Burning Man — Major Gifts Officer–Completed

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Burning Man

Major Gifts Officer

Position Description

Painter Executive Search is supporting Burning Man in their search for an experienced Major Gifts Officer to develop a robust program to actively invite support for their mission of extending Burning Man culture around the globe.

Burning Man Project (Burning Man) is a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation whose mission is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event (AKA Black Rock City) into the larger world. Burning Man is committed to nurturing Black Rock City as the seminal manifestation of the 10 Principles-based culture and growing a support infrastructure that connects, celebrates and facilitates the sharing of Burning Man culture in communities around the globe.

Based in San Francisco, California, Burning Man employs a diverse staff of creative professionals with extensive knowledge of art, civic engagement, and community building who seek to bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of community, culture and personal engagement. Through the cultivation of 10 Principles-based culture, Burning Man seeks to encourage personal, civic and social change. Burning Man facilitates learning and sharing of ideas and technical knowledge, as well as develops connections and resources needed to seed and foster the spread and development of the culture in new and deeper ways.

Increasingly Burning Man culture is first experienced through local projects or events around the world. As a result of this growth, Burning Man is adapting to a role that functions as a repository of knowledge, a nexus for learning and adaption, a coach in creating inspirational experiences and new expressions of the culture, and a storyteller sharing the transformative power of these experiences. Any Burner will tell you, Burning Man is in the doing. It’s the gift of time and participation–through the labor, the shared creation of artwork, the experience of interactive public art, community building, in creative civic engagement, and other forms of participation that transforms Burners and their communities.

Gifting is a core Burning Man principle and is integral to the culture on and off the playa. A professional, structured fundraising program is relatively new to Burning Man. Interpreting traditional fundraising techniques in this gift-oriented culture will be required of this role, but the possibilities for engagement are personal and transformative for everyone. As Burning Man culture extends and influences larger numbers of people around the world, the invitation to support that social change is also evolving. Within the dynamic conversation of how Burning Man culture creates social change, are opportunities for individuals to support personal and social transformation on a grand scale.


The Major Gifts Officer will develop and execute a strategy to engage the community, inviting them to participate in the promise of the social transformation that emanates from 10 Principles-based communities. Reporting to the Director of Philanthropic Engagement, the Major Gifts Officer will focus on developing relationships with donors who have the capacity to support the organization with five to seven figure gifts. Through the process of designing and implementing new giving programs that honor and nurture the Burning Man’s culture of gifting, the Major Gift Officer will extend the opportunities for those who embrace Burning Man’s mission to participate fully in support of that work.

A critical component of success for this role will be building a community of individual funders who have experienced Burning Man and who recognize the potential of seeding 10 Principles-based culture in the world through unrestricted gifting. Support for programmatic needs, core initiatives, including the creation of art and a range of grantmaking programs, will also be important opportunities for gifting.

Although this role is externally facing, this person will interact fluidly and frequently across the organization, its programs and with a wide variety of Burning Man community members. This person will have the opportunity to learn and influence the whole culture of gifting and participation at the organizational level and will be an important voice for program and organizational values.


10 Principles and a Gifting Culture

Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the 10 Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed regional network. These principles are descriptive rather than prescriptive, and reflect the Burning Man community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception. While these principles rose from the experience of Black Rock City, they define Burning Man culture on and off the playa.

  • Radical Inclusion

Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

  • Gifting

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

  • Decommodification

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

  • Radical Self- Reliance

Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

  • Radical Self-Expression

Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other that the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

  • Communal Effort

Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art and methods of communication that support such interaction.

  • Civic Responsibility

We value civic society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare, and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

  • Leaving No Trace

Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

  • Participation

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformational change, whether in the individual or in society can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

  • Immediacy

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with the natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

Understanding these 10 Principles will be critical to developing a culturally sensitive and effective fundraising effort within this community.


Burning Man began in June, 1986, as a one night event on Baker Beach in San Francisco. The burning of a wooden sculpture, in the form of a human figure, was a spontaneous act of creativity that became an annual tradition. In 1990, the event grew to span Labor Day weekend and moved to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Today, Burning Man is a year-round, globally recognized organization that manages the infrastructure of Black Rock City, where nearly 70,000 attendees (or “Burners”) gather for the annual eight-day event.

