Point Blue Conservation Science- Chief Development Officer–Completed

View PDF:Point Blue Chief Development Officer Position Description


Point Blue Conservation Science

  Chief Development Officer

Position Description


Painter Executive Search is supporting Point Blue Conservation Science in their search for a dynamic and experienced fundraiser to create and execute a fundraising and communications plan to achieve the time-critical climate-smart initiatives in Point Blue’s recently adopted Strategic Plan.   

Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue, formerly PRBO), based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists.  Their highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy future.

Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Their scientists work closely with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  They understand that real solutions come from working together.

Point Blue has more than tripled in size over the past 12 years and is expected to continue growing over the next 5-10 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.


The Chief Development Officer (CDO) will be both deeply strategic and highly tactical.  The role requires vision and effective execution of fundraising activities in order to further develop current donors and bring new supporters to the critical scientific work required to mitigate the impact of climate change and advance Point Blue’s climate-smart conservation vision and goals. Highly attuned to the value of scientific rigor and passionate about conservation, the CDO will work hand-in-hand with the dynamic President and CEO of Point Blue, Ellie Cohen, to build a broader base of support for their work.

The CDO is responsible for developing and implementing the fundraising and communications strategy required to fund the growth in operations and programs as envisioned in Point Blue’s 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. Working closely with the Board of Directors and key staff throughout the organization, the CDO will help the organization increase annual revenue from a current level of nearly $10.5 million to a sustainable $15 million in the next five years. Point Blue has over 90 current conservation projects, approximately half of which are funded through contracts.  Currently income by source is roughly 50% from contracts, 25% from foundations, and 25% from individuals. Growing Individual Giving, both in dollars and as a percentage of overall revenue, and diversifying sources of income will be a primary focus of this role.

Point Blue is investing in the capacity of the Development Group, bringing the total number of staff to seven.  Recent hires in science communications and planned giving complement the efforts of a Director of Individual Giving, a Director of Strategic Program Development, as well as staff in membership and development operations. Building a rigorous major gift program and maintaining a personal portfolio of donors and prospects is expected of this role.

Point Blue has a significant number of longtime supporters among its ~3,000 members. Many of these donors have been supporting the organization for more than 10 years and have participated in the annual Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, now in its 38th year.  Reviewing the membership experience to develop programs and events to deepen support from these longtime donors, as well as introduce new people and organizations to Point Blue’s work will be part of the strategic development plan.

Since much of Point Blue’s work is funded by contracts and government grants primarily secured by the science staff, the development department also supports them by developing matching funds as required in their grants and by supplementing funding for important but underfunded research and outreach programs to drive the organization’s strategic goals.  The CDO will be expected to understand the work of Point Blue’s 140 conservation scientists and develop a fluency in describing their work clearly and accurately to inspire support.  Integrating deeply into the organization, actively participating as a member of the Management Team, and bringing deep fundraising and communications expertise to the organization will be required for success in the position.

Point Blue is a stable, healthy organization with net assets totaling ~$11 million and the equivalent of 3 months of operating funds in cash and investments. The CDO will be working to grow funding, particularly unrestricted funds, to fulfill the current strategic plan and to build the next generation of deeply committed donors.

Point Blue History

Point Blue was founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory in 1965 to study the birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, and has conducted the longest running population study of landbirds in western North America. The bird ecology study methods they developed, tested and refined at their Palomarin Field Station (at Point Reyes National Seashore) are now used by scientists throughout the world.


Point Blue biologists have stewarded and studied the Farallon Islands continuously since 1968 through a unique cooperative agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Farallones host the largest seabird breeding colony in the contiguous United States, with over 300,000 seabirds of 13 species, as well as 5 species of seals and sea lions, and white sharks off its shores. Among other long term studies, Point Blue has also studied Adélie Penguins and the Ross Sea ecosystem in Antarctica since 1972.

Point Blue’s long-term data sets provide a unique window on environmental change and climate impacts. In the early 1990’s, The Nature Conservancy invited Point Blue scientists to evaluate their Sacramento River habitat restoration program using birds as indicators. Point Blue has been assessing, guiding and improving conservation actions across the west and beyond ever since.

Point Blue’s Work

At the core of Point Blue’s work is innovative science.  By studying birds and other environmental indicators they create the knowledge required to assess and protect nature’s benefits. Using their long term data, they evaluate natural and human-driven change over time. This data allows them to guide their partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. They publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge as well as communicate their findings to a wide variety of audiences to improve conservation outcomes.

