Nonprofit Search Committee Chair and Executive Recruiter Must Have a Strong Partnership

Nonprofit Search Committee Chair and Executive Recruiter Must Have a Strong Partnership

Susan Paley Zak, Vice President Executive Recruiting

Recruiting and tapping a new leader for a nonprofit organization is the most critical responsibility a board ever undertakes. It is a given that a strong search committee chair is deemed essential (more on that below), but there is another key ingredient that is of equal importance: the strength of the relationship that the chair has with the executive recruiter who is charged with guiding the organization’s search process.

Because it has been my privilege to serve in this capacity for many nonprofit searches during the course of my career, I understand inherently how pivotal this partnership is. It must be based in trust and clear (and honest) communication—and a mutual respect for what each brings to the process. I have learned that being an adept listener is the most valuable skill required to be effective. When the dynamic is right and the rapport is genuine, it brings both energy and efficiency to an endeavor that is, quite simply, very hard work.

Nonprofit organizations engage a search firm because we bring valuable guidance to the process. It not only saves time, but enhances every aspect of the work that must be done. From identifying candidates, to interviewing and then negotiating an offer and employment agreement (and everything in between), a seasoned third-party lends objectivity that complements the passion and insight of the search committee and its chair. This benefit is maximized when the chair and recruiter have a solid, productive relationship.

Through my experience in working with many search committee chairs, I have identified a number of attributes to look for when identifying a board member to serve in this capacity. Here is my checklist:

· She must be a strong leader who brings discipline and professionalism to the process.

· She must have time (and a good deal of it)—many hours per week over several months may be required.

· Being a skilled communicator is essential to keep the board chair and other board members well informed of the progress being made. Keeping peers in the loop avoids surprises.

· The chair must be a consensus builder—the ultimate goal is vetting a candidate who has full board support. Search committees, like all committees, are composed of members with different viewpoints and opinions.

In sum, nonprofit organizations must choose well when establishing a search committee and naming its chair. Of equal importance is selecting the best search firm for your organization by keeping a keen eye on the person who will be your lead recruiter—this relationship is, indeed, the secret sauce of every successful search.