Koya Seeking New Leader for National Wildlife Refuge Association

With employment in the non-profit sector growing by 17 percent this past decade, it is now the third largest employer in the U.S. — putting demand for top talent at an all-time high. Let’s go inside the latest search.

April 18, 2017 – Top leaders for non-profit concerns remain in hot demand and Koya Leadership Partners has the latest big search in the sector. Molly Brennan, a founding partner at the firm, is seeking a president for the National Wildlife Refuge Association, to be named by early summer.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is the only independent non-profit exclusively focused on protecting and promoting the 850 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest network of lands and waters set aside for wildlife conservation.

“Its incoming president must be a leader who can successfully navigate the complex, national network of wildlife refuges, work in close partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and offer exceptional fundraising and organizational management skills.”

The organization is seeking an experienced, dynamic, and strategic leader to guide it through a time of transition and growth. Working closely with the board of directors and staff, the president will lead the development and implementation of strategies to ensure the operational and financial health of the organization as it continues to expand and evolve in the pursuit of its mission.


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The chosen leader is expected to bring an infusion of creativity and visionary leadership to all areas of the Refuge Association’s work, and inspire existing and new constituents to support America’s wildlife refuges and wildlife conservation on the local, regional and national levels. The ideal candidate will be an experienced non-profit leader and manager, an accomplished fundraiser, and a polished communicator.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is an independent non-profit exclusively focused on protecting and promoting the 150 million acres within the refuge system, with stewardship responsibilities bringing the total management responsibilities to over 800 million acres. Founded in 1975, its mission is to conserve America’s wildlife for future generations through programs that protect, enhance, and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries.

This is the first search Koya Leadership Partners has conducted on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “We have conducted a wide range of searches in the conservation space, including current searches for American Bird Conservation and the Trust for Public Land, and recent searches for an executive director of Bat Conservation International and Natural Resources Defense Council,” she said. But given the size and scope of this conservation organization, it clearly ranks among the search firm’s top leadership mandates to date.


High Demand for Non-Profit Leaders

The economic strength of the non-profit field has increased in recent years and it is now the third largest employer in the U.S. Nearly two million non-profit organizations employ 10.7 million people and produce revenue in excess of $1.9 trillion. In the past decade, employment in the sector grew by 17 percent. This has led to the demand for talent in this sector to be at an all-time high ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

Koya Leading CFO Search for Barack Obama Foundation
Fierce competition for talent across the non-profit sector continues. Boards of directors are looking for leaders who can deliver measurable results, who offer a track record of managing people and organizations, and who can present a mission with conviction.


Rising Competition for Talent

“We are definitely seeing an increased demand for non-profit talent,” Ms. Brennan said. “Non-profits are rightly demanding extremely high levels of expertise and leadership, and executive level searches are becoming more and more competitive.”

Ms. Brennan said she’s also seen a recent spike in non-profit searches. “One reason: private donations to some non-profits have increased with the advent of the Trump Administration, which may create more access to unrestricted funds that can be used for hiring,” Ms. Brennan noted.

“We’re also seeing the beginnings of a major demographic shift that has been looming for some time. As Baby Boomers have started to retire, more space has been created for new leaders to step up.” She said she’s also seeing more and more leaders from the for profit sector who are interesting in moving into the non-profit space. “That’s bringing in strong people, with solid financial and operational management skill sets,” she added.

Recruiters, in general, have taken note that Baby Boomers who spent the majority of their working lives in the private sector are looking to round out their professional years serving a mission. Called the ‘encore career phenomenon,’ this often means switching to a non-profit organization or institution as a means of starting a second career.

Non-Profit Searches Underway

Koya Leadership Partners is a national executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with non-profits and social enterprises. This year, the firm is recognized once again as one of the top 50 search firms in the Americas by Hunt Scanlon Media. Koya was recently selected to be included in Hunt Scanlon’s first ranking of the recruiting industry’s top 50 non-profit search specialist leaders. The ranking is a compendium of best-in-class search firms deemed the “most prominent trailblazers” in the field.

Koya has developed a national reputation for identifying executive directors and CEOs across the non-profit sector, including those for Hudson Webber Foundation, The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, Glazer Children’s Museum, and Tourette Association of America, among many others.

The firm is currently heading executive leadership positions for Opportunity International, University of Puget Sound, the Fidelity Foundation, Naples Botanical Garden, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Ms. Brennan has partnered with boards of directors and senior leaders to identify and place leaders for a range of clients, including the William Davidson Foundation, Sierra Club, Right to Play, Slow Food USA, and Natural Resources Defense Council. Human rights organization Amnesty International USA recently retained the firm to identify a new executive director. Ms. Brennan and principal Sam Simmons are leading the search. “The organization needs a leader who can bring a wide range of interconnected stakeholders – staff, board, membership, and partners at the international level – together to advance human rights in the U.S. and around the world,” said Ms. Brennan.

Here’s a look at a number of other search assignments that Koya is currently engaged in:

  • The firm is seeking a new president and CEO for the Chicago Youth Centers, whose mission is to empower children to recognize and experience their possibility and promise. The organization is seeking a proven and respected non-profit leader whose skills will inspire continued growth in fundraising, stakeholder engagement and brand awareness. Alison P. Ranney and Anne B. McCarthy are leading the search;
  • Youth Speaks has retained Koya to lead its search for a new executive director. This is an opportunity for the right individual to provide leadership, expand the vision, and amplify the impact of Youth Speaks, a path-breaking, nationally regarded spoken word and youth development organization. The search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Medelene Beasley;
  • Global, research-focused patient advocacy group NephCure Kidney International tapped Koya recently to find its next CEO. The chosen leader will have significant experience working with a mission-driven organization, strong leadership and fundraising skills and exposure to the health field. Erin Reedy is leading the assignment;
  • Koya is leading the CEO search for Building Excellent Schools. The firm is seeking a visionary and strategic chief executive to lead the organization through its next phase of growth and impact by expanding a  fellowship program to train and support more mission-driven leaders to create the best urban charter schools in the nation. Ms. Brennan and Sam Simmons are leading that search.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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