Selecting a new chief executive or other senior staffer is one of the most important decisions your nonprofit board is likely to face. Even if there’s no immediate hiring need, it’s smart to prepare for the process.
1. Form a search team
Forming a search team allows participating board members to stay abreast of compensation trends and be on the lookout for possible 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.
2. Determine candidate criteria
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.
3. Consider compensation
Your 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
• Geographic location, service category and 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.
4. Outline the interview process
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.
Revisit and finalize
Before beginning an actual search, you’ll want to revisit your search plan, but by having guidelines in place, you can jump start the process.