How Candidates Interview a Nonprofit

by Traci L. McClellan-Sorell, JD, MA
Senior Search Consultant
The Moran Company  “We Find Great Nonprofit Executives”

When hiring a nonprofit’s next leader, search committees sometimes forget that candidates are evaluating them and the organization as much as they themselves are being considered. It is important for the Board of Directors to take some time prior to launching the leadership search to consider how they are representing the nonprofit organization to potential candidates.

Here are some items to review and possibly refresh prior to the search:

  • First, candidates will examine the organization’s website and social media presence. Is the website up to date, reflecting the current Board leadership, staff, and other pertinent information regarding programs, priorities, and funding? Does the organization have an active social media presence? Is that presence cohesive in terms of message and recognizable to those in the field? If not, it is recommended that both the website and social media posts be updated to accurately represent the nonprofit to candidates and the general public.
  • Second, is the organization’s financial information shared on its website? From annual reports to its IRS 990 tax returns, the latest information available should be posted on the website. Whether the organization shares any financial information on its website or not, reviewing the nonprofit’s profile on Guidestar,, is critical. Candidates can log in for free to review the tax returns for several years of any U.S. based nonprofit organization as well as find the list of current board members and staff leadership. It is important for the nonprofit to utilize the free service and keep its profile current for candidates (as well as potential donors) to review.
  • Third, never underestimate word of mouth about the organization. Keeping staff in the loop about the organization’s changes and maintaining transparency with those the organization touches are two other ways to assist that what is shared publicly is factual and helpful. Candidates will utilize their nonprofit networks to gather intel on the organization. While it is impossible to control what anyone perceives about the organization, maintaining open lines of communication about the changes in leadership and the ongoing commitment to the mission will help the nonprofit as candidates ask others for their input.
  • And, last, once the search committee has begun the interview process with candidates, they should be prepared to answer any questions about the organization, including its history, current financials, long and short-term goals, and challenges (both internal and external). Often for the final round of interviews, candidates will request copies of the organization’s bylaws, strategic plan, and current financials. So it is best to be prepared and have these ready to provide when asked. If the committee is not responsive and timely in responding to candidate questions and information requests, it reflects poorly on the entire organization.

Recruiting a strong candidate to hire and lead your nonprofit involves more than just forming a search committee, crafting the right announcement and conducting interviews. To strongly position your organization, consider how candidates will be evaluating you and prepare accordingly prior to starting the search. It can make all the difference.

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© 2017 The Moran Company, “We find great nonprofit executives.” We specialize in searches for nonprofit executive directors, directors of development/fundraising staff, and other top nonprofit leadership.