In 1998, the six founders of the event now known as Black Rock City formed an LLC for the purposes of managing the event’s operations. In 2011, they recruited a Board of Directors and formed the nonprofit organization, Burning Man Project, in a formalized effort to extend the principles, creativity, and culture of Burning Man into the world, year round. Today Burning Man, is growing and developing around the world. Burning Man now includes nearly 300 volunteer regional contacts  in 35 countries.

In the past, the LLC raised nearly all of its money from ticket sales to the annual event in Nevada, but that alone cannot support the flourishing global expansion of Burning Man culture. In order to seed and support the dreams of inspired Burners year-round, the organization needs to grow charitable contributions from the community.

The EVENT: Black Rock City and Burning Man on the Playa

The eight-day annual event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is the “mother ship” of Burning Man culture. The individual experience of Burning Man can simply be described as completely dependent upon what you bring to it. The exercise of radical self-reliance in this unforgiving desert environment meets the open, gifting culture that eliminates money and adopts a currency of participation, radical self-expression and ultimately the immediacy of self-discovery. This is not a festival to “see” but a vibrant, active community of citizens fully participating in the expression of self and community through art, experiences and communal living. Black Rock City is designed as a vessel for community engagement that honors self-expression through all means, but is particularly well known for its art. The art that is created and shared at Burning Man has long been celebrated through books, photography, and on film, but a true understanding of the power of the iconic sculptures, mutant vehicles, and rituals requires participation and personal experience.

The Culture: Burning Man Arts and Civic Engagement

Threaded throughout the experience of Burning Man is art that requires individual and community participation for its completion. Burning Man Art shifts the experience of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

Currently Burning Man supports the community by awarding grants for art and civic engagement projects, producing interactive art exhibitions and events, offering fresh and unique public art and performance experiences, as well as providing technical, operational or administrative support including fiscal sponsorship. Burning Man also shares their values and ideas in public speaking engagements and connects leaders, informal groups and like-minded organizations who are working to develop a vibrant, life-enhancing world of civic participation.

Burners Without Borders (BWB) a program of Burning Man promotes activities around the globe that support a community’s inherent capacity to thrive by encouraging innovative approaches to disaster relief and grassroots initiatives that make a positive social impact.

The Network (Regional and Global)

Since 1997 Burning Man has been building and supporting an official Regional Network. Each year Burning Man hosts a range of gatherings including Global Leadership Conference in the spring in the San Francisco Bay Area and a European Leadership Summit. They tap new knowledge and share decades of experience, by providing training and useful tools for engaging in arts and civics at the local level.

Although the Regional Network functions as an official conduit of information, a broader global network of loosely affiliated individuals, groups, organizations and partners has emerged organically from the relationships forged and values shared by Burners. Burning Man would like to support all efforts that reflect the 10 Principles with a platform to engage and share knowledge, stories and further develop the interconnectedness of the community.

The Future: Fly Ranch and expanding the Programs

In June of 2016, Burning Man Project purchased the Fly Ranch property, 3,800 acres of land located twenty-one miles north of Gerlach in Washoe County, Nevada near the home of Black Rock City. The property has 640 acres of wetlands, dozens of natural spring-water pools ranging in temperature from hot to cold, sagebrush-grasslands, and a small area of playa. The land’s most prominent feature is the stunning Fly Geyser, a unique and iconic geothermal geyser that constantly releases water reaching five feet in the air, depositing minerals and multi-colored algae on the terraces surrounding it. The Fly Ranch property is truly an oasis in the desert.

Purchasing Fly Ranch, through the philanthropic support of a group of dedicated Burners, opens up the opportunity to create a home to experiment with and apply the Ten Principles all year round. Burning Man is carefully and thoughtfully envisioning the future of Fly Ranch and enlisting the community in a conversation about the possibilities for Fly Ranch and how it fits into the long view of fostering and modeling community.



