Director of Development–YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Director of Development YIVOMersky, Jaffe & Associates, a national executive search and consulting firm, has been engaged to conduct a search for the next Director of Development of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.


The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (“YIVO”) was founded by scholars and intellectuals in Vilna, Poland, in 1925 to document and study Jewish life in all its aspects: language, history, religion, folkways, and material culture. YIVO had a special focus on the Jews of Eastern Europe, but collected books, manuscripts and other artifacts from Jewish communities around the world. It grew to be a beloved communal institution with active members from Buenos Aires to Shanghai.

World War II and the Holocaust forced YIVO’s relocation to New York in 1940. Its collections in Vilna were looted by the Nazis. With the help of the U.S. Army, YIVO was able to recover some of these materials and begin its work anew in America.
Today, YIVO’s collections are the primary source of the documentary history of East European Jewry and the surviving record of millions of lives of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. YIVO brings treasures from its library and archives to broad audiences through a rich array of programs, including lectures, concerts, and exhibitions; adult education and Yiddish-language programs and courses; books and scholarly publications; and fellowships for scholars.

In 1999, YIVO moved into its fifth American home, the Center for Jewish History, at 15 West 16th Street in New York City, where it shares a reading room, a state-of-the-art auditorium, and exhibition galleries with five other organizations. The new facility has made possible a greatly expanded program of cultural and educational events, including symposia and concerts.

Since its move to the Center, YIVO has embarked on many new initiatives designed to create greater access to its resources, including ongoing digitization of its collections and the digitization of its library catalog. A milestone in this area was reached in early 2013, with the launch of an online Guide to the YIVO ArchivesIn 2008, YIVO and Yale University Press published a major reference work, a two-volume The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, which became available online two years later.

In 1989, YIVO received dramatic news—some of its manuscripts and books long thought destroyed by the Nazis and Soviets had been hidden by idealistic Lithuanian librarians in a back room of the Lithuanian National Book Chamber. In 2015, after years of negotiations with the Lithuanian government, YIVO launched the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project, an international initiative to reunite these materials with the part of its collections it was able to recover right after the war.

Position Description

Reporting to the Executive Director, the Director of Development will work as a member of the senior management team of the organization to support general operations, exhibitions, public programs, education, endowment, and ongoing needs.

In consultation with the Executive Director and the Board, the Director of Development will design and implement a strategic development plan to raise $5 million in unrestricted annual funds and expand the donor and funder base to support the growth and engagement of YIVO’s community of supporters.

Among other specific responsibilities and duties, the Director of Development will

  • create and articulate the organizational case statement;
  • develop a tactical fundraising plan that includes a calendar, timetable, gift table, direct mail appeals, grant-seeking, special events, stewardship and communications programs;
  • prepare and monitor budgets for all development activities subject to the approval of the Board and Executive Director;
  • supervise and direct development staff, in all matters related to the department and its mission, with particular attention to systems for tracking data and relationships;
  • move prospects in timely fashion toward solicitation and closure;
  • oversee the appropriate acknowledgement of all gifts;
  • manage the development of proposals for foundations and corporations;
  • organize, motivate and lead Board members to recognize and carry out their fundraising responsibilities;
  • identify and recruit additional members to the Development Committee and volunteer infrastructure;
  • train the Board, Development Committee members and volunteers to serve as solicitors and cultivators of other prospects;
  • supervise the research, cultivation and development of appropriate solicitation strategies for identified and new major gift prospects;
  • engage in and direct personal solicitation of such prospects;
  • coordinate and conduct all communication with donors and prospective donors;
  • produce a dynamic series of major donor cultivation events, such as private exhibition tours, parlor meetings, and planned giving seminars;
  • create a variety of appropriate gift vehicles to meet the needs of different donors;
  • administer stewardship activities by supervising the maintenance of the database of contributors and gifts, track current and potential donors, and acknowledge, record and report all gifts with appreciation to donors;
  • contribute to the creation of a communication plan for donors and prospects including reports from the Executive Director, brochures and other communication tools that informs prospects and donors of special and planned giving opportunities.

The successful Director of Development-YIVO Institute for Jewish Research candidate will be

  • an experienced professional with a proven track record in major gift solicitation and experience working with high level volunteers and philanthropists;
  • a bachelor’s degree in a related field, Master’s degree preferred;
  • a demonstrated leader of development and major gifts in a complex environment;
  • a strong manager who is a self-starter who listens and can build a motivated team of volunteers and professionals;
  • computer literate with a knowledge of Raiser’s Edge preferred;
  • a hands-on director with superior verbal and written communication skills; and
  • a knowledgeable, experienced person with familiarity with the New York Jewish philanthropic community, and with proficiency in Yiddish and Hebrew a plus.
  • a creative, energetic individual passionately committed to realizing the potential of the bold, innovative and dynamic vision of the YIVO institute for Jewish Research.


Mersky, Jaffe & Associates is proud of its association with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and to be conducting the search for its next Director of Development. If you, or someone you know, might be a suitable candidate for this position, please forward, in confidence, the person’s name, cover letter, resume, salary requirements and contact information to Lori Fodale at