Non-Profit Associations: Navigating the Executive Hiring Process

Non-Profit Associations: Navigating the Executive Hiring Process

Are you part of a non-profit association board or executive team looking to make your next executive hire? Below Christine Colverson, Talent Associate at Keynote Search has set out a number of key considerations and suggestions that will guide you through this important non-profit executive hiring process.

Tips for Non-Profit Associations:

Managing the executive hiring process:

For searches on behalf of non-profits, it is crucial to create a search committee in the infancy of the search. It is useful to decide who will be the key decision-makers involved in the hiring process. A full board of directors can be quite large, and it doesn’t always set an organization up for success to have the full board involved in the selection process. In a membership association, it is important to ensure that there is a diverse and representative selection committee who are able to invest their time in the process. (see our guide for hiring NPO executive roles)

Assessing cultural fit:

When looking for a cultural fit, it is important to identify those values and traits at the beginning of the search. In the non-profit association environment, accountability is one of the most important traits to keep an eye out for. Associations are accountable to their members and in some circumstances to the public interest. Therefore it is important to find a candidate who takes that accountability seriously and is not uncomfortable holding others to account. Key examples of this trait can be illustrated in how a candidate acted upon constructive feedback in their previous position. It also may be evident where a candidate is looking to leave their current role due to a lack of accountability by others.

Predicting success:

One of the key skills for any individual entering a specialized non-profit association is the ability to adapt. Often candidates may not have a professional background in the area of expertise of your association and will need to get up to speed with a large amount of information. A good example of where a candidate may have done this elsewhere is charitable and volunteer roles. These passion projects illustrate a candidate’s ability to step outside of their own professional comfort zones and delve deep into a separate organization’s cause and narrative.

Final note:

Be honest about your association by giving candidates good detail about its history, challenges, and successes. More importantly, be open and clear about the working environment and the support the candidate may or may not receive. For smaller and new non-profit associations, highlight capacity challenges and unexpected tasks that may be placed on the candidate. For larger and established non-profit associations, speak to some of the change-initiatives or long-standing practices the candidate may have to weather. The hiring process is a time of vulnerability both for the association and the candidate. My advice is to open up about what makes you enjoy working in the association and working for its members.

For tips on how to conduct virtual interviews check out our blog Video Interviewing Tips for Employers

For tips on how to onboard remote workers check out our blog 7 Tips to Onboard Remote Workers

On a personal note, I enjoy working with associations as it is an opportunity to work closely with professionals who are passionate about their industry and the success of its membership. I am always genuinely encouraged by the number of highly-skilled candidates who are looking to make a positive impact on great Canadian associations. Please reach out if you are looking for further advice on this topic or would like to share your own experiences.