Director of Individual Giving

October 2023 | Mystic, CT

Mystic Aquarium seeks a motivated Director of Individual Giving to lead and grow a dynamic individual giving program.

  a sea turtle swimming in a pool at the mystic aquarium

About Mystic Aquarium

The mission of Mystic Aquarium is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean environment through conservation, education, and research. Mystic Aquarium is a division of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and it is counted among the nation’s leading aquariums with more than 300 species, and an extensive collection of marine mammals, including New England’s only beluga whales.

As a leading research organization, located in the beautiful coastal town of Mystic, Connecticut, Mystic Aquarium employs a full staff of scientists, trainers, and specialists engaged in projects focused on the conservation and sustainability of our ocean planet.

Robust conservation and education programming, along with unparalleled visitor experiences, serve to strengthen personal connections to the animals and their environments. The aquarium – now celebrating 50 years – is a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Each year, approximately 800,000 guests experience the splendor of the Aquarium with access to view thousands of animals through structured interpretations, specially curated exhibits, and hands-on interactions.

Susette Tibus, President and CEO

With over 20 years of dedication to the advancement of Mystic Aquarium’s core mission, Susette Tibus currently serves as President and CEO. Susette’s impact and involvement in the Mystic a beluga whale looking at a mother and childcommunity is profound and extensive. She has served countless community roles, including President of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chair of the Mystic Aquarium Board of Trustees, Board positions for the Westerly Hospital Foundation, and Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Horizons, as well as Chair of the Stonington Police Commission and the Connecticut Police Commissioner’s Association.

Susette is a celebrated leader in the Mystic community and beyond recognized for her service, leadership, and immeasurable impact toward the advancement of women in leadership roles. Susette and her husband, Chuck Sneddon, also founded ‘Simply Majestic’, a fine jewelry store they continue to own and operate in downtown Mystic.

About Philanthropy at Mystic Aquarium

Under Tibus’ leadership, Mystic Aquarium is entering its next phase of growth and development where fundraising is a key priority. The Development Department is led by Chief Advancement Officer (CAO), Tina Couch, and it raises approximately $1.2 million to $1.4 million annually for critical needs not covered by ticket sales and membership. The Department is in process of developing plans to significantly increase this annual philanthropic total. The Aquarium has a $22 million annual revenue budget.

The Aquarium is in the early stages of a comprehensive capital planning process to determine the organization’s next set of critical priorities, the steps needed to achieve them, and the long-term growth of philanthropy at the Aquarium.

About the Position

two mystic awuarium employees holding penguinsReporting directly to the CAO, the new Director of Individual Giving will lead, manage, and grow the individual giving program at the Aquarium. In collaboration with the CAO, this individual will build relationships with prospects and current funders, as well as collaborate with members of the Development team, and other Aquarium staff on fundraising priorities. They will serve as a passionate and persuasive ambassador for the Aquarium’s ambitious plans.

The Director will manage a portfolio of donors consisting primarily of individuals with some corporate and foundation funders and be a front-line fundraiser, engaging current donors while also  prospecting and cultivating new relationships for the Aquarium. This Director will have the opportunity to help set the strategic direction and future impact and culture of philanthropy for Mystic Aquarium.

Key Responsibilities

  • Serve as a senior member of the Advancement team, leading, managing, and growing the Aquarium’s individual giving program.
  • Together with the CAO, plan, develop, and implement a robust and creative fundraising program focused to achieve maximum growth to meet the Aquarium’s evolving needs.
  • Manage a portfolio of donors and prospects with the capacity to make significant five and six figure gifts.
  • Strategically engage in the moves management system and craft integrated comprehensive strategies to increase giving levels and numbers of gifts.
  • Set ambitious growth goals and develop and execute strategy to attain them.
  • Proactively identify, research, and evaluate new individual giving opportunities.
  • Work collaboratively across the institution on funding priorities.
  • Manage and mentor the Annual Fund Manager.

Key Qualifications

  • mystic aquarium employees checking on a sealA minimum of 5+ years of frontline fundraising experience at a non-profit, educational, or cultural institution of similar size to Mystic.
  • A demonstrated track record of solicitation and closing gifts at the five and six figure level from individuals, corporations and/or foundations.
  • Experience developing strategies for the cultivation and solicitation of individual donors.
  • Outstanding written and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to meet deadlines, plan, and balance multiple competing priorities.
  • Ability to work with, and relate to, diverse groups of individuals in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial team environment.
  • Proficiency to craft coherent, organized, and compelling proposals and reports.
  • Competence to distill complicated topics into accessible, persuasive language and copy.
  • Supervisory or management experience, preferred.
  • Someone exposed to all elements of fundraising, able to jump in headfirst, independent, and a go getter.

mystic aquarium employee checking on a sealDiversity and Inclusion: Mystic Aquarium embraces the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in their business and conservation practices. They strive to foster a sense of belonging within their organization, our guests, and the communities that they serve, and are committed to dismantling systemic inequities.


If you are interested in being considered for this search, please use the form below to submit your cover letter and resume in confidence.

Jesse Bryan

Vice President, Executive Search

Development Guild DDI

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