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Sam Davidson's blog

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We'll Hire Anybody

An article in the Palm Beach Post this morning discusses the difficulty that often ensues when a nonprofit tries to hire a top manager or executive director. According to this article, there is a shortage of quality leadership in the nonprofit sector, especially in southern Florida.

Consider this quote:

Nonprofit executives blame the leadership lag on several factors: the need for cultural sensitivity; finding people willing to work for less than what they would make in the corporate world; and the lack of succession plans, which often take a back seat to running the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit organization.

The article goes on to describe the operation of many nonprofits as one of 'crisis mode.' People need to receive services and money needs to be raised nearly immediately in most cases. As a result, internal organization, which includes things like succession planning and employee retention, takes a back seat. So what happens? Nonprofits are left with very few qualified workers, which in turn adds 'personnel' to the list of crises a nonprofit faces.

The best thing the nonprofit job marketplace has going for it is that is doesn't have to limit itself to only finding talent within the sector. If you're hiring for the top spot at a mid- to large-sized company, you going to have to have someone with years and years of business experience. But in the nonprofit world, you can take someone from another nonprofit, from the for-profit world, or even from the military, as one nonprofit did in the article.

This is possible because nonprofits are structured and operate today in ways that allow the nuances of the organization to be managed by a board (one of the few benefits of a board of directors). A new leader doesn't need to know the ins and outs of a 990. A new leader just needs to know how to lead, and leadership skills can be found anywhere.

If I were hiring for an executive director position, I would look for someone who can clearly articulate a vision and lead others to accomplish this vision. That's it. I'd require a one page resume, detailing an example or two of how this person did exactly that in the past. Then, for the interview, I ask each applicant to tell me the vision of my organization, and what they'd do in the next 36 months to take our board, employees, and clients there. Most inspiring vision and plan wins.

Good luck.