4 Questions Impacting Not-For-Profit Executive Search

Communications and Marketing Strategies for Non-Profits

Planning for success, fundraising during a pandemic, channelling your supporters’ passion, and taking advantage of free PPC opportunities.
Read More

Recent events have brought the importance of succession planning in not-for-profits to the forefront. While change is daunting, it also provides an opportunity for renewed focus within a sector that has traditionally been challenged  at building bench strength. The following four questions are top of mind for NFPs looking to bolster their leadership ranks. 

What’s the Current State of the Not-For-Profit Jobs Market?

As is the case in other sectors, there is great demand for qualified individuals who are ready to take on leadership roles. This, unfortunately, puts NFPs in a position of having to compete against for-profit companies when recruiting strong candidates. 

During the early days of the pandemic many NFPs feared for their very survival, but most have weathered the storm better than expected. During this tumultuous time all hands were needed on deck, causing some executives to delay their retirements. With many Baby Boomers now taking their exit, a need for executive leadership has amassed.  

Diversity, workplace safety, and navigating hybrid work arrangements are among today’s objectives. Technological and social changes have prompted recruiters to re-define ideal leadership characteristics. 

“Even though your outgoing CEO may have been a terrific leader during their tenure, the environment in which non-profits operate has changed dramatically in recent years, and even greater changes are on the horizon,” says Non-Profit Pro. “Top candidates with the competencies to navigate these waters are in high demand.”1

Can Good NFP Leadership Candidates Be Found in Other Sectors? 

While it’s tempting for NFPs to search for leadership candidates from within the sector, this practice can impose unnecessary limitations. 

Just as NFPs have been soul searching during the pandemic so, too, have individuals, some of whom are seeking to make a more meaningful contribution to the public good. 

These individuals may come from the business world, or even military backgrounds, and often bring transferable aptitudes such as an ability to lead and connect with stakeholders. Those who possess an understanding of communications, finance, and operations can contribute greatly to the overall mission if they’re given time to adapt to a fundamentally different style of organization. 

Passion and dedication to the task at hand will be strong motivators but cannot, alone, be relied upon to woo would-be executives. While some may be willing to accept modest pay cuts, they will still expect reasonable compensation

For those assessing candidates it’s important to keep an open mind when deciphering resumes, as soft skills can often be overlooked by those focussed on rigid qualifications and personal employment history. 

How Can Not-For-Profits Increase Diversity?

“Many corporate leaders are seeking to have a more inclusive workplace from a social responsibility point of view,” says Forbes, “but the truth is, diverse teams are also more knowledgeable, perform better, and generally have more success than those teams that are more monolithic. As leaders, we have a compelling business reason, not just a principled one, to recruit for diversity.”2

Not-for-profits are equally, or even more likely to gain from developing a leadership team that reflects the diversity of the communities they serve. 

Those who write job descriptions must go above and beyond the outdated and ineffective practice of simply looking for a candidate that reminds them of themselves. 

Companies who advertise their jobs in a greater number of places will encourage applicants from a more diverse field of candidates. Identifying information such as name, address, and gender should be eliminated when reviewing submissions and salaries should always be posted in order to help eliminate pay inequity. 

The hiring committee should, itself, be diverse and feature individuals with a proven track record of overseeing change. Those who develop a strong bench will ultimately have greater options for strong, diverse leaders on an ongoing basis. 

Should NFPs use Executive Recruiters? 

Executive leadership is key to the success of not-for-profits, so it’s important to consider whether it’s appropriate to involve an outside executive search team

If the role being hired for is a new or evolving position within the company, a good search team can help define and describe the ideal candidate, thus maximizing the chances of success. 

They can expand the list of choices by identifying and engaging candidates who may not be actively seeking a new position. An outside recruiter can provide confidentiality to your search, as well as impartiality, particularly with regards to internal candidates. Furthermore they can assist with negotiations, onboarding, and reference checks. 

Of course all of this is done in collaboration with internal stakeholders who are, ultimately, most familiar with the needs of your organization. 

While some recruiting processes can indeed be done internally, it’s a good idea to consider soliciting help for high leverage hires. 

Not-for-profits play an invaluable role in our society and thrive when solid leadership is in place. By properly considering hiring objectives and executing well crafted recruitment processes NFPs maximize their chances of success. 

Cited Sources
1 Miller, Dennis C. “The 5 Stages of an Executive Search Process.” NonProfit PRO, January 28, 2021. https://www.nonprofitpro.com/article/the-5-stages-of-a-successful-executive-search-process/
2 Windley, David. “Council Post: Recruiting for Diversity: Four Steps to Success.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, September 20, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2021/09/20/recruiting-for-diversity-four-steps-to-success