Create a Nonprofit Executive Search Plan — Before it Becomes Necessary

Be ready to execute an efficient executive search when the time arrives

Selecting a new chief executive or other senior staffer is one of the most important decisions your not-for-profit board is likely to face. Even if there’s no immediate hiring need, it’s smart to prepare for the process. That way, you’ll be ready to execute an efficient executive search when the time arrives.

1. Form a search team

Forming a search team allows participating board members to stay abreast of compensation trends and be on the lookout for possible successors to current executives. One of your team’s objectives is to determine whether you’ll want to hire an executive search firm. The decision will hinge on many factors, including the position’s complexity and responsibility level.

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.

2. Determine candidate criteria

Keep comprehensive, up-to-date job descriptions for key executive positions that detail the knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes required. Your organization’s strategic goals should also be integrated into the descriptions. As part of ongoing succession planning efforts, your search team should periodically re-evaluate these descriptions. If your nonprofit is moving in a new direction, your next leader might need a different set of skills and experiences.

3. Consider compensation

Your board and the search team should discuss and arrive at a common philosophy about compensation. Factors that influence compensation decisions include:

  • Your nonprofit’s size and complexity,
  • Geographic location, service category and financial stability,
  • Desired qualifications, and
  • Competitiveness of the total package relative to comparable organizations.

Consider whether your goal is to compensate in line with similar regional or national organizations, or with similar positions in the for-profit sector. Also, determine whether compensation will be fixed or have a variable pay component, such as bonuses or incentive pay.

4. Outline the interview process

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

Revisit and finalize

Before beginning an actual search, you’ll want to revisit your search plan and finalize some details. But by having guidelines in place, you can jumpstart the process. Contact us for more information.

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