Director of Advancement
Comer Education Campus
Location: Chicago, IL
Job Information:

Comer Education Campus

The Comer Education Campus is dedicated to helping young people achieve their personal, educational and career aspirations. Young people are provided the tools they need to succeed and the belief that they can reach their full potential. The campus constitutes a unique partnership between the Gary Comer Youth Center, Gary Comer College Prep, Gary Comer Middle School and the college success initiative, UtmostU. The schools are part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. By combining the best of in-school education with out of school youth development, the campus serves over 2,000 youth annually through three core program areas: Academic Enhancement, Youth Enrichment, and College Success.

Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC), the cornerstone of the campus, delivers enrichment education in a state-of-the-art environment. Working with best-in-class partners, GCYC helps shape young peoples’ character, commitment and skills. Young people expand their horizons beyond the textbook and discover their passion in the following areas:

  • Academic enhancement
  • Civic engagement & leadership development
  • Urban agriculture & culinary
  • Media & technology
  • Visual, cultural & performing arts
  • Sports, fitness & recreation

GCYC programs provide a space for young people to have fun, grow as individuals, sharpen their academic skills and connect with caring adult role models. UtmostU, the college success initiative, is non-selective and provides the tools, guidance and encouragement for students to achieve post-secondary success. The goal is a degree for every student. Supporting students’ academic and social/emotional needs from 5th grade through their college journey makes Comer one of the most unique youth serving organizations in the city.

By way of background, having grown up in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, philanthropist and founder of the Lands’ End apparel company Gary Comer returned years later with the intent to help children in the community. His vision was to assist local youth reach their full potential and in 2006 the Gary Comer Youth Center opened. An expanded Comer Education Campus now offers a unique environment and holistic approach, fostering growth and achievement for youth across the south side of Chicago. The Comer family remains a major benefactor, and thanks to the involvement and support of numerous others, the mission continues to grow and thrive.

The various organizations comprising the Comer Education Campus represent approximately $22 million in annual operations.  The development team is currently responsible for raising the necessary revenue to support the programming of Gary Comer Youth Center, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) organization ($3.5 million budget), and its future growth.  The organization’s individual giving program is showing its potential, as a strong base of donors supports the annual event, gives reliably to the annual appeal, and appears open to additional gift conversations. Corporations provide event sponsorship and, in some instances, also contribute corporate philanthropy. Over the next decade, the development department will leverage Comer’s tremendous potential and expand to fund additional facets of the campus. The future is bright for fundraising at GCYC.

Looking ahead, Comer plans to secure more consistent and increased levels of giving beyond the annual appeal, develop a major gifts program and expand corporate philanthropy. As Comer develops greater fundraising capacity and becomes better known in philanthropic circles, momentum will support successful achievement of these goals. It is in this context that Comer seeks a high performing development professional to join its values driven, diverse and energetic team to oversee the fundraising program and take it to the next level of performance and success.

Director of Advancement

The Comer Education Campus seeks to hire a dynamic, motivated individual to lead its development and external relations activities into a second decade of delivering academic enhancement, youth enrichment and college success programs on Chicago’s South Side. As the Director of Advancement, the successful candidate will have deep knowledge and experience in the development field and demonstrated success in strategically increasing financial resources for non-profit organizations.

The Director of Advancement will report directly to the President & Executive Director, leading the implementation of a comprehensive strategy to include individual, foundation, and corporate giving, board development, as well as a limited number of strategically positioned events. Essential to success in this role is the ability to be hands-on while balancing broader objectives and long-term growth strategies. By building internal relationships with program and departmental staff, prioritizing evolving workloads, cultivating external relationships and effectively communicating the campus mission, the Director of Advancement will bring Comer’s philanthropic program to the next level of maturity and productivity, and in doing so, will enjoy great success in this role.

Specific responsibilities of the Director of Advancement will include:

I.  Develop the fundraising growth strategy (15%)

  • Review and assess the organization’s fundraising potential based on past success and future opportunities that support mission and are tied to the vision and plan for Comer.
  • Create a multi-year strategic plan for fundraising that is uniquely right for Comer. The leadership believes that by building structure and focus into the current program and expanding fundraising activities, Comer will be on the way to maximizing its fundraising potential over time.
  • Offer creative ideas and fresh perspective to the current annual fundraising operating plan, pulling it into alignment with the multi-year strategy once it is developed.
  • Lead the fundraising team in creating individual action plans for all who are involved in fundraising to include activity targets and benchmarks that measure and sustain progress.
  • Continuously refine and improve the strategic fundraising plan, annual operating plan and individual action plans based on insights and feedback.
  • Engage employees across departments, partners, donors, and volunteers in shaping fundraising strategies and activities and support ongoing communication internally and externally on the subject.

II.  Cultivate relationships and raise philanthropic support (70%)

  • Manage a small team of fundraising professionals to achieve operational success.
  • Own implementation of key aspects of the fundraising plan.
  • Build the program’s future capacity by introducing effective processes, including prospect management, standards and metrics across a calendar appropriate for the size and scope of the organization.
  • Use data and information to anchor the work of the team and encourage evaluation in an atmosphere of learning and continuous improvement.
  • Bring a major gift sensibility and best practices to all fundraising activities in the pursuit of advancing the Comer Education Campus.
  • Manage a portfolio of major donors through the cycle of donor relations (identify, cultivate, solicit and stewardship).
  • Staff the President & Executive Director on major donor activities.
  • Help to orchestrate increased volunteer involvement in fundraising, especially as it relates to corporate giving and individual major gifts.
  • Oversee all development communications.

III.       Increase awareness of the Comer Education Campus brand and mission through leadership and outreach (15%)

  • Assist the President & Executive Director in developing a plan for increasing the size of the governing board and support their engagement.
  • Give priority to activities that strengthen brand and increase awareness of the organization taking a long view of the organization’s future.
  • Serve on the senior leadership team.
  • Serve as a thought partner to the President & Executive Director and others as appropriate.


Comer Education Campus seeks to attract an individual with a unique combination of skills. The organization is looking for a leader who will formalize processes and be strategic and, at the same time, be nimble, flexible and entrepreneurial. As the President & Executive Director stated it, “Our next Director will apply method but also be responsive to seize opportunities as they arise.”

In addition to being able to accomplish the work outlined above, the Director will hold a strong connection to the mission, including youth education, enrichment, college readiness and success, youth development and community engagement. The individual should be comfortable working in a community-based organization, splitting time between the campus and a Chicago Loop office as necessary to be successful in this position.

Other qualifications and attributes in the ideal candidate profile include:

  • Bachelor’s degree required
  • At least 7 years of professional experience, 3 plus years in a leadership role
  • Experience leading a fundraising program
  • Experience staffing a governing board or fundraising committee
  • Track record for having closed major gifts ($10,000 and above)
  • Significant experience in setting a strategic direction and developing a fundraising plan
  • Proven success at implementing a fundraising plan and achieving results
  • Success at managing a team of at least 2 people, preferably more
  • Goal oriented and results focused
  • Creative and innovative
  • Professionally ambitious
  • Knowledge of Chicago’s philanthropic community

Generally, employees who thrive at the Comer Education Campus are:

  • Focused and disciplined
  • Move at a fast pace
  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Competent and energetic
  • Values and mission driven

For more information about Comer Education Campus visit: and for more information about the programs delivered at Gary Comer Youth Center visit:

 To Apply

All qualified applicants, please send your cover letter and resume to Salary and benefits are competitive and offered commensurate with experience.