How Friends of the High Line successfully recruited multiple fundraisers to cement philanthropy as a strategic priority for the organization

Friends of the High Line (the High Line) is both a nonprofit organization and a public park on the West Side of Manhattan. Through their work with communities on and off the High Line, they are devoted to reimagining public spaces to create connected, healthy neighborhoods and cities.

Built on a historic, elevated rail line, the High Line was always intended to be more than a park. You can walk through the gardens, view art, experience a performance, enjoy food or beverage, or connect with friends and neighbors—all while enjoying a unique perspective of New York City. The High Line was once destined for demolition. Luckily, the community rallied together to repurpose it instead, creating the park you see today, for everyone to enjoy. It has since become a global inspiration for cities to transform unused industrial zones into dynamic public spaces.

The High Line offers family, teen and education programs including interactive, nature-based, and art-making programs, paid job opportunities for local youth, and in-school and after-school programs for thousands of NYC public school students.

The Opportunity

We began our partnership with the Friends of the High Line in the fall of 2020. The organization had named philanthropy as a strategic priority, and funding had grown steadily over the last few years. With the support of leadership and the board, opportunity existed to continue to grow philanthropy at the High Line. Furthermore, the organization was at a pivotal point in its history: they were navigating the pandemic, during which they were able to cut their deficit in half with the help of a tremendously generous board, and a capital campaign was on the horizon.

To prepare for a strong future, the High Line was seeking to add two new members to their team: a Senior Director of Individual Giving and a Major Gifts Officer. The Senior Director of Individual Giving would develop strategy and infrastructure, and manage a team of multiple directors, to continue to manage the growing institutional fundraising program. This person would need to an excellent external presenter, with the gravitas and diplomacy necessary to interact with high net-worth donors. Meanwhile, the Major Gift Officer would oversee strategy, research, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship for a portfolio of approximately 150 donors and prospects. Both searches concluded with the successful hiring of sophisticated arts professionals: Andrea Yglesias as Senior Director of Major and Individual Giving, previously at Brooklyn Museum, and Morgan Mamudi, as Senior Major Gifts Officer, previously at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

With Andrea and Morgan on board, we were able to launch a third search for a Senior Director of Institutional Giving. This role would lead, manage, and grow the institutional advancement program. The High Line was seeking candidates who possessed government, corporate, and foundations experience. From a strong pool of candidates, they successfully hired Alyssa Restaino to the role, who joined from New York Road Runners.

The Results of Our Partnership

Key to the successful completion of all three searches was…

  • Our commitment to recruiting the highest-caliber candidates, while navigating challenges to the process and timeline.
    The High Line set a high bar for the new team members they were hoping to recruit. To meet these expectations, we created large pools of candidates for our client to review. This was accomplished while also addressing obstacles presented by the pandemic, candidate withdrawals, and a highly detailed ideal candidate profile. While this meant a more extended timeline than typical, we remained steadfastly committed to the goal and our client’s success.
  • Our ability to understand our client’s needs and how they aligned with marketplace trends.
    For each of the searches, the High Line was seeking a highly specific set of qualifications and experiences. Drawing on our marketplace knowledge and conversations with a wide network of candidates, we were able to advise the High Line to strategically adjust the position titles. By changing the role from Senior Director of Individual Giving to Senior Director of Major and Individual Giving and from Major Gifts Officer to Senior Major Gifts Officer, the High Line was able to recruit the exceptional and experienced talent they were seeking.

Looking Forward

The High Line has grown their fundraising team by welcoming three talented fundraisers with an array of experiences and expertise. With a $19M annual operating budget, nearly all of which comes through donations, the organization’s development team and future is thriving, and they are well prepared to embark on a significant capital campaign in the next few years.

I am so grateful for Development Guild’s partnership. Their team was committed, positive, adaptable and a true pleasure to work with. The candidate pool was excellent and tailored precisely to our needs. Despite any obstacles that arose, Development Guild never lost sight of our end goal. It allowed me to trust that we would find the candidates we needed. Our new Senior Director of Major and Individual Giving and Senior Major Gift Officer are wonderful additions to our team, and I know they are going to make important contributions.

- Tara Morris, Chief Advancement Officer

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