The Top 3 Factors and Functions of the Search Committee in a Nonprofit Executive Search

by Bill Craig
Senior Search Consultant
The Moran Company “We Find Great Nonprofit Executives”

Alongside its fiduciary responsibility, the selection of the executive is the most critical activity performed by a Board of Directors of a nonprofit organization.

A wise Board maintains a “living” strategic-planning process. At least annually, there should be a review of the organization’s environment, both internally and externally, in order to identify threats and opportunities. The process should also include a review of the succession plan for the Executive Director/CEO, specifically how to manage a planned or unplanned vacancy in that position. This state of readiness sets the stage for a smooth transition to an active search.

While the entire Board must share ownership of the selection decision, it is a practical necessity that a search committee (or “transition committee”) be established to guide the process. Depending on the size of the whole Board, the search committee should consist of a maximum of five to seven members.

The top 3 factors to consider in selecting members include:

  1. Leadership skills. The current or incoming Board Chair is usually included.
  2. Balance of perspectives. Every member of the Board should feel comfortable that at least one of the members of the search committee can “speak” for them.
  3. Strategic insight. Members should have a deep understanding of the organization’s mission, the current strategic plan, and the concerns of key stakeholders.

The top 3 functions of the search committee include:

  1. Being THE communicators with the executive search firm that has been contracted to do the search.
  2. Ensuring the search firm thoroughly understands the Board’s intent in terms of qualities, skill sets, and experience desired in the next leader.
  3. Previewing qualified candidates identified by the search firm and selecting finalists for the entire Board to review, each of whom (in the opinion of the search committee) could successfully do the job. If the committee finds one clearly superior candidate, it should have the authority to present that sole individual for the Board’s approval.

Each member of the search committee must be “all in” with this process. They should be personally present in live interviews with qualified candidates and actively engaged in the critical discussions that will determine who the finalists will be. This work is truly vital to the organization.

The rewards that this investment of time and commitment will bring when a successful transition to a new executive is achieved are considerable and may represent the most meaningful service a Board member will experience.

For more information about forming a search committee and sample agenda items for its first meeting, view our previous blog post “Forming a Board Search Committee to Hire a Nonprofit Executive Director”.  At The Moran Company, we customize our recruitment efforts to match each organization’s current and future goals to ensure the best long-term employment matches. To learn more about how we can assist your nonprofit with an upcoming executive search, simply contact us for a free 30-minute consultation for your organization.

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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.