” to get the job done is also sought. A good sense of humor is also necessary.

The ideal candidate must have specific experience in producing measurable results for increasing philanthropic support. Someone who has experience working with Chicago media outlets is highly desirable. Knowledge of, or a quick aptitude for, the strategic issues of independent schools is important. A superior track record of professional accomplishments that demonstrates collaborative leadership, superior performance, and the ability to articulate and build consensus around major initiatives, is imperative. 

Bachelor’s degree required, masters in a related field of study preferred. At least ten years of demonstrated experience in institutional advancement and principal fundraising is required. Business acumen, including knowledge of web-based marketing techniques, operational standards, budgeting and accounting, strategic planning and personnel management is needed. Computer proficient, with special emphasis in all MS Office applications.

Francis W. Parker School is committed to cultivating a community of dedicated students, parents, faculty and staff, trustees, administrators and alumni, who acknowledge, respect, and esteem diversity in our school; and who reflect, through their presence, the diversity of Chicago communities and the wider world.

Francis W. Parker School is an equal opportunity employer.


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