December 4, 2017 – Following a national search, Easterseals has selected Angela F. Williams as its new president and CEO. The former YMCA executive is expected to lead the organization into its centennial year in 2019. Non-profit recruiting specialists Koya Leadership Partners conducted the search. Anne McCarthy, principal – executive search, and Alison Ranney, managing director who heads Koya’s Chicago office, co-led the assignment.
Easterseals is the country’s leading non-profit provider of services for people with disabilities, including veterans and their families. Ms. Williams will be the 10th person to lead the organization in the U.S. She is also the first African-American to hold the job, and the first female in more than 40 years.
“Angela’s strong record of accomplishment as a leader and senior executive makes her the right person to lead Easterseals as we prepare to mark 100 years of responding to the needs of children and adults with disabilities throughout America,” said Joe Kern, chair of the Easterseals national board of directors. “Her capacity to lead complex organizations will serve us well as we advance a strategic vision for our future in areas of priority including advocacy, network advancement, brand management and resource development in partnership with our national network of 72 affiliates which collectively serves 1.5 million people annually.”
Experienced Non-Profit Leader
Ms. Williams has 30 years of leadership experience in the non-profit and corporate sectors, most recently serving as executive vice president, general counsel and chief administration officer at YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for the Y, where she was instrumental in shaping strategy and developing resources to help 2,700 YMCAs across the country enhance outcomes for youth and families in 10,000 communities.
Earlier, Ms. Williams was the interfaith liaison for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, a non-profit organization formed to provide critically needed donations to assist the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. She was responsible for understanding the impact of Katrina on the faith community and overseeing the processing of $25 million in grants to houses of worship. Ms. Williams began her professional career as an officer in the United States Air Force, serving in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
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Boston-based 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 was recognized again as one of the top 50 search firms in the Americas by Hunt Scanlon Media.
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.
Koya is currently leading searches for numerous clients in the arts and culture field, including Harvard Art Museums, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
Koya’s Ms. McCarthy specializes in recruiting senior executives to non-profit organizations, cultural institutions and foundations across the country. She previously worked for another retained executive search firm and specialized in assignments for clients in the insurance and industrial manufacturing industries.
Ms. Ranney partners with a broad range of clients including foundations, cultural institutions, membership organizations, other non-profits, colleges and universities. She has successfully led searches at the CEO, president, executive director, dean, COO, CFO and VP levels as well as board members.
Ms. Ranney’s clients include the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Obama Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, the United Way and the American Red Cross. She also has deep expertise in higher education having led searches for the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania, among others.
A Closer Look at the Search
Ms. Ranney recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to take us inside the search.
Alison, explain the nuances of running this national organization with 72 affiliates.
The Easterseals national office serves to support the work of its 72 affiliates and acts as the national face of the organization. Each of the 72 affiliates has its own CEO and provides a variety of different services. This poses a unique set of challenges for the leader of the national organization. The top priorities of Easterseals national are to support advocacy, branding/marketing, corporate partnerships, fundraising, network collaboration, and technology on behalf of its affiliates and the organization as a whole. The ability to envision, clearly define and project a compelling value proposition of Easterseals national to its affiliates, board, staff and other key stakeholders is a key component of the CEO’s role.
What type of leader was Easterseals looking for?
Prior to the search, the national board had engaged management consulting firm Bridgespan Group around the goals and vision for the network and the value of the national organization. From that process, the high-level aspirations for the network were determined. Stakeholders agreed that Easterseals would need to become a more high-functioning and high-impact network. It was determined that envisioning, defining and projecting Easterseals national’s value proposition to its affiliates, board, staff and other key stakeholders was a top priority for the next president and CEO. Equally important was the ability to establish trust between the affiliates and the national office.
Our ideal profile was a confident leader with a track record of success transforming complex institutions with similar operating models. Angela has a powerful, confident and inspirational leadership style and presence that will enable her to step into the CEO role and quickly galvanize staff, board and affiliates around the future of Easterseals. Her diverse range of experience in the private, government and non-profit sectors has equipped her with the skills to lead the transformation of Easterseals national. Importantly, Angela embodies the values of the organization.
“The committee selected seven candidates to interview in the first round and advanced three to second rounds. After additional meetings, deep referencing and assessments, the committee decided between the finalists.”
Can you take us through the search process? When did the search start, where did you look for candidates, how many were presented, etc.?
Koya led a national search with a national search committee comprised of eight board members and two affiliate CEOs. We began constituent conversations in late summer and officially launched into the market just before Labor Day. The candidate pool developed over six weeks. The committee selected seven candidates to interview in the first round of interviews and advanced three to second rounds. After additional meetings, deep referencing and assessments, the committee decided between the finalists. We completed the search before Thanksgiving and announced shortly afterwards. As always with a Koya search, our goal was to craft a top-tier pool of candidates for the committee to consider. We considered leaders of disability organizations around the country. We looked at senior leadership in complex social service organizations with similar operating models to Easterseals, such as the YMCA or the United Way. We also identified candidates from the private sector who could bring a unique and different perspective to the role. All candidates had a personal connection to the Easterseals mission.
Explain how the firm used the Hogan assessments to analyze the finalists?
We partnered with a trained assessment professional, Joanna Ahearn, to conduct Hogan assessments on two finalists. Joanna analyzed the results and provided succinct materials to effectively convey those results to the search committee. It was an extremely important part of our process and helped the committee feel confident that both finalists could do the job well.
What are some of Angela’s biggest tasks ahead?
Envisioning, defining and projecting Easterseals national’s value proposition to its affiliates, board, staff and other key stakeholders will be a top priority for Angela in her new CEO role. Equally important will be the ability to quickly establish trust between the affiliates and the national office. She will also facilitate critical work to determine the fundraising processes to align the needs of the affiliates with those of the national organization.
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