Using a National or Local Search Firm

by Mary Ontko, M.P.A., B.A.
Senior Search Consultant
The Moran Company  “We Find Great Nonprofit Executives”

Here at The Moran Company, we’re often asked by prospective clients if they should hire a local search firm or a national firm to conduct their executive search. Often, organizations believe that a local firm is better because they think it would be difficult for a national firm to truly understand their situation or the nuances of their community’s needs. They might also wonder if a national firm can fully engage with their professional community to find qualified candidates.

We understand these leaders’ instincts. At The Moran Company, we make a point to engage with our local professional communities. Our search consultants participate locally in professional groups and associations, which is a great way to maintain our strong peer connections with the leaders we are seeking. When we conduct a search in our community, we have a full stable of resource contacts to whom we reach out, which enables us to hit the ground running. Our search consultants have also worked as executive directors and senior fundraisers in many of the local organizations and sectors for which we’re recruiting, so we often have an intimate knowledge of the needs of these groups.

At the same time, our search consultants are very successful on a national level. We are currently conducting searches in multiple regions, and our expertise is recognized nationally. Our process remains the same whatever the locale. We know that, even if a search firm is not familiar with a community landscape upon hire, an experienced firm will be able to understand and assess the situation very quickly. A benefit is that recruitment efforts can be widened to include professional networks that extend across the country.

So when should you consider a national search firm versus a local search firm?

  • When a geographically broad candidate pool is sought. Search firms with experience outside a particular geography may have a broader pool of contacts, as well as more experience reaching out to new communities. They may be more accustomed to posting positions all over the country, and within various target and affinity groups, and can more quickly and easily push out information about the position.
  • So candidates can be reviewed with fresh eyes. A non-local firm will enter the process with no community history, and the search consultant may bring a new perspective to the needs of the organization and the qualifications of the candidates as an outsider. A fresh take can be especially helpful in situations in which a community’s candidate pool is relatively shallow and it is difficult for the organization’s board and leadership to objectively make a hiring decision due to existing relationships. A national search firm can bring a neutral approach to that decision.
  • To receive a certain expertise not found in a local firm. At The Moran Company, we specialize in nonprofit executive searches for staff leaders – specifically executive directors and senior fundraising professionals. Our search consultants are chosen because they have excelled in these staff roles and understand the attributes needed to be successful. Our organizational expertise is particularly strong in the areas of mental and behavioral health, healthcare fundraising, and a variety of other sectors. An organization from another community might look to hire The Moran Company for its particular nonprofit expertise when it can’t be found locally.

The decision to hire a local or national executive search firm is an important one. Ultimately, it depends on the position an organization is seeking to fill, the type of candidate it hopes to attract, and the attributes it is looking for in a search firm partner. Selecting a firm with the right approach and experience could be more important than its physical address.

We’ve developed a list of 12 critical questions and a rating worksheet for search committees to use as they compare different firms. Feel free to use this resource as you consider the best fit for your organization. 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.