Not-for-Profit Notebook

Practical insight and analysis on the accounting, audit and tax issues impacting not-for-profit organizations.

The Four Steps Of A Nonprofit Executive Search Plan

It seems inevitable that your nonprofit will need to replace a top executive within your organization at some point, and having the right executives in place is imperative to your organization’s success. Why not prepare your staff and Board now? Discuss these four basic steps of the executive search process today so you’re ready when it’s time to find a new person to lead your nonprofit organization. 

  1. Recruit Board Members for a Search Team

Forming a search team allows participating board members to stay abreast of compensation trends and to be on the lookout for possible successors to current executives. Note that your search team should be active all the time, not just during an executive search.Executive Search Process

One of your team’s main 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.

Keep in mind that hiring an executive search firm can be a substantial expense. Having an internal search team in place to proactively plan and anticipate needs could lessen your organization’s reliance on outside firms. Additionally, 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.

  1. Keep Your Job Descriptions Current and Mission-Centric

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.

  1. Create Compensation Packages

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

  • Your nonprofit’s size and complexity
  • Geographic location
  • Service category
  • Financial stability
  • Desired qualifications
  • 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.

  1. Outline the Interview Process

Think about how you’ll conduct the nonprofit executive search interview process. Who will 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 current needs and culture.

Keep Your Plan Current

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