Chief Development Officer

Chief Development Officer

Navy Pier

Chicago, IL   |   December 3, 2019

About Navy Pier

Navy Pier has transformed Chicago’s lakefront treasure into a one-of-a-kind urban oasis.

A civic treasure, Navy Pier is the People’s Pier, welcoming all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder. A source of pride and common ground, Navy Pier fosters a sense of community within the city’s diverse population.

Established as a nonprofit in 2011, Navy Pier is a vibrant space for community engagement and civic pride that is as diverse as the city in which it is located; a unique place to gather with friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers to escape the everyday bustle of the city.

Excellence. Integrity. Inclusion. Stewardship. Navy Pier’s core values have driven every step of its transformation. What stands before Chicago today is a contemporary Navy Pier, reimagined into a spectacular mission-driven destination that preserves its rich past.

Navy Pier’s reimagination has inspired investment of nearly $375M, spurring the redevelopment of one of the most important civic landmarks in the United States. Navy Pier stretches nearly three-quarters of a mile onto Lake Michigan with the South Dock as its prominent feature. It beckons each and every guest to soak in the exquisite views of the lake and skyline.

Historic Navy Pier is an iconic thread in the fabric of Chicago. As the world’s largest public pier, it is one of the top-visited leisure and cultural destinations in the world. The Pier’s world-class offerings include:

  • Aon Grand Ballroom: The historic Ballroom is one of the jewels of Navy Pier. Part of the Pier’s original 1916 construction and reminiscent of an era of elegance and splendor, the 18,000 square foot Ballroom embodies the magnificence of the past with all the amenities and services of the present;
  • AMC Navy Pier IMAX Theater: An incredibly immersive movie-going experience, with images immense size and striking clarity appear on towering screens;
  • Chicago Children’s Museum: A unique space for shared learning and exploration for kids and their families, spanning 3 stories;
  • Chicago Shakespeare Theater: A leading international theater company and recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award;
  • Crystal Gardens: A beautiful indoor, one‐acre, botanical garden featuring six‐story glass atrium with a 50-foot arched ceiling holds over 80 live palm trees, lush foliage, hanging twinkle lights and dancing leapfrog fountains;
  • Festival Hall: Navy Pier’s main exhibition space, which can be configured for a variety of uses and floor plans. For trade shows and conferences, there are 36 convenient meeting rooms adjacent to Festival Hall;
  • Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion: A key element of the redevelopment, the Pavilion is a hub of more than 50 Chicago-centric experiences that showcase and represent the city’s best offerings in dining, entertainment, retail and more. Guests encounter a wide range of authentic Chicago experiences – from some of the city’s best cuisine and neighborhood shops, to fun, family-friendly activities;
  • Miller Lite Beer Garden: Chicago’s go-to destination for free, live, outdoor music performances from May through October;
  • People’s Energy Welcome Pavilion: The Pavilion sits just outside the front entrance of Navy Pier, greeting more than nine million guests annually. With an open concept design and unobstructed views of the lakefront and city skyline, the Pavilion welcomes everyone – whether they’re from across the street or around the globe;
  • Pier Park: Pier Park features family-friendly outdoor activities year-round. Attractions include the Centennial Wheel, the Pepsi Wave Swinger, a 1920s-inspired musical carousel, and other nostalgic fairground rides. Soaring to nearly 200 feet, the Centennial Wheel offers year-round, climate-controlled gondolas for an unforgettable Ferris wheel ride. It’s an iconic part of the Chicago skyline and a treasured piece of Chicago history, harkening to the city’s 1893 World’s Fair;
  • Polk Bros Park: Thanks to a generous $20 million legacy gift, the stunningly designed 13-acre Polk Bros Park provides endless discovery and wonder. The Navy Pier and Polk Bros. Foundation partnership has been transformational, leading the way to a fresh wave of donors, all inspired by the unlimited potential of the Pier’s unique public space. Home to 100s of free arts, cultural and community programs all summer long, the Park provides a space for all Chicagoans to come together – a space to dream, dare, work and build a better life for themselves and generations to come.

Opening in 2020, the Pier will soon boast a Hilton hotel, with 220 rooms facing south over the water, providing sightlines back to the city.

Under the leadership of President & CEO Marilynn Gardner, Navy Pier has enhanced its ability to preserve and foster this beautiful and historical landmark transforming it into a great civic space and resource for the community. Navy Pier’s growth has been marked by remarkable success, including growth from an operating budget of $42M in 2012 to $60M in 2019. Annual support from donors currently exceeds $6M.

Looking ahead, Navy Pier seeks to enhance its engagement with champions, partners and its growing family of donors, including individuals, corporations and foundations. The Navy Pier family will grow to include a broader range of individuals, corporations and institutions inspired by the its ambitious goals and further advance the vision to be a vibrant civic space that makes memories for guests from across the street and around the globe.

As it enters this next chapter, Navy Pier will continue to serve the people of Chicago through the evolution of a landmark – one that celebrates both the history and the future of the city.

For more information on Navy Pier, please visit

The Chief Development Officer Opportunity

At this important moment in its history, Navy Pier is seeking to add a sophisticated fundraising leader and proven strategist to serve as the Chief Development Officer (“CDO”) to advance the organization’s efforts and realize its vision.

Reporting to and partnering with the President & CEO, the CDO will work closely with the Board of Directors and senior leadership to ensure that Navy Pier’s programs, events, and broader engagement initiatives resonate with and inspire its guests, donors and other key stakeholders. The CDO will be responsible for setting the large-scale strategy for development and stewardship efforts and executing on that plan.

