How Non-Profits Can Identify and Recruit Their Next Great Leader

February 6, 2024 – Thanks to younger generations, interest in and support of mission-aligned organizations is surging. According to the Better Business Bureau, seventy-five percent of millennials believe that a business should have a higher purpose beyond generating capital. For Gen Z, the desire is even greater, according to a recent report from Johanna Vargas, vice president and senior associate at BroadView Talent Partners. “That’s good news for non-profits,” she says. The same purpose-driven organizations that younger generations are supporting with time and resources are the ones they hope to work for one day, according to Ms. Vargas.

“They are attracted to organizations that place values, purpose, and social responsibility at the forefront of their operations, and for good reason,” she said. “Our mission-aligned clients are conducting an exorbitant amount of good work in their communities every day. However, internally, these nonprofits often suffer from unique struggles. Our goal as a firm is to help them not only recruit transformational executive leadership, but also address the operational and governance challenges that may be plaguing them.”

Ms. Vargas explains that by reflecting the demographics of the communities they serve, supporting diversity, and taking a hard look at board governance, non-profits can not only identify and recruit their next great leader but also uplift the organization for a long-term, sustainable, and impactful future.

Community Reflections

“The most dynamic and responsive non-profit organizations have come to realize that building and maintaining trust with the communities they serve starts by recruiting executive leadership that mirrors their demographics,” Ms. Vargas said. “This approach is rooted in the understanding that leaders who reflect the community’s diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences tend to foster deeper connections and understanding.”

By aligning the leadership team with their demographics, non-profits enhance cultural competency, authenticity, and relevancy. Ms. Vargas notes that this, in turn, builds trust and strengthens the organization’s impact. “Simply by reflecting on its community demographics, an organization can begin to expertly identify the knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes necessary for its next leader to successfully lead an organization while addressing the unique needs of its community,” she says.

Diverse Talent Pools

Seeking out the most qualified individuals for any C-suite or leadership position starts with a diverse pool of candidates, Ms. Vargas explains. “The communities that non-profits serve are incredibly and dynamically diverse, and so should be their talent pool,” she said. “This includes individuals from various backgrounds, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability, religious or ethical values, national origin, and political beliefs. By casting a broader, more diverse net than in-house talent departments or online job boards, search firms also leverage tools designed to identify imbalances in candidate search results while providing suggestions for more balanced outcomes.”

Effective Board Governance

Ms. Vargas also notes that boards of directors at mission-aligned organizations must take a good, hard look at the needs of their organization today and into the future. “This means identifying what the new member of the executive team must tackle to move the needle,” she says. “It entails being objective, fair, and open minded about the challenges their organization faces.”

Johanna Vargas has more than 20 years of experience in the business world, specializing in human resource consulting. Her expertise includes executive search, coaching, and training services for candidates and clients. With a particular emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), she has a successful history of placing C-suite executives in the affordable housing and non-profit sectors.

In particular, assessing the organization’s weaknesses, opportunities and threats can provide guidance on the must-have competencies, characteristics, skills and attributes sought, according to Ms. Vargas. “Conducting extensive stakeholder interviews before the search is launched can also uncover opinions, ideas, and perspectives that will drive must-haves and measures of first-year success,” she said. “These measures offer a glimpse into the goals the board wishes the new leader to accomplish in year one, giving them strong momentum going into year two and beyond.”

Dedicated Processes

The unique nuances of non-profit work require specialized understanding to help navigate the complexities of recruiting those who will operate within a broader social mission while serving diverse communities with unique needs. In turn, Ms. Vargas says that organizations must understand the rigor, time, effort and analysis required to make any executive search a success.

Related: 5 Communication Skills Found in Top Leaders

From BroadView’s perspective, success is defined as locating the right individual with the right skills at the right time in an organization’s life cycle. “Embarking on a lucrative search for leaders of mission-aligned organizations starts with honestly defining and confirming the role to best leverage research, sourcing, and targeted outreach,” Ms. Vargas said. “Partnering with a firm that integrates diversity, equity, and inclusion into its processes is a powerful catalyst for identifying a diverse pool of candidates who reflect the organization’s mission, vision and communities served.”

Diversifying Leadership: Navigating the Future of Talent Acquisition
In this episode of Talent Talks, host Rob Adams explores the cutting-edge strategies employed by Broadview Talent Partners to revolutionize talent acquisition in the affordable housing and nonprofit sectors. Tracy McMillan, CEO, and managing partner, along with Christie Angel, managing partner, share compelling examples of how their organization has successfully attracted diverse leaders. Dive into the effective strategies for expanding talent pipelines and gain insights into the tools crucial for navigating today’s competitive talent market. Listen Now!

Finally, the best firms also help their non-profit partners mediate offers as well as support the onboarding and deployment of selected candidates, according to Ms. Vargas. She notes that this ensures a smooth transition on all sides and sets the new leader up for long-term, positive organizational impact.

“Not every search firm is well-poised to support non-profit and mission-aligned organizations, but those who are can serve as a powerful catalyst for positive change,” Ms. Vargas said. “Assuming the board maintains a focus on healthy governance, this partnership can help non-profits fill executive roles with individuals who truly champion their own mission and vision and will ultimately lift up the organization as well as the community they serve.”

Founded in 2015, BroadView Talent Partners is a national executive search firm dedicated to placing leadership in affordable housing agencies, non-profit organizations, and associations, as well as middle market companies. The firm provides clients with a national network; commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and a record of long-tenured placements. Its specialties include executive search, talent acquisition, retention solutions, career management, executive coaching, and board development.

Related: Replacing a Longtime, Non-Profit CEO

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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