October 13, 2023 – As the last quarter of 2023 approached, a new report from DHR Global’s Sara Garlick Lundberg and James Abruzzo reflects on the trends affecting recruiting in the non-profit industry. Non-profits are navigating a number of challenges – from new work habits to political currents – as they plan for greater impact in 2024, the study said.
DHR Global lays out six key trends impacting recruiting in the nonprofit industry today.
1. Growing Demand for HR Expertise
DHR is seeing an increased demand for highly skilled leaders in human resources and people leadership. “As organizations continue to settle into new ways of doing things, and as hybrid work and remote structures continue to pressure leadership to adapt, non-profits are turning to search consultants to help them find seasoned, strategic HR leaders to help them manage people in new ways and build and grow teams, as well as the culture that binds them,” the search firm said.
2. Transparency & Inclusion in Search Processes
In a world where information – and the demand for it – seems endless, we see organizations responding to the call for more transparency in search processes, according to the DHR report. “Non-profits are increasingly using selection panels to collect insight and build buy-in for hires,” the report said. “While this addition can slow a search process, we find that non-profits – and their new hires – benefit from the increased inclusivity and the diversity of views brought in by selection panels.”
3. Continued Calls for Flexibility
The DHR report also explains that more than ever, candidates are leading with questions about work location and in-person requirements. The firm also notes that location is a factor nearly as important as compensation, and non-profits who have not adopted hybrid or flexible work arrangements are losing out on candidates who grew accustomed to flexibility.
4. Political Pressures
“In general, non-profit employees are liberal in politics and nature, and there are now certain states in the country – Florida, Texas, and Tennessee among them – where candidates will not work, and searches in these areas are becoming more challenging,” the DHR report said. “This is a direct response to changing political environments and it’s having a serious impact on non-profits, even those in cities with more liberal bents.”
Related: 7 Key Trends Impacting Non-Profits
5. Waves of CEO Retirements
During the pandemic, many non-profit executives postponed their retirements, and we are now seeing those leaders transition, creating a wave of demand for non-profit CEOs, according to the DHR report. As a whole, the firm says that the sector hasn’t invested enough in building successors and is suffering as a result. DHR also notes that skilled boards and hands-on engagement are needed more than ever to support organizations through post-pandemic executive transitions.
6. Post-Pandemic Settling
“During Covid, there was a lot of government funding for non-profits,” the DHR report said. “While some suffered dramatic drops in funding, many others saw upticks in funding from individuals responding to the pandemic and political events. Others received seven- and eight-figure unrestricted donations from MacKenzie Scott. These waves of funding have stopped, and DHR anticipates many non-profits making tough decisions as they re-adjust.”
Demand Intensifies From Non-Profits Seeking Senior Talent
Non-profit organizations in 2023 are facing inflation, declining donations, increased demand for services, workforce shortages, and more. A recent non-profit trends report by Forbes says that the changing workforce is presenting challenges for both for-profit and non-profit leaders. Being ready to consider alternative staffing options would put many of them ahead of the shifting landscape, says Forbes. Fractional staffing possibilities exist from the administrative level through the executive director level, says the report, and may be worthy of consideration for both short-term vacancies and long-term solutions. For senior-level positions, many leading non-profits are turning to executive search firms.
A search for a non-profit executive has much in common with any personnel search, and most boards have members who have hired many people in their careers. The distinctions in the hiring of an executive by a volunteer board, however, create special process issues, and a specialized search firm is best suited to address these, says a report from The Moran Company.
The DHR report explains that non-profit organizations staying ahead of these trends will find themselves in a position to strengthen their teams and advance their missions. “As non-profit executive search leaders, we understand the pressures facing the industry and are here to support mission-driven organizations through their most vital talent challenges,” DHR said.
Since 1989, DHR Global has been a leading, privately held provider of executive search solutions with more than 50 wholly owned offices spanning the globe. The firm’s consultants specialize in all industries and functions, providing senior-level executive search, management assessment, and succession planning services tailored to the qualities and specifications of its client base.
DHR’s non-profit practice provides senior-level retained executive search and leadership consulting services across the non-profit spectrum. The practice consists of industry specialists, many of whom have spent their entire careers working in non-profits or assisting nonprofits with executive search.
With more than 20 years of leadership experience, Ms. Garlick Lundberg specializes in non-profit search consulting, organizational assessment, and executive transitions. She works across the health, education, human service, conservation, arts, and youth development spaces to secure executive leadership, as well as with CEOs to identify senior talent in the areas of finance, fundraising, operations, and research. Her clients have included Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Physicians for Human Rights, Child Mind Institute, New York University, and Trust for Public Land.
Mr. Abruzzo has 40 years of experience as an executive search and management consultant to non-profit organizations. His clients span the non-profit spectrum — cultural organizations, zoos and aquariums, national health services, universities, social services, international relief organizations, and trade associations. Having completed over 500 senior executive searches, he is recognized for his work with non-profit boards on succession planning, strategy, and executive compensation. He is also responsible for recruiting new partners, developing intellectual capital, and representing DHR at non-profit industry forums.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; and Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media