How Nonprofits Prepare for an Executive Search

How Nonprofits Prepare for an Executive Search

How Nonprofits Prepare for an Executive Search


By Jan Glick


Finding the right leader for your nonprofit is one of the decisions that impact the future of any organization. Nonprofits face the unique challenge of working with paid employees and volunteers, creating a unique challenge in orchestrating a successful transition.


As COVID-19 spiked at the start of 2020, nonprofits looking for a new executive leader have moved to 100% remote meetings, facilitation, and interviewing.


Our Nonprofit Executive Search team has also learned to adapt. We are finding that now more than ever the commitment to make sure that nonprofit searches continue to provide organizational development and capacity-building opportunities is needed. 


Our most recent work with Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (RVCDF) in Seattle proved to be a complex transition in the search for the Executive Director but we are delighted to report a successful selection. The Board Chair of RVCDF Kateesha Atterbury, said:


Third Sector company was excellent during a most critical time of Executive Transition for our organization. Besides the Executive Search, we had several other organizational changes in play during the transition that ultimately set the stage for the next chapter of RVCDF’s growth. Third Sector provided crucial support in our process, provided unmatched expertise and professionalism, and weathered a challenging time with us. They were more than our search consultants – they were our partners.”


We believe our role is not simply to facilitate a search but to help orchestrate a successful organizational transition and we are proud to have facilitated eight executive searches so far in 2020, successfully placing new EDs and CEOs in 4 states and Canada.


Tips for a Nonprofit Executive Search


If you find yourself in a succession planning situation and preparing to approach an Executive Search, consider the following recommendations as you decide how the search should be facilitated:


    • Board members should know that serving on a search committee is a significant commitment, and requires full participation at key steps in the search process, from approving the position profile to reviewing resumes to participating in multiple rounds of interviews. If a search committee member can’t engage fully in all of these steps, they shouldn’t serve at all.
    • As you build a search committee, spend time researching professional search practices, so you know what to expect if you seek professional search assistance. This will help you to manage the expectations of the board of directors, and allow the most productive relationship with any search firm you may hire.
    • Analyze the compensation for the position, both relative to the local nonprofit community, and the nonprofit sub-sector in which your organization operates. And don’t forget the associated transition costs, such as the possibility of needing to pay for moving expenses if your new executive needs to move their family. These considerations will allow you to best budget for the transition and the next year.
    • Reflect on your roles and responsibilities as a nonprofit board, and ask yourselves if your board has done all it can do to strengthen the organization, rather than simply seek to delegate 100% of your organization’s issues to the new executive?


The best time to plan an Executive Search process is before you need it. If your board doesn’t already have a policy about how it will handle a vacancy in the chief executive role (whether planned or unplanned), now is a great time to put such a policy together. Our Nonprofit Executive Search team is happy to be a resource for you in that process.


If you are part of an organization looking to make a change or hoping to ensure your leadership selection process goes smoothly, contact us today.


Jan Glick
Senior Strategist and Practice Lead, Third Sector Search
Third Sector Company, Inc.


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