The CDO is one of five leaders that comprise Navy Pier’s Executive Leadership Team and participates in shaping a shared vision for the future, developing and executing strategy, leveraging best practices, managing organizational change, strengthening collaboration and creating a high-performance, team-oriented and results-driven culture.

This leader will be a bold, strategic thinker who takes a ‘hands-on’ approach to execution, building and leading a best-in-class development program and enhancing Navy Pier’s culture of philanthropy. The CDO will bring a genuine passion for Navy Pier’s mission coupled with deep experience driving fundraising success in a complex organization.

Overseeing engagement initiatives, the CDO will strengthen constituent relationships, create awareness and build constituent support. This will include developing strategies to further engage high-level constituents, including corporate partners, individual and institutional donors.

An engaged manager, the CDO will educate, motivate and lead a dynamic, values-driven, creative team in applying best practices and developing game-changing strategies to enhance Navy Pier’s resource development. The CDO will ensure a robust and highly functioning department that serves the needs of the Pier today and into the future.

The CDO will actively manage a donor portfolio by personally participating in cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. The CDO will also collaborate with the President & CEO and Board Members to ensure that they are effectively supported and leveraged to achieve fundraising goals.

This leader will drive positive outcomes even as programs, systems and staff continue to evolve. A highly proactive and effective fundraiser, this leader will be comfortable working directly with and soliciting individuals, foundations, corporations and other funders for seven- and eight-figure gifts.

As the leader of all aspects resource development, key responsibilities of the CDO include:

  • Enhancing and serving as chief architect of a state-of-the-art fundraising capability by building a high-performing development organization, recognizing the relationships between program, guest experience, marketing, communications, and operations;
  • Serving as lead visionary and strategist to the resource development team, building a collaborative culture amongst staff and developing and leading a distinctive resource development program that leverages the wide-ranging nature of Navy Pier’s offerings while keeping its mission at the forefront;
  • Positioning Navy Pier for long-term, sustainable success by cultivating new sources of revenue and driving its capital campaign;
  • Creatively and strategically expanding the existing donor base, with an increased focus on major gifts;
  • Collaborating and leveraging relationships of Navy Pier’s leadership, including Board Members and the Executive Leadership Team, assuring they are effectively supported to achieve fundraising goals;
  • Increasing the effectiveness and productivity of the team by serving as a coach and mentor, motivating team members with energy and passion;
  • Ensuring clear expectations with the team while establishing new systems, processes and structures; and
  • Ensuring guests, donors and key stakeholders acknowledge a sense of stewardship and gratitude consistent with Navy Pier’s culture and mission.
Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have the following qualities, skills and characteristics:

An Expert in Development

The CDO will be a results-driven and experienced leader in the field of development with a measurable track record of success within a complex environment. Energized by the prospect of building a culture of philanthropy and leading the resource development team, the CDO will implement processes and best practices. The CDO will have demonstrated experience successfully soliciting individuals, foundations and corporations, with particular focus on campaigns. A confident strategic partner and enterprise leader, the CDO will provide strategic guidance to the CEO and other members of the Executive Leadership Team in the cultivation of prospective funders and key partnerships. A tactical leader, the CDO will have a strong data and analysis orientation and a proven ability to use metrics to drive development decisions and achieve strategic objectives. The successful candidate will have the ability to set and meet ambitious goals in support of Navy Pier’s continual elevation of guest and donor engagement by growing resources for the Pier’s future innovations.

A Strategic Leader

Acting as a partner and advisor to the President & CEO, the CDO will set and articulate a vision for the organization’s next fundraising chapter. The CDO will assess, direct and enhance the resource development staff of 5 to 6 individuals while evaluating outcomes with a metrics-based approach. This strategic leader will build bridges and engage colleagues interdepartmentally. The CDO will have the ability to translate tailored strategies to current and potential donors and constituents, leading to awareness, understanding and appreciation for Navy Pier’s objectives. A hunter and builder, the CDO will elicit, understand and synthesize complex information and translate that information into a compelling case for support that motivates prospects to give. An inclusive leader, the CDO will embrace principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring, mentorship, teambuilding and external engagement. This leader will be a catalyst for change and growth who inspires others to think entrepreneurially and inject new ideas.

A Relationship Builder and Collaborator

The CDO will be skilled at building and sustaining excellent relationships at multiple levels with varied constituencies including Navy Pier’s Board of Directors, donors, Executive Leadership Team, resource development team, and corporate and community leaders. This leader will work in close alignment with the President & CEO, operations, guest experience, marketing and communications leads to ensure that messages are consistent to all constituents, including existing and potential donors. A charismatic, high-energy leader, the CDO will be a dynamic communicator with the ability to energize constituents from a variety of backgrounds and successfully convey Navy Pier’s objectives. As a system wide leader, the CDO will build upon the team-oriented approach of the resource development team, resulting in a stronger internal culture of philanthropy organization-wide.

A Passion for the Mission

An empathic, charismatic leader, the CDO will be motivated by an intrinsic faith in the transformational power of public spaces to engage, inspire and unify. The CDO will appreciate and respect the history of Navy Pier while looking ahead to construct its future. The CDO will embrace Navy Pier’s culture while continually innovating alongside the Executive Leadership Team and Board to expand its brand, reach and fulfillment of its mission. This leader will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.


Marissa Martin and Chartise Clark of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit your materials here or email the team directly at [email protected]. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

Navy Pier’s goal is to help create an organizational DEI plan, which lives up to its mission of being a world-class public place, and values of Excellence, Integrity, Inclusion and Stewardship. Navy Pier aims to lead the staff, by way of example, into embracing a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners, a member of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.

For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit