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Nonprofit Staffing: 3 Must-Know Executive Search Strategies

nonprofit staffing

This post features insights from our friend Bill Tedesco at Donor Search

After years of hard work and development, your startup nonprofit is finally ready to bring on some executive authority figures congratulations!

Whether you’ve been itching to put on the perfect fundraiser or revamp online giving efforts, hiring the right executive staff can play a critical role in shaping your nonprofit’s next stage of advancement.

Thankfully, we’ve mapped out the essential executive search strategies for your growing nonprofit to follow on your road to progress:

  1. Evaluate your nonprofit’s staffing needs and capabilities
  2. Design a killer executive job description
  3. Create an executive search interview strategy

No matter how you’re looking to expand your organization, your nonprofit can achieve peace of mind in the executive search procedure by applying these fundamental techniques.

 Evaluate Your Nonprofit’s Staffing Needs and Capabilities

1. Evaluate Your Nonprofit’s Staffing Needs and Capabilities

Before you embark on the executive search process, you nonprofit must first thoroughly examine areas in need of reworking and establish new executive roles to fit them.

Analyze Your Nonprofit’s Current Circumstances

To begin with, consider the structure and budget of every department in your nonprofit to effectively determine which divisions are most in need of enhancement right away.  

These existing areas can range from cornerstone needs like fundraiser sponsorship and donor management to more complex players like mobile giving and matching gift services.   

Once you’ve surveyed the state of your nonprofit organization, then you can start drawing up executive roles to best serve your evolving goals.   

A few game-changing leadership positions to consider may include:

  • Major giving officer
  • Development director
  • Planned giving officer
  • Executive director

During this time, your nonprofit can pinpoint key elements of each executive position to have a better idea of what responsibilities, duties, and activities their roles should encompass.  

Develop an Executive Search Marketing Plan and Budget

Once you’ve defined your nonprofit’s staffing needs, the next step in your executive search process is to establish a lucrative marketing plan and budget to attract top candidates the first time around.

Research top nonprofit job boards and on and offline marketing strategies to better optimize your executive search promotions.

For instance, depending on your target audience, your nonprofit can design a marketing plan that best reaches top applicants through email and social media to fundraising events and newsletters.

It’s also best to factor in your marketing budget early on in your executive search by appropriating funds from other areas in your nonprofit. If your nonprofit is unsure on how to facilitate this process, you can always seek out an executive search consultant for assistance.

At the end of the day, organizing a prime marketing plan and budget for your new executive roles will get the ball rolling on how quickly and efficiently you fill the open positions.

Discover the top nonprofit job boards to market your executive job openings on with Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s definitive ranking!

Takeaway: By taking the time to analyze your nonprofit’s staffing needs, you can move forward with a master plan for marketing and hiring the right executive leaders.

Design a Killer Executive Job Description

2. Design a Killer Executive Job Description

Now that you’ve outlined exactly which staffing needs your nonprofit should fulfil, it’s time to craft and market an appealing job description for each executive role.

Let’s break down this integral step by talking through some of the key approaches your nonprofit should take to attract the best candidates for your jobs.

Follow an Executive Job Description Template

To better target top candidates, try utilizing an executive job description template to post on online job boards and send to nonprofit professionals.

As opposed to fashioning a job description from scratch, a proper template can help your nonprofit outline your job opening more clearly and adjust information to reflect your current executive goals.

An ideal executive job description will showcase the nonprofit position and company culture in the best light possible.

If crafted in a letter format, the job description should also maintain a personal and professional tone as well as the signature of the founder or current head of your nonprofit. You can even use the opportunity to highlight fundraising milestones or initiatives to check out.

But where can your nonprofit find such valuable reference tools to model your executive job description after?

An executive search consultant can provide your nonprofit with polished job description templates and work with you one-on-one to create a posting that specifically meets your executive needs.

Another way to research nonprofit standards for executive job postings is to consult nonprofit job boards or staffing pages for inspiration on how to draft your own.

For an in-depth example on how to master the perfect executive job description, check out DonorSearch’s nonprofit executive director template and tips!  

Attach Downloadable Resources

While a killer job description is an excellent place to start, don’t stop there while promoting new executive roles at your nonprofit!

In fact, your nonprofit’s job description should serve as the foundation from which to add on more detailed downloadable resources related to the open position.

While a job description is meant to be punchy and concise, a downloadable resource allows your nonprofit to expand on executive job duties and application process.

A few key items your downloadable resource may cover include:

  • The need for this new role at your nonprofit.
  • Executive role education and experience requirements.
  • The responsibilities and daily activities of the executive role.
  • General vs. preferred list of applicant qualifications.
  • Background information on your nonprofit’s mission and goals.
  • Contact information for your nonprofit’s HR or hiring officer.

Not to mention, a downloadable resource also provides an excellent opportunity to share nonprofit news and updates to provide further background on your organization.

By offering additional materials on your nonprofit and job posting to your executive applicants, you can better prepare them for the application and interview process as well as weed out which contenders went the extra mile to review them.   

Takeaway: Detail your nonprofit’s executive objectives with a rockstar job description and thorough downloadable resources.

Create an Executive Search Interview Strategy

3. Create an Executive Search Interview Strategy

Arguably the most important part of the executive search process is honing a rewarding interview strategy that sharply analyzes your top executive contenders.

To create a thorough and reliable interview game plan, always consider these three factors in your nonprofit’s executive hiring process.

Form a Diverse Search Committee

Hiring potential leaders across your nonprofit’s departments can be tricky. That’s why it’s best to rely on a qualified and well-rounded search committee for choosing an executive leader that benefits them all.

Your nonprofit’s search committee should feature individuals from all backgrounds and expertise to provide diverse input on executive applicants.

Usually the top-billed search committee members will have a wealth of nonprofit experience to draw from as well as a broad skillset in areas like fundraising, marketing, donor management, and major giving.

A few key players to consider for your executive search committee may include:

  • Nonprofit board members
  • Senior nonprofit staff or department heads
  • Major donors and stakeholders
  • Fundraising leaders or volunteer coordinators
  • Prominent community and constituent members

In addition to tracking down viable executive candidates, an expert search committee can help your nonprofit create new programs and initiatives as well as assist in developing executive roles to champion them.

Develop Executive Interview Questions and Procedure   

Now that you have a selection of promising executive candidates, it’s time to evaluate them on their character and potential fit with your nonprofit.

Start by having your search committee conduct an in-depth screening process to sift through candidates who have the best grasp on your modern fundraising and donor needs.

This procedure can test a candidate’s written and verbal skills as well as assess their knowledge of your nonprofit to determine which ones will advance to the final round of interviews.

After the screening, your nonprofit should be prepared with a series of interview questions to evaluate personal and professional qualities you’re looking for in an executive leader.  

These questions can touch on a variety of subjects and experience depending on what your nonprofit values most, including by not limited to:

  • Range of professional or volunteer nonprofit work.
  • Fundraising volunteer training and leadership.  
  • Donor stewardship and cultivation.
  • Marketing and promotion techniques.
  • Prospect research skills and background.
  • Nonprofit technology and CRM software knowledge.

This is also the time to analyze your executive candidates’ take on successful fundraising ideas and trends to determine if their leadership style and preferences align with your nonprofit’s.  

If your nonprofit has any trouble fine-tuning an effective executive interview strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to an executive search firm for professional assistance.

Takeaway: Using a search committee to conceptualize an insightful and reusable interview strategy is your nonprofit’s best tool for finding top executive leaders.

Developing new executive roles is both a victory and a challenge for budding nonprofits everywhere, but that doesn’t mean your executive search process has to be just as complicated.

Ensure your organization recruits the best staff leaders by making the most of these foolproof executive search tactics.    

Author Bio: 

Bill TedescoBill Tedesco is a well-known entrepreneur in the field of philanthropy with over 15 years of experience leading companies serving the fundraising profession.

Bill has personally conducted original research to identify markers of philanthropy and has developed modeling and analytical products that use those markers to accurately predict future giving.

Since 2007, Bill has been the founder, CEO and Managing Partner of DonorSearch.


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