Point Blue has grown its informatics capacity significantly in the past decade. They store, manage and interpret almost half a billion bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and in an uncertain future.

This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come. Point Blue is very well-positioned to collaboratively develop, test, and implement the conservation actions needed.

Working in their priority focal areas including the Sierra Nevada, California’s Central Valley, Pacific Coast, San Francisco Bay Estuary, California Current (including greater Gulf of the Farallones), Ross Sea (Antarctica), and the Internet, Point Blue will implement climate-smart conservation and disseminate this information globally. Point Blue has set out to achieve the following over the next five years:

Secure Water and Wildlife on Working Lands

Point Blue works with farmers, ranchers, foresters, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the US Forest Service and others to increase groundwater storage; gradually filter and release water downstream; increase soil carbon storage; sustain birds and other wildlife; and make working lands more economically productive. Their goals include “re-watering” 1.1 million acres through changes in grazing and other practices on rangelands to benefit wildlife and ranchers’ bottom lines.

Protect Our Shorelines

Point Blue is identifying and prioritizing the best places and practices to protect coastal wetlands, streams, dunes and beaches in the face of more severe storms and rising seas.  Working with scores of partners from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific coast of the Americas, they are translating data into decision support tools to assess future impacts on natural and human infrastructure and to develop conservation solutions to benefit wildlife and people today and in our changing future.

Conserve Ocean Food Webs

Point Blue is identifying and prioritizing ocean food webs for protection to give marine wildlife and fisheries more opportunities to adapt to rapid environmental change. Collaborating with public agencies, NGOs, universities, fishing and shipping industries, and others, they monitor ocean ecosystem health, develop and assess new approaches to management, prioritize stronger protections as needed, and help to reduce conflicts between wildlife needs and human uses of the marine environment (e.g., clean energy, shipping, and fishing). One project, “Whale Aware,” uses a mobile app that engages commercial and recreational fishers, whale watchers and others in real-time reporting of whale locations.  The result: shipping traffic has already been slowed or redirected during times of high whale use to reduce whale strikes. Our goal is to expand this program across the entire West coast and beyond.

Climate-Smart Restoration

Working with local communities and scores of public and private partners, Point Blue is developing innovative approaches to help ecosystems and people adapt to accelerating climate and land-use changes. They are designing habitats to better withstand extremes, provide food year-round as timing of animal life cycles change and sustain nature’s benefits into the future.

Make Natural Resource Plans and Policies Climate-Smart

As leaders in major conservation collaborations and pioneers in climate-smart conservation, they are helping public and private natural resource management entities, from local municipalities to international commissions, to incorporate climate-smart principles into their ocean and land-use plans and policies, and to put climate-smart conservation into action.

Train the Next Generation

Point Blue is providing hands-on training for future scientists and educators, equipping them with tools to protect nature’s benefits and help secure life as we know it. Building on Point Blue’s hands-on field internship program that has graduated more than 1500 budding conservation biologists over the past few decades, they will engage scores more scientists-in-training, graduate students and school children in climate-smart conservation science over the next 5 years.



External Affairs and Leadership

• Work closely with the CEO, Board, Development team and other key leadership including the Chief Science Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Group Directors, and Finance and Administration Group in furthering a comprehensive plan for growing fundraising and organizational reach at all levels.

• Become knowledgeable and conversant in all aspects of Point Blue’s mission, vision, values, research, programs, and long-range plans in order to effectively represent Point Blue and raise its profile and visibility to funders, partners, policymakers and the public.

• Further develop a culture of effective, coordinated fundraising across the organization; partner with the CEO, Board of Directors, scientists and other key staff to ensure they are prepared for and supported in their fundraising efforts.

• Revitalize and manage the Development Committee of the Board of Directors to identify and coordinate fundraising opportunities; work in close partnership with CEO, the Development Committee Chair, and other board members to build the Board’s fundraising capacity and comfort with solicitation.

• Actively build visibility for Point Blue; develop external relationships and represent the organization to a wide range of constituencies and to the broader public; effectively present a compelling case for supporting Point Blue and its work.

Fundraising Management

• In collaboration with other key leadership and development team members, finalize a five-year development and communications plan to fund ongoing operations and fulfill the needs of the new Strategic Plan.

• Develop, manage, and motivate a high caliber team, creatively organizing them to maximize their effectiveness; clearly define their roles, build accountability and expectations for each, and conduct annual evaluations to further learning and growth of the Development staff.

• Oversee the management of Point Blue’s fundraising programs including membership, annual fund, individual and planned giving, and grants; assess their potential, adapt and shift in order to maximize their potential and grow financial support.