  • Develop a comprehensive major gifts program including goals and metrics for identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of major donors resulting in support for the annual fund, restricted projects, and future capital campaigns;
  • Work with the CEO and the Director of Philanthropy to engage and activate Burning Man’s Board of Directors, Founders and others in their fundraising and community building efforts;
  • Actively understand, reflect, and promote Burning Man to the public, effectively and joyfully sharing the fundraising opportunities and needs of the community;
  • In collaboration with the entire Philanthropic Engagement team, design and implement a donor cultivation and stewardship program and strategies which ensures donor engagement, increases donor joy, and donor retention;
  • Manage a portfolio of major gift prospects ($10,000 and above) contributing to achievement of the overall fundraising goals for Burning Man; actively identify and cultivate individuals to advance their relationship to higher levels of engagement and support;
  • Working across the organization, help establish an awareness and a vocabulary for communicating outcomes of Burning Man’s highly diverse and creative work;
  • Play a leadership role in capital campaigns and discussions that ensure the long-term sustainability of Burning Man and its programs;
  • Participate in the development and execution of fund development proposals to major donors with a long-term relationship-management approach;
  • Monitor major donor information; regularly provide and present data and analysis to the board and senior leaders, reporting progress and challenges to fundraising efforts;
  • Orchestrate effective major gift meetings and proposals, cultivating and facilitating the engagement of the CEO, Board Members, Founders, Program Directors, and the Director of Philanthropic Engagement in major gift development;
  • Serve as the primary relationship manager with major donors, when appropriate, holding responsibility for inspiring and securing major gifts directly;
  • Regularly meet with the CEO and Director of Philanthropic Engagement to review the fund development prospect pool and devise specific strategies for individual engagement and solicitation;
  • Coordinate communications in support of the major gifts program including compelling proposals, inspiring donor reports, personalized mail, tailored email content, and other communication tools to engage with new and current supporters;
  • Participate in and support development of hands-on, engaging experiences, receptions and events for donors and volunteers;
  • With the Director of Philanthropic Engagement, design new philanthropic engagement opportunities, which may include novel, innovative strategies for major gifts;
  • Supervise small cultivation and stewardship events locally and globally that support the major gifts program, help build relationships, and reflect the vision and values of Burning Man;
  • Develop and manage the expense budget for the major gifts program to keep expenses at or below projections;
  • Coach and mentor volunteers who can support the Philanthropic Engagement team.


A successful candidate will likely have:

  • Success building a Major Gifts Program serving a sophisticated philanthropic community with the capacity for five, six and seven figure gifts;
  • Demonstrated success in identifying, cultivating and soliciting individual major donors;
  • Experience within a visual arts-related organization or cultural institution;
  • Excellent relationship-building skills and agility to build rapport with internal and external stakeholders around innovative ideas and programs;
  • Able to work effectively with artists, board members, donors of all financial capacities and colleagues across the Burning Man community;
  • Experience fostering deep relationships with volunteers and valuing their contributions of time expertise and passion as equal to any financial contribution;
  • Ability to both motivate and engage volunteer leaders in fund development activities, including making ‘the ask’;
  • Exceptional communication skills; articulate, with proven ability to write effectively and speak persuasively;
  • Superior organizational skills, with a strong sense of detail-orientation and excellent time management skills;
  • Able to support the effective use of technology, data and relationship mapping as a means of deepening relationships and opportunities;
  • A bachelor’s degree;
  • Valid Drivers’ License and a clean driving record;
  • Direct familiarity with Burning Man as a result of participating in the annual Black Rock City and/or official Burning Man regional events in other locations;
  • Ability to travel nationally and internationally as required;
  • Ability to adjust work schedule seasonally and work away from home (on playa) for up to 10 days during the months of August and September.


  • Dedicated to principles of behavior and ethics of Burning Man; able to embrace the organization’s mission and the evolution of its vision for robust civic engagement and thriving communities;
  • Dynamic, highly-organized and strategic with a deep understanding of their personal value and a commitment to express that value creatively, with passion and humility;
  • Intellectually curious, with demonstrated interest across a broad range of ideas and disciplines, active in one’s personal pursuits and open to learning;
  • A strong storyteller, captivating and able to deliver a big vision in concrete experiences and encounters;
  • Capable of contributing to the dynamic conversation around extending Burning Man’s culture in the world;
  • Inspirational, able to bring out the best in others and approach challenges as opportunities for growth and learning;
  • Strong attention to details; habitual in cogent, timely follow-through;
  • Able to work effectively with supporters, volunteers and participants of all financial capacities and value their contributions equally;
  • Adaptability; able to recognize cultural and operational norms and fluidly adjust in each setting;
  • Embraces a culture of impassioned, driven, creative, and dedicated professionals;
  • Ability to think on his or her feet, problem solve, critically think, and remain calm under stress;
  • Exercise a keen sense of organizational diplomacy, able to maintain personal integrity and uphold high standards of confidentiality;
  • Possesses a high degree of emotional intelligence, self-awareness and fortitude.

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

Nancy Painter


(415) 202- 6240