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Does Your Organization Need an Executive Search Firm?

exec-searchBy taking a look at successful nonprofit organizations, it’s easy to recognize key foundational elements. One key element present in most highly effective organizations is strong leadership, starting with mid-level executives and continuing through to the Executive Director. When organizations have the correct staff in place, they streamline their ability to impact change and produce results. Unfortunately, turnover is inevitable and leadership will be replaced.

In an ideal situation, an organization will have a succession plan in place. Succession planning is crucial to a healthy organization, yet is often under implemented. According to “Succession Planning in Nonprofit Organizations” (Froelich, McKee and Rathage), “Succession is likely to be more difficult in the nonprofit sector due to an apparent shortage of experienced executive directors in the job market, lower salaries and lack of organizational infrastructure combined with an increasingly demanding set of executive tasks, and attributes that make non profit positions potentially less appealing to Generation X and Y future leaders.”

So, what is an organization to do when top executives announce their departure? Hire an executive search team. Outlined below are guidelines, which define the need for an executive search firm, services offered, and the benefits to outsourcing your search.

Why You Need An Executive Search Firm and the Services offered

A full executive search is an extremely time-intensive process, often requiring at least 200 work hours. Considering how this time commitment fits into your organizational structure is crucial when deciding to hire external help. According to Boston-based executive search consultant for nonprofits Susan Egmont of Egmont Associates, “A full search is a time-intensive process and often the hire is the most important decision the organization will make in the near future.” A firm will conduct the process in an effective and efficient manner, identifying and hiring the ideal candidate to help further the organization’s mission. Traditional search firms offer an assortment of services, including:

  • Discovery of organizational culture and specific qualifications needed for the position
  • Creation of a job description
  • Development of a candidate pool from both traditional and non-traditional (private sector) backgrounds through professional networks, effective advertising, and utilization of Board and stakeholder recommendations. According to Bridgespan Group’s report, “Finding Leaders for America’s Nonprofits”, 73% of respondents said that they value for-profit experience in a candidate, and 53% of U.S. nonprofits surveyed have significant for-profit management experience represented on their senior management teams, including 20% in financial roles
  • Assessment of candidate pool in conjunction with desired skills, experience, and cultural fit. In addition, Bridgespan Group’s report, found “The most important attributes recruiters are seeking include anticipated relevant experience as well as “cultural fit,” or shared passion for the mission (68 percent on average cite fit as a very important asset. That number climbs to 82 percent in the education field)”
  • Conduction of reference checks
  • Negotiation with process between the organization and the final candidate

Benefits of Outsourcing Executive Search

As previously mentioned, conducting a search in-house can strain an already busy staff. Numerous benefits exist in hiring a firm to assist in the process:

  • Development of a search strategy with the goal of identifying a diverse candidate pool
  • Acting as an objective participant and buffer by identifying strife amongst a divided search committee, conducting references on potential candidates, and delicately notifying candidates who did not pass approval
  • Providing an efficient process, which frees up invaluable time of the search committee, staff, board and executive director
  • Conducting a search without revealing the organization’s name, therefore keeping an impending executive director or senior manager departure confidential

Recruiting the perfect candidate for senior leadership roles is not always easy, as it is a resource intensive undertaking. However, without a succession plan in place, most nonprofit organizations will be faced with hiring at the executive level. Outsourcing search work allows an organization to continue forward with its required work, while ensuring a quality leader is hired.

Is your organization in need of help? Contact David Ibsen to learn more about how PMA can assist with executive search. David Ibsen
704-321-4741 ext. 104 or