Executive Director, Chicago

Thrive Scholars (fka SCS Noonan Scholars)

Posted: 9/23/2020

Position Type: Full-Time (Paid)

Function: Fundraising/Development

Primary domain: Education

City: Chicago

Postal code: 00000

State: Illinois

Country: United States

Organization Information:


$3M - $10M



Mission statement:

The mission of Thrive Scholars is to help high-achieving low-income underrepresented students get into and graduate from top colleges equipped to achieve their full career potential. 

Position Details:

Job Description:


Since 2001, Thrive Scholars (“Thrive,” fka SCS Noonan Scholars) has been supporting high-achieving students of color from historically underserved communities to get to and through highly selective colleges and into their first jobs. Its holistic, comprehensive program begins in junior year of high school and lasts through college graduation.

Thrive originated in Los Angeles as South Central Scholars (“SCS”) and spent the first 13 years refining its comprehensive, integrated high school-through-career program model. The founders replicated this model in Boston in 2014 as Noonan Scholars, and then merged the two programs into SCS Noonan Scholars in 2017.  As part of its national expansion strategy, SCS Noonan Scholars recently rebranded as Thrive Scholars, and will soon be launching new regions across the country, starting in Chicago, to enhance the organization’s fundraising capabilities and Scholar recruitment efforts.

Providing scholarships, a six-week Summer Academy on the campuses of the University of Southern California and Amherst College, academic interventions, social-emotional supports, and career guidance and networking, Thrive now aims to substantially increase the number of Scholars admitted into its program each year, from all across the country. 

For more information about Thrive, please visit their website: https://www.thrivescholars.org/


Having successfully supported students in both Los Angeles and Boston, Thrive is now seeking a founding Executive Director in Chicago to build and drive support for Thrive in the region and enable high performing local students to flourish in college and beyond. With Thrive's early success and an existing network in the region, this is an ideal opportunity for an entrepreneurial self-starter with a strong track record in fundraising and passion for college and career access and success. Reporting to Thrive's national Chief Advancement Officer, and partnering closely with the Chief Executive Officer, this position will serve as the primary face and champion of Thrive's work and impact in Chicago.

Key Responsibilities:

Development and External Relations

  • Serve as an inspirational external leader who actively engages and energizes Thrive’s supporters, partners, scholars, families, volunteers, and corporate partners

  • Leverage a nuanced understanding of and presence in the Chicago philanthropic space to lead regional fundraising efforts; identifying, stewarding, and closing gifts to meet ambitious seven-figure revenue targets

  • Capitalize on existing relationships with supporters to build out a network of engaged individual, foundation, and corporate partners

  • Establish and develop relationships with key individual donors, foundations, and other partners, many of whom may be new to Thrive, actively cultivating new supporters and ensuring their continued engagement, with an eye towards ensuring sustainable multi-year support

  • Play a highly visible external role and serve as the main ambassador and champion for Thrive and its scholars across the Chicago metro area

  • Collaborate effectively within the Chicago college access and success space, building cooperative partnerships with like-minded organizations

  • Steward, appoint and grow local champions on the advisory board to meet fundraising goals and enhance Thrive’s profile in the community

  • Support the efforts of the national development team, leveraging an area of interest or expertise, such as communications, public relations, grant writing, or continued regional growth strategy, to further the efforts of Thrive more broadly (approximately 20% of work time)

Systems Building and Management

  • Establish effective day-to-day systems to ensure smooth operational oversight of Thrive’s Chicago region, demonstrating a strong detail-orientation and exceptional follow-through

  • Maintain ultimate responsibility for the Chicago operating budget, including revenue, expenses, and grant compliance

  • Partner closely with Thrive’s national office and CEO to create and maintain clear lines of communication around local initiatives and fundraising progress

  • Leverage existing prospect and donor tracking and moves management systems and programs to stay abreast of and report on active fundraising opportunities

  • Regularly synthesize and present key fundraising data and trends to Thrive’s national team, local advisory board, and other partners

  • Provide strategic guidance and thought partnership to Thrive’s senior leadership team on local initiatives 


The ideal candidate will possess the following qualifications: 

  • Commitment to the mission and work of Thrive Scholars

  • Ability to compellingly convey Thrive's mission, impact, and needs across the community in an authentic way that honors Thrive Scholars and their families

  • Ability to establish and sustain relationships with a diverse body of stakeholders, rallying them towards a common goal of college and career access and success in the Chicago metro region

  • Proven track record of building a strong body of support from new donors, community partners, corporate partners and other key constituents in support of an organization with which they were not previously engaged

  • Minimum of 10 years total experience strongly preferred; minimum of 5 years fundraising leadership experience strongly preferred with a focus on work with high net worth individuals and/or corporate partnerships. 

  • Experience managing a seven-figure budget and fundraising goal and knowledge of nonprofit revenue sources, with a nuanced understanding of and networks in the Chicago philanthropic and corporate communities

  • Demonstrated success in fundraising, with a focus on individual major gifts, especially with family offices, foundation relations and/or corporate partnerships, and track level of stewarding and closing multi-year support

  • Experience building and maintaining within-sector and cross-sector partnerships, and when necessary, problem solving through partnership challenges and conflict

  • Excellence in systems building and management with the demonstrated ability to manage oneself towards successful outcomes

  • Strong skills in planning, organizing, attention to detail, and oral and written communication, including strong presentation skills



Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience.  Thrive offers generous benefits, including medical coverage, retirement support, and vacation and sick leave.


Commensurate with Experience

Posting Expiration Date:


How to Apply:



Thrive Scholars is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, prior record of arrest or conviction, or current employment status.

On-Ramps is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe social change happens when people with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and identities come together with a common purpose.  We’re partnering with the team at Thrive Scholars to build a diverse team that reflects the diversity of the youth in its programs. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.

Posted By: On-Ramps


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