December 4, 2017 – Executive search firm Buffkin / Baker has expanded with the addition of veteran recruiter Nathaniel J. Sutton as partner and head of its non-profit recruiting practice.
“Nat has more than 17 years of executive search experience, and has been immensely successful in the non-profit, higher education and philanthropic arenas,” said Craig Buffkin, managing partner of Buffkin/Baker. “Nat is also an innovator in the banking industry, where he advanced leading-edge public affairs and customer service strategies for Citigroup. We are thrilled to have him leading our non-profit practice.”
For seven years, Mr. Sutton headed the education and non-profit practice of Heidrick & Struggles, where he grew the practice from $3 million to $17 million in annual revenue. During his tenure there, he served major education, arts, cultural and philanthropic organizations, as well as top corporations. His clients have included American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Howard University, Yale University, the University of Connecticut, the Cleveland Museum, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Norton Museum of Art, the Miami Art Museum, as well as The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation and the Marion Ewing Kauffman Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Raytheon, Bank of America, Citigroup/Citibank and US Trust.
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Mr. Sutton also previously served as vice president and director of corporate communications for Citigroup. He oversaw the corporation’s internal and external communications, investor communications, new media and creative services. As head of the corporate customer affairs group, he developed Citibank’s first global customer service strategy and five-year public affairs plan. During his tenure, BusinessWeek recognized the company’s public relations group as one of the world’s 10 best.
Buffkin/Baker focuses on identifying leaders for a number of high-growth sectors, including healthcare, higher education, digital media, digital marketing, technology, private club, financial services and non-profit. It serves public, private, venture and private equity-backed companies. Office locations include Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Winston-Salem, NC, Charleston, SC and Washington, D.C., with affiliate offices in San Francisco and London.
Mr. Sutton recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media and discussed how he intends to leverage his past experience in his new role. He also looks at some recent trends he’s witnessed in the non-profit sector.
Nat, what are some current trends you’ve seen in recruiting executives for the non-profit, higher education and philanthropic arena?
Non-profit/philanthropy and even the education sector need the fundamental management and leadership skills required in the corporate sector. There are, however, two areas that set non-profit executives apart from their for-profit counterparts, certainly at the CEO level. The first is a genuine passion for the mission of the organization and an understanding of its importance and position in the world. The second is the ability to raise funds and connect with donors. That is an area where a CEO’s ability to powerfully communicate that passion for mission and the importance of the work of the organization is critical.
Have you seen more executives from the business world joining these sectors?
I have seen something of a trend over the 18 years I’ve been in this business of executives joining the non-profit/education/philanthropy sector. I think there are several reasons for this. The first is that the economic downturn of 2008 found many corporate executives facing unemployment or underemployment. For people who had been consistently promoted and had expected to spend most of their careers at one company, the personal consequences of the 2008 recession provided a real shock to their systems and their psyches. It caused them to really rethink their approach to what it was they wanted from their work – and in some cases that translated beyond monetary gain to a desire to do something good in the world. At the same time, the level, size and sophistication of major non-profits/philanthropies and education institutions began to rival those of their for-profit counterparts, as did the compensation levels for talented executives in this area.
Is it true that aging Millennials see opportunity in this sector now?
The non-profit sector is one of the fastest growing in our economy and, with government shrinking its role in many humanitarian areas I think this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. A particularly interesting trend I’ve seen over the last several years is an upswing in interest among Millennials in the non-profit sector. This group has been working in the business world for a while now and they’re beginning to think about what they’ve done and where they see themselves 10 or 20 years out. Many are therefore thinking about putting their talents to work for a cause for which they have a genuine passion. Millennials who have been successful in business have a distinctly different approach to personal philanthropy – they look at it more as an investment than just a gift. And some evaluate their career choices in much the same way – how do I use my time and talents to make the world a better place?
“An interesting trend I’ve seen over the last several years is an upswing in interest among Millennials in the non-profit sector. This group has been working in the business world for a while now and they’re beginning to think about what they’ve done and where they see themselves 10 or 20 years out.”
How will you leverage your past search experience in this new role?
Obviously, having been in this business for 18 years and working at very high levels, I have made a lot of friends and developed an extraordinary network of contacts. I have earned the confidence of many non-profit board members who, in their day jobs, have significant roles in the corporate sector. Those contacts that overlap the corporate and non-profit worlds are invaluable and I continue to expand them. In addition, through the years I’ve developed a strong reputation for bringing highly qualified diversity candidates to the table – minorities and women with exceptional leadership skills and vision. I’m very proud of that, and I believe the demand for diversity talent in the C-suite in both corporate and the non-profit world will continue to grow. Finally, I understand on a very deep level that no two organizations are alike – whether you’re working in the non-profit or corporate arenas. I have a deep commitment to understanding the unique strengths, weaknesses, strategic goals and culture of each client I serve. It is only with that kind of in-depth knowledge and understanding that you can go into the talent marketplace and find people with the skills and personal characteristics to best serve the client. To my mind, executive search is not a “cookie cutter” business. Every client is different; every candidate is different. Understanding is the key to matching clients and candidates.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media