Why Do Nonprofits Struggle To Find The Right Leaders?

why nonprofits struggle to find leaders

Why do nonprofit organizations struggle to find the right leaders?

We posed this question recently to the HARO community and received two unique perspectives and answers for why it’s difficult to hire the right person at a nonprofit.

Lou Chiera, founder of the Chiera Family Foundation, provides us with some great insight on what it’s actually like to recruit at a nonprofit organization:

The Chiera Family Foundation is always facing a dilemma and is challenged when trying to hire or fill any positions. It is currently trying to figure out how to hire a new meeting planner and another person to help handle public relations. The board is always concerned about any dollars that are not directly helping kids battling cancer – having to answer to a board about any expense that does not directly impact kids and young adults battling cancer.

“We try to always repeat to ourselves with our board reminding us: every dollar we can save will help another child battling cancer attend summer camp or send another young adult to college.” (Every non profit should have that as their mantra.) The Chiera Family Foundation has used its board as well as the past meeting planner to help find appropriate candidates. Other foundations and people in the not-for-profit world are also good sources for finding people and resumes.

Lou’s dilemma at The Chiera Family Foundation is real. Every dollar saved goes directly towards help a child battle cancer. So, what’s the other side of the spectrum, from a retained search firm for nonprofit leaders?

Larry Stybel is the CEO and Co-Founder of Stybel, Peabody & Associates – a retained search firm that has been in business for the last 36 years. Here’s Larry excellent take on why nonprofits struggle to find talent:

Nonprofits are caught in a dilemma of cost versus cohort.

Nonprofits seeking to save money will use such traditional talent sourcing techniques as placing ads in the usual sources and networking with the
people that they already know. This means that the addressable talent cohort you are tapping into consists of people who are disaffected with
their current situation and actively looking, between jobs, or in your existing social network.

You have saved money but the price you paid was to reduce the addressable cohort of talent.

Retained search costs money…33% of base salary is typical. Recruiters have much broader networks and know how to go after leaders who think they are currently happy in their jobs and not actively looking. This is why they are called head hunters.

Good recruiters also push their institutional clients to broaden the scope of what would constitute “acceptable” candidates. The natural in-house
tendency is to assume that only someone with a million years of experience in our sector at our revenue level could do the job. This also reduces the addressable cohort of talent. Good recruiters push back on that assumption. Bad recruiters accept these assumptions.

As you reduce the addressable cohort of talent, you increase the complaints about the talent shortage and about the high cost to pay good people.
There is nothing surprising here: this is simply the law of supply and demand! If you want to increase the cohort of addressable talent, you have to pay for the privilege.

Larry outlines this dilemma clearly. Nonprofits struggle to find the right leaders because they want to save money (so they can put more funds towards their mission, as Lou shared), but at the same time, sacrifice quality when reducing the cohort of talent.

So what’s a nonprofit organization to do? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. Or, to be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

Y Scouts Cofounder Joins Arizona Chapter Of Conscious Capitalism Board Of Directors

Brian Mohr, co-founder and managing partner for Y Scouts, has recently accepted a seat on the board of directors for the Arizona chapter of