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Chief Development Officer

Company: San Diego Opera
Date Posted: October 30, 2017

Chief Development Officer
 San Diego Opera
San Diego, California

San Diego Opera invites applications and nominations for the position of Chief Development Officer.

The Company


San Diego Opera is a widely respected member of the international opera community and an invaluable cultural resource to the San Diego region.  The Company is committed to presenting exceptional vocal performances and exciting, accessible programs to diverse audiences, focusing on community engagement and the transformative power of live performance.


The 2017-18 Season features three mainstage productions:  Pirates of Penzance, Turandot, and Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, all at the San Diego Civic Theatre.  In addition, the Company offers three programs in its detour Series which focuses on presenting works outside of traditional grand opera in various intimate venues around San Diego.


San Diego Opera can trace its roots to 1950 and San Diego Opera Guild, which was founded to present San Francisco Opera productions.   San Diego Opera Association was incorporated in 1965 as a producing company and presented its first staging of La bohème in the newly opened San Diego Civic Theatre.  From 1965 to his death in 1975, founding General Director Walter Herbert produced a balanced repertoire of both standard and new works.


Beginning in 1976, General Director Tito Capobianco expanded the season to six productions cast with internationally renowned artists and the Company attracted worldwide attention with an annual Verdi Festival.  Ian Campbell took the helm as General Director in 1983 and further expanded the Company’s vision by introducing a concert program with star performers and launching the North American Voices Project, which added contemporary work to the Company’s repertoire.


In the Spring of 2014, San Diego Opera caught the opera world by surprise by announcing that the Company would cease operations.  A group of dedicated Board members and concerned opera patrons quickly joined forces to launch a funding campaign that raised $2.2 million in gifts from donors representing 36 states and six countries.  This outpouring of public support, together with the unified vision expressed by the Company’s management, staff, partners, and contractors, and the expert advice and encouragement of OPERA America and its professional members, led the Board to rescind the vote to close.   In early 2015, David Bennett was appointed General Director to lead the Company as it repositioned itself to serve the community as a model of adaptability, innovation, and sustainability, promoting diversified programming in unique performance venues with both internationally recognized artists and emerging talent.  Community and audience response has been strong.  The Company celebrated its 50th Anniversary, achieved near sell-out houses, and ended the 2014-15 season with a modest surplus.


San Diego Opera is committed to transparency in all aspects of its operations.  Audited financial statements, annual reports, and governance documents are readily available for review on the Company’s website.


The Position


The Chief Development Officer is the Company’s principal fundraiser, responsible and accountable for achieving the Company’s annual and long-term goals for contributed income.  S/he provides leadership and management to the development staff and ensures that the systems and policies are in place to support the identification, cultivation, solicitation, acknowledgement and excellent stewardship of gifts.  S/he provides impetus and support to the fundraising efforts of the Board, the Board Chair, and the General Director.  S/he fosters a culture of respect for philanthropy throughout the organization.


The Chief Development Officer participates in annual and long-term program development and in setting goals for income from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government.  S/he develops and implements strategies to achieve these goals through annual, endowment, and planned giving, grants, program sponsorship, and special events.  S/he provides direction and management to the development work of staff and volunteers.  S/he ensures accountability and compliance with donor expectations, gift requirements, and government regulations.


The Chief Development Officer reports to the General Director and is a member of the senior management team.  S/he supervises, motivates, and evaluates two Major Gifts/Planned Giving Officers, the Associate Director, Institutional Grants, the Associate Corporate Development Director, the Individual Giving Director, and the Special Events Director.  S/he staffs the development committee(s) of the Board of Directors. 


The Chief Development Officer represents the Company to external audiences, including current and potential donors.  S/he attends San Diego Opera performances and special events.  S/he is an active and visible participant in the life of the greater San Diego community.


Candidate Profile


The ideal candidate will be a seasoned fundraising executive with successful experience as a major gifts officer and a manager of development operations in a not-for-profit performing arts organization.  S/he will have the demonstrated ability to design and implement a fundraising program that achieves annual fundraising goals in excess of $5 million.  


The successful candidate will have the ability to communicate with patrons who are both passionate and knowledgeable about opera.  S/he will be able to speak and write persuasively about the value and importance of opera in general and San Diego Opera in particular. S/he will have the skills necessary to connect donor interests with San Diego Opera programs and activities.  S/he will have the necessary confidence and enthusiasm for making direct solicitations of time and money.


The successful candidate will be a skilled manager of people and systems.  S/he will have the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to design and implement a comprehensive program that includes: prospect research and donor cultivation; campaign design and management; direct mail, telephone, and electronic media solicitation; face-to-face solicitation; proposal development and grant writing; special events; and development office administration of gift processing, prospect management, donor history and records maintenance, and reporting.


The successful candidate will embrace and share San Diego Opera’s commitment to transparency and the highest ethical standards in all aspects of organizational behavior and governance.  S/he will bring high energy, stamina, and a sense of humor.  S/he will welcome the opportunity to be part of a high-performance professional team dedicated to the continued success of San Diego Opera.



Compensation, including benefits, is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.




Please send a cover letter outlining specific interest and qualifications.  Include with resume, salary history or requirements, and contact information for at least three references.  Electronic submissions are preferred.  All applications will be treated as confidential and references will not be called without the candidate’s knowledge and agreement. 


Please send materials to:


San Diego Opera Development Search

c/o Catherine French Group

2500 Q Street NW, Suite 623

Washington, DC  20007


Please submit material in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word format, only.