Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship
Southern Methodist University Inc

Dallas, Texas


The University

The vision for Southern Methodist University (SMU) has always been bold. It is an enduring aspect of SMU's character, exemplified by its mission to create, expand, and impart knowledge through teaching, research, and service, shaping world changers who contribute to their communities and excel in their professions in a global society. Founded in 1911, this nationally ranked comprehensive research university with a liberal arts tradition empowers the bold, curious, and creative with limitless opportunities to effect real change and solve 21st-century problems.

As president of SMU since 1995, R. Gerald Turner is leading an era of unprecedented progress. President Turner's tenure has included two highly successful major gift campaigns: The Campaign for SMU: A Time to Lead (1997 - 2002), followed by SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign (2008 - 2015). Together, these historic major gift campaigns raised more than $1.6 billion for student scholarships, endowed faculty positions, academic programs, and capital projects, including new academic, student life, and athletics facilities. SMU is about to embark on the public phase of a third comprehensive campaign.

The optimistic outlook of Dallas is at the heart of SMU, and SMU's enterprising spirit has helped shape Dallas into a global gateway for people of all backgrounds who want to change the world. The 234-acre main campus near the heart of Dallas is a vibrant environment of energy and creativity. Through its eight schools, SMU boosts intellectual capital and shapes future leaders by attracting exceptional students, faculty, and staff. The spark of innovation powers an academic enterprise that spans the arts, business, engineering, humanities, law, sciences, teaching, and theology. It also promotes data literacy across disciplines and ignites the vast potential at the intersection of data science, high-speed computing, gaming, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence to fuel research, creative scholarship, and transformative teaching. As Dallas' university, SMU offers students life-changing access to the future-forward momentum of Big D - one of the nation's fastest-growing regions - for incredible learning, research, social, and career opportunities.

Campus Profile

Today, SMU is home to a student body of more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students - from all 50 states and 83 countries who take advantage of small classes, hands-on research opportunities, leadership development, community service, and innovative programs. Students of color constitute more than 31 percent of the student body. Forty-nine percent of undergraduates and 48 percent of graduate students are female. More than half of undergraduates are from outside Texas. Three out of four undergraduate students receive grants and/or scholarships. Among students reporting a religious preference, 28 percent are Catholic, 14 percent are Methodist, 46 percent are from other Protestant denominations, and 12 percent represent other faiths (including Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism).

As home to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, SMU is the only private university with a presidential library on its main campus. The Bush Center serves as a resource for the study of the life and career of the 43rd president of the United States and promotes an understanding of the Presidency, American history, and important issues of public policy.

Well into its second century of achievement, SMU upholds a steadfast commitment to its mission. The aspirations and optimism that led to the school's founding more than a century ago continue to drive the future-focused academic enterprise, shaping world changers - the problem solvers, the influencers, and the leaders who will make an impact around the globe.

Under the leadership of President R. Gerald Turner, SMU has made unparalleled progress in academic quality, infrastructure, and financial strength, and seeks to advance even more in the years to come. To that end, the school's Strategic Plan 2016 - 2025 outlines University objectives to be achieved by 2025 and maps six enduring goals: to enhance the academic quality and stature of the University; to improve teaching and learning; to strengthen scholarly research, creative achievement, and opportunities for innovation; to sustain student development and a supportive campus experience; to broaden global perspectives; and to increase revenue generation and promote responsible stewardship of resources.

The Opportunity


Reporting to the Senior Executive Director of Program Services and Donor Relations, the Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship is responsible for managing a team, and developing, implementing, and continually improving a comprehensive stewardship program focused on communications, recognition, naming opportunities, endowment reporting and compliance, scholarship stewardship, and custom major donor stewardship. The Director collaborates closely with Development and External Affairs (DEA) colleagues, as well as university leadership, to maintain donor relations standards and donor-centric programming across all areas of the university. Essential functions include:

Office of Donor Relations Management

  • Oversee donor recognition and stewardship activity focused on principal and major gift level donors, planned giving and endowment giving, including but not limited to annual reporting and select donor recognition programs.
  • Introduce and implement new programs as necessary.
  • Develop a more strategic, focused approach to the highest level of lifetime giving.
  • Lead a donor recognition strategy for naming opportunities, including permanent donor recognition.
  • Lead centralized efforts for a forward-thinking approach to donor acknowledgments, honor rolls/donor lists, holiday stewardship programs, and other stewardship communication.
  • Oversee and manage specialized projects.
Donor Relations Culture Development
  • Create a culture of knowledge of donor relations across the university.
  • Work closely with the Office of Principal Gifts and Office of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations on stewardship efforts towards various annual giving donor societies and annual donor recognition.
  • Develop stewardship standards for the university to be used by all schools and units.
  • Serve as a consultant to these areas as they develop their own respective stewardship programs.
  • Oversee partnership with Investments office and schools and units to ensure donor intent is being met on the endowment spending.
  • Work with Enrollment Services and Financial Aid regarding scholarship management and support stewardship for annual scholarships and endowed funds.
  • Represent Donor Relations in weekly DEA coordination meetings with DEA colleagues on various areas of donor stewardship.
  • Participate in relevant professional groups and trainings to maintain a strong knowledge of best practices and trends in the field.
  • Serve on the DEA Leadership Team.
Annual Planning, Budgeting and Personnel Management
  • Create a cross-functional team culture of high performance, excellence, and customer service.
  • Lead and motivate individual team members and provide input and direction while supervising a wide range of projects.
  • Provide guidance, direction and career mentoring while setting individual performance goals and evaluating staff performance.
  • Work collaboratively with other managers within the Program Services and Donor Relations unit to cultivate culture across the unit.
Metrics, Tools, and Systems
  • Establish metrics-driven donor relations activity utilizing existing BBEC fundraising software.
  • Collaborate with Development Services colleagues on setting strategies for growth and improvement with reporting tools and system functionality as well as utilizing additional tools and capabilities.
  • Develop standard vehicles designed to enhance communication with donors, and a standard means for measuring success of such programs.
  • Track progress with the ultimate goal of improving services and donor stewardship strategies.


The Ideal Candidate


Five (5) years of professional work experience, including three (3) years managing a team in donor relations and/or fundraising/development.

Knowledge of industry standards.

Prior experience developing and administering budgets and working with a customer relationship management system required.

Experience with Microsoft Office suite necessary and strong Excel skills required.

Understanding of endowment spending and experience with cloud-based donor engagement tools preferred.

Skills & Knowledge

Must have excellent organizational, time and project management, interpersonal, written, and verbal communication skills.

Requires strong writing, copy editing, analytical abilities with the ability to prepare reports and make effective and persuasive presentations to internal and external constituents.

Ability to collaborate and guide the integrity and maintenance of database records and files including those used to track donor and gift information, endowments, major gifts, and other contributions.

Highly developed creative problem-solving skills.

Personal Characteristics

A motivated self-starter who takes initiative, anticipates, challenges, and follows through to deliver results.

A personable and engaging individual with a consistently professional appearance when interacting with internal and external constituents.

A positive individual possessing high levels of initiative and comfort working with teams or as an independent practitioner.

Ability to move comfortably in a wide variety of social settings, including among people of substantial influence and wealth, and the ability to forge solid personal relationships.

An individual who embraces diversity and fosters inclusion in all aspects of life.

Intuitive, perceptive, and skilled at reading both people and situations as well as flexible and willing to adapt, especially when advancing multiple projects and priorities.

An individual who balances a sense of urgency in addressing needs with the patience required of a team-oriented environment.

A hardworking, self-motivated individual who fully dedicates energy to a cause and is willing to "go beyond the job description", including extending extra effort when necessary to see projects to successful conclusions.

A service-oriented person who engenders support among colleagues, staff, and the community through knowledge, experience, creativity, vision, and dedication to the mission of SMU.

Other Considerations

Compensation Competitive with comparable organizations, and commensurate with capability, experience, and prevailing market trends

Location Dallas, Texas

Travel Minimal

After Hours This position requires occasional work during the evenings and on weekends

Education Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution required, master's degree preferred


Contact Information

Carlos Peña

Email address |

Cindy Maloney

Email address |

Peña Search | 214.775.0903

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