• Direct an effective fundraising operation; ensure Raisers Edge, the donor database, is accurate and appropriately managed for ongoing stewardship and accurate reporting;

• Ensure the integrity of donor relationships and philanthropic agreements and provide regular status reports to funders, the Management Team and the Board of Directors.

• Develop, implement, manage and assess outcomes of annual fundraising plans and goals, working with the Development team, the CEO, the Board of Directors as well as other Point Blue staff; prepare and manage annual Development budget and ensure resources are used wisely and effectively.

• Oversee planning and implementation of fundraising and donor events including prospecting events, donor recognition and appreciation events for major donors, planned giving donors and tailored events to engage other prospects and donors.

• Work with CFO and others to develop and implement reporting systems to ensure effective tracking of fundraising in the context of the overall budget.

Individual Fundraising

  • Develop and maintain a personal prospect portfolio; cultivate, solicit, and steward major donors and foundations.
  • Craft and execute solicitation strategies for individual donors for the President and CEO, development staff, Board members, science leadership staff ,those in your own portfolio and others; Prepare briefings, set meetings, make the ask (or designate an appropriate solicitor), ensure follow up of all solicitations, and steward the donation and the ongoing relationship.
  • Be a visible member of the conservation community; represent the Point Blue at events including the organization’s own fundraising and membership events, visit Point Blue field sites, participate with Point Blue’s science and outreach staff, and attend events where prospective donors are likely to congregate.
  • Gather the resources to build Point Blue’s capacity to identify new prospective donors and develop a robust pipeline of contacts who are aligned with the mission of Point Blue.
  • Perform other functions as requested by the President and CEO.


  • Ensure that Point Blue’s marketing, communications, and public relations activities are integrated and support the conservation science mission, strategic goals, and fundraising efforts.
  • Review the external messages used to describe Point Blue’s work in collaboration with key staff leaders and translate complex scientific and environmental concepts into accessible and compelling messaging to engage prospective supporters.
  • Oversee the communications (print, web and social media) required for effective fundraising and propose any changes to the current methods, frequency, and messages; ensure communications uphold the integrity of Point Blue’s science-based approach.
  • Work with colleagues to create and implement a long term donor stewardship plan involving regular written and electronic communications, including specific reporting on outcomes achieved as a result of individual philanthropic support.
  • Ensure regular, high-quality communications with Board members, other major donors, general members and supporters, foundations, government agencies, and others to inform, engage, and reflect the quality and excellence of Point Blue’s science.


A successful Chief Development Officer will likely have:

  • Significant expertise and success growing support and in building sound fundraising practices for a similarly complex nonprofit organization.
  • Transformative leadership skills as evidenced by a track record of creativity and significant personal achievement.
  • Personal success securing multiple major gifts (6-7 figure gifts) from individuals, foundations and corporations.
  • Experience building a comprehensive fundraising program that resulted in significantly increased support through major gifts, annual giving, events, grants, and membership.
  • Demonstrated ability to translate complex concepts into compelling, easy-to-understand fundraising communications that accurately represent the science.
  • Excellent attention to detail while also able to see and communicate strategic, big picture vision and priorities.
  • Proven ability to manage and retain a high-performing team of development professionals.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills; articulate with an ability to listen well to others; accurate writing and public speaking skills to reflect the organization’s commitment to scientific excellence.
  • Experience using social media and other forms of fundraising and engagement to broaden and deepen support.
  • Knowledge of conservation community a plus.
  • Knowledge of planned giving instruments.
  • Experience with fundraising database programs (Raiser’s Edge preferred) as well as MS Office, PowerPoint, and other standard office software.


  • Passion for conservation and the natural world.
  • Strong leadership skills in managing a team for growth; inspires trust and cohesiveness.
  • Demonstrates exceptional integrity and strong work ethic.
  • Thrives in a fast-paced, goal-oriented work environment.
  • Highly self-motivated and independent yet a consummate team player.
  • Inspires confidence; demonstrates an affinity with the interests of scientists and conservation managers.
  • Ability to manage deadlines, work collaboratively, prioritize and work under pressure with a smile.
  • Strong interpersonal skills; enjoys working with people.
  • Solicits and responds well to feedback.
  • Possesses a high degree of emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
  • Dedicated; ability to attend occasional evening and weekend events and put in the extra effort and time sometimes required to meet deadlines.
  • Able to laugh with others and at oneself.


For additional information or to be considered for this role contact:

Nancy Painter


(415) 202- 6240