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Find your nonprofit’s next leader with a team and a plan

A lot has happened in the past couple of years. So if your not-for-profit hasn’t conducted an executive search since before the pandemic, anticipate an altered search landscape. For example, the job market now is tighter and, given the prevalence of working from home, you may want to consider executive candidates outside your geographic area who aren’t willing to relocate.

But, as always, an executive search plan can help the process. Before you start looking, form a search committee of board members and arrive at some consensus about the kind of leader you’d like to hire.

Be prepared

One of the search committee’s objectives will be to determine whether to hire an executive search firm. The decision will hinge on many factors, including the position’s complexity and responsibility level and the anticipated size of the applicant pool. But before outsourcing a search, you’ll want to look around. The best person for the job may be a current board member, employee or volunteer.

To ensure the committee will be ready to act when necessary, keep comprehensive, up-to-date job descriptions for key executive positions. They should detail the knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes required. Be sure to update these descriptions periodically. If, for example, your nonprofit is moving in a new direction, your next leader might need a different set of skills and experiences. Or perhaps the pandemic made you realize that your next leader should have crisis management experience.

Also, think about how you’ll conduct the executive interview process. Who will be involved? What format will you use (such as one-on-one or group interviews)? Will you interview in person or via videoconference? Also prepare some thoughtful questions that reflect your organization’s needs and culture.

Compensation factors

Although you may not be ready to discuss specific numbers, your nonprofit’s board and the search committee should discuss and arrive at a common philosophy about compensation. Factors that influence compensation decisions include your nonprofit’s size and complexity and the candidate’s qualifications.

Of course, you’ll want your compensation plan to be competitive with what similar organizations in your region and niche are offering executives. Also, determine whether compensation will be fixed or have a variable pay component, such as bonuses or incentive pay.

Start early

Even if you aren’t facing an immediate need, your organization should prepare for what can be a long search process — several months to more than a year. A search committee also can stay abreast of compensation trends and be on the lookout for potential successors to current executives before anyone resigns. Contact us for search suggestions and for help on such issues as determining competitive executive compensation.

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