Although they are less concerned with profit runs and shareholder satisfaction, non-profits still need capable, effective senior leadership. Success, for organizations, is often defined by the caliber of leadership talent they boast in executive positions – and the same holds true for non-profits.
When looking to fill these positions, non-profits may rely on internal resources (such as personal networks) or look outward to the expertise of an executive search firm. This guide explains how a search firm can support non-profit board members and executive directors during the recruitment process, and provides actionable information on how to hire an executive search firm.
What role does an executive search firm play?
Search firms bring professional expertise to the executive search process. They consist of experienced professionals who are able to provide a variety of services to find and attract the right senior management hire for non-profits.
The services they provide include critically assessing an organization’s hiring needs; identifying the core skills and qualifications that meet these needs; writing an accurate and attractive job description, finding and qualifying candidates; and presenting a shortlist of senior talent.
Search firms may also go further to whittle down shortlists, conduct final interviews alongside non-profit clients, and provide post-hiring guarantees up to one year after the process.
How does a search firm work?
The executive search process is largely relationship-driven. What organizations get out of the process depends on their specific needs and core objectives for the process. Search firms vary in size, the scope of their services, and how they offer these services. All of these factors will determine the work they do and how much value they provide.
Executive search firms may be retained or contingency firms, or they may provide managed search services. Retained search firms typically offer full search services, from formulating the job description to conducting reference checks. They are well-suited for complex searches and often specialize in finding senior leadership hires. For searches of this level, non-profit clients can expect to pay a fee up to 35% of the position’s first year salary plus expenses. The client will also commit to hiring only one firm for the search and will usually pay the fee, regardless of whether the search is successful or not.
Contingency search firms provide less exclusive services than retained firms. They specialize mostly in generating candidates for a position, and do not often provide consulting services. Recruiters at these firms are compensated when a candidate is hired by a client, and will often be competing against other contingency firms looking to fill the same role. These firms will often have ready databases of likely candidates, making them a good fit for less complex searches in junior to mid-level roles.
Retained or contingency firms may offer managed search services for a flexible hiring process. This fits well for clients with unique needs that might not require the full services of a retained firm but more than what is included in contingency search services.
Benefits of engaging an executive search firm
Executive search services are often beneficial for organizations facing novel challenges or situations, or those that simply want the input of professional recruiters as they fill key leadership positions. Working with a search firm can bring several advantages, including the following:
Preliminary steps to hiring a search firm
Search firms can considerably simplify and standardize the executive recruitment process for non-profits. But success also depends on taking certain preliminary steps prior to facilitate the search process:
How to select a search firm
The goal of the selection process is to identify an executive search partner that will work to deeply understand your organization and the needs of the role you are looking to fill. A good search firm acts as your strategic partner during the recruitment process, which is why it pays to bring a deliberate approach to picking one. The major steps to finding a reliable search firm are as follows:
Executive recruitment is often a complex and time-involved process, which is why many organizations choose to call on expert help. With the professional approach and experience that executive search firms can bring, organizations can potentially obtain better outcomes and a hire that adds value to them over the long-term.
If you want to learn more about our executive search services, check out our industry-leading resources and see why Cowen Partners is a top executive search firm serving clients in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond: