Every nonprofit should have an executive search plan. Even if you aren’t facing an imminent vacancy, your organization is smart to prepare for what can be a long process. Executive searches generally take several months — even if you end up hiring someone already known to your nonprofit. So make plans now.
Start by forming a search team made up of board members. Even if your current executive director isn’t leaving, the existence of a committee enables members to stay abreast of compensation trends and be on the lookout for potential 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.
To ensure the team 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. Your organization’s strategic goals should also be integrated into the descriptions. As part of ongoing succession planning efforts, your search team needs to periodically re-evaluate these descriptions. If, for example, your nonprofit is moving in a new direction, your next leader might need a different set of skills and experiences.
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)? Also, prepare some thoughtful questions that reflect your organization’s needs and culture.
Different compensation philosophies
Although you may not be ready to discuss specific numbers, your nonprofit’s 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,
- Its 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 local, 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.
Make it effective
Hiring the right executive is too important to leave until you’re under the gun. With a written plan, you can rest assured your organization is ready to conduct an effective search — whenever it becomes necessary.
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