Nonprofit Executive Search FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a specialized search firm?

DHR is a top-five executive search firm with all advantages of a large firm and minimal blockage in recruitment. The DHR Nonprofit Practice acts like a specialized boutique firm within a larges general executive search firm, and provides nonprofit executive recruiting to arts and cultural organizations, trade associations, social service and educational institutions, foundations and economic development corporations.

What should we expect from a search firm?

At least weekly contact with both you and the pool of candidates.

A highly experienced nonprofit consultant team with global reach.

An array of resources to help identify and evaluate candidates nationally and internationally.

Significant prior national and international experience.

A track record demonstrated a list of clients and placements, the tenure and effect those placements had on the success of their organizations and the relationships built with clients.

An approved position specification based on interviews with your leaders and key stakeholders.

A report on the results of preliminary research and recruiting within the first 30 to 45 business days upon commencement of the search, containing a detailed account of the search firm’s activities, sources and potential candidates contacted, responses from the field and detailed backgrounds on a first group of qualified candidates.

Facilitation all of the logistics and communications including candidate interviews with your Search Committee, preparing the committee for the interviews with background notes on candidates and debriefing candidates after the interviews.

An established rapport with each candidate to determine if they are truly interested in the position and to ensure that the search firm can give disinterested advice to both you and candidate.

Performance of a thorough background and reference check on each candidate.
Negotiation on your behalf advising on a reasonable compensation package to attract the selected candidate.

Regular contact with both the new leader and your appropriate reports regularly for the first six months following the completion of the search and then periodically afterward.

How is our search guaranteed?

DHR offers a unique guarantee that differentiates us from our competitors: DHR is the only search firm that offers its clients an industry leading two-year guarantee on each of its placements – twice the industry standard.

Should we expect to work with one lead consultant who will have resources and networks available to them in order to conduct our search?

Yes, you should expect an experienced researcher and staff to support the lead consultant. In the DHR Nonprofit Practice, James works with Michele Counter and other DHR Vice Presidents and researchers. Ms. Counter serves as the lead researcher and other DHR personnel oversee the logistics of the search process. For interview appointments, meeting scheduling and other search-related travel, DHR’s large and robust infrastructure has the capacity to purchase transportation through its designated outside travel agency and later receive reimbursement from clients.

What factors should influence our selection decision on the experience, qualifications and interview with the lead consultant assigned to our search?

You should consider the lead consultant’s years of experience, relevant experience and professional reputation.

What will the search firm and lead consultant do to identify and evaluate candidates, coordinate interviews and reference checks, and help negotiate the offer?

Identify and evaluate candidates – James Abruzzo will identify and personally evaluate each candidate before they are presented to your Search Committee. While past experience is one measure of future success, there are other behavioral factors that are more significant in determining the qualifications and success of candidates. James’ extensive training as a certified emotional intelligence coach and an expert in leadership and leadership training as Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership at Rutgers Business School positions him to best assess candidates for your organization. DHR also uses a proprietary skills and behavioral assessment developed by The Devine Group that predicts individual candidate performance and improvement potential.

Logistics – DHR assigns an internal logistics administrator to each search assignment. All travel arrangements, report preparations and follow up are the responsibility of DHR.

Negotiation – James Abruzzo is a noted nonprofit compensation expert. In addition to his work negotiating contracts on behalf of Search Committees, he has been retained by boards to develop best practices in compensation and has conducted comparability studies for dozens of nonprofit executive positions over the years including Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration in Camden, NJ, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. His articles and commentary on compensation have appeared in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, National Public Radio, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

What is the role of the search firm and lead consultant in developing a position description and a candidate profile based on the planning priorities of our organization?

For each assignment, DHR works with the client’s Search Committee to develop and approve a position specification. DHR interviews members of the Search Committee as well as other key stakeholders within the client organization. James’ experience as a management consultant to nonprofit organizations will facilitate this process. For 11 years, while managing the global nonprofit search group for A. T. Kearney, he also led the global nonprofit management consulting group. (During James’ tenure with A.T. Kearney, 1990 to 2001, the firm grew to $1.3 billion in annual sales.) That experience with strategic planning, which continues today, adds value in understanding the client’s strategic plan and its implications for their next leader.

We would like to identify candidates from inside or outside of our immediate industry, possibly with a background in other related fields. Will the search firm and lead consultant have experience recruiting from a wide variety of disciplines?

DHR recruits from different fields. During his career and through today at DHR, James has worked with over 150 nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. A more complete list of searches by industry within the nonprofit sector can be found by clicking on the categories to the left.

Will the search firm and lead consultant actively recruit candidates and, even in this difficult economy, introduce us to candidates that are not just looking for a new position?

Over 90% of the finalists recruited by DHR are employed. Our success begins with our ability to gain the trust of potential candidates because of our firm’s name recognition and reputation for integrity. Ultimately DHR would not have a sterling record of continuing success were it not able to recruit the best candidates and ensure the lasting success of its client organizations even after search assignments are concluded.

Today there are a number of factors that inhibit the recruitment of employed individuals: (1) the uncertainties of the real estate market make selling a house very difficult; (2) with high unemployment, the possibility for securing employment for a spouse or partner is reduced; (3) unlike in the past where young children made parents reluctant to relocate, today a candidate’s need to be near aging parents is often cited as a reason why employed individuals are reluctant to relocate; and (4) additional restrictions and specifications in visa requirements have made relocation to the United States by a non-citizen more complicated.

However, James Abruzzo’s role as an advisor to many nonprofit executives allows him to understand the potential candidates’ resistance points and help overcome them. James would use this expertise to attract employed candidates to this your organization and represent their concerns and unique situations to your Search Committee.

What if we hire a person whom we had already identified prior to retaining a search firm?

DHR encourages a fully transparent exchange of information between our client and our firm. Should you have resumes or indications of interest from potential candidates (including candidates currently employed by you) that surfaced before the hiring of DHR, our firm would ask that you forward them to us to incorporate them into the established search assignment. This would ensure the integrity and confidentiality of DHR’s work.

The nonprofit and philanthropic industries are now global. How can a search firm ensure global reach?

James Abruzzo has extensive experience recruiting for organizations outside of the United States and brings that experience to all his search assignments. Examples of two international NGO searches led by James are President of the US Fund for UNICEF and President of the Medical Education for South African Blacks. He also recruited the Director of Development to the National Museum of Science and Industry in London (from the Cleveland Museum of Art) and is not long ago concluded two additional international searches for a Dean at Miami University’s Miami University Dolibois European Center (MUDEC, in Luxembourg) and a Director, Experience at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (New Zealand). For Miami University, the three finalists for the position of Dean were a South American living in Paris, a Parisian living and working in Versailles and Washington, DC, and a Dutch professor chairing a department at the University of Hartford. For Te Papa, James interviewed candidates in the United States, Europe and Asia. James was recently awarded the search for CEO of the Association for Science-Technology Centers, Inc., and he and his team have already begun an international recruitment effort to find the best talent.

James also devotes a great deal of professional time outside of the United States. In 2008 he visited Europe on five occasions to recruit for search assignments, participate in conferences and teach a graduate course in arts management. He also visited the DHR offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing to extend the global reach of the DHR Nonprofit Practice.

Will the search firm and lead consultant work within the strictest confidentiality and trust?

Integrity, trust and ethical behavior are the values that lead DHR. James is also the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership at Rutgers Business School. His reputation for integrity and confidentiality is driven by a deep concern for the industry rather than the transaction. A true measure of that ethical behavior is the reputation that he has developed during his career.

Contact James if you have any further enquiries.

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