Recruiting Executive Director

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Carter McNamara - 02/16/12

Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

Authenticity Consulting

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"Some thoughts ...

When someone struggles -- or excels -- in the E.D. job, it's usually with the E.D. responsibilities, not with the program activities.

So I firmly believe, always first seek to hire someone who knows the E.D. job, even if they don't know your programs very well.

That is, if you have a choice between 1) someone who knows your programs but has never been an E.D. versus 2) someone who's been an E.D. but doesn't know your program, then hire the latter.

Obviously, you want someone who knows both the E.D. job and your programs, but that's like asking for the Second Coming of Christ.

Regarding finding possible candidates, most of the nonprofits I know that found good E.D.s got them from:

  1. asking collaborators for ideas
  2. the local unemployement office (especially in a weak economy, like ours)
  3. local networks of E.D. professionals

(Don't ask Board members for ideas -- too often, that sets up a conflict of interest on the Board, and don't ask funders for ideas -- they don't give ideas and they might think you're naive to ask :-)

It's conventional wisdom that funders don't want to appear to be favoring -- recommending -- certain consultants or personnel to nonprofits.

That situation can appear to set up the appearance of unfair favoritism from the funder.

For example, if nonprofit A hired a consultant and a person that Funder XYZ recommended, then later on, if A asks XYZ for a grant, A can say "We did what you said -- we hired the consultant and person you recommended, so can we get a grant now?" That could be unfair to XYZ and to other nonprofits that apply for the same grant.

So, historically, funders are very reluctant to suggest certain consultants or personnel to a nonprofit. Funders want to appear as being very fair and equitable to all grantees.

If you asked a funder for a recommendation, the funder might react that you're very new to the nonprofit arena, or worst case, be a bit offended :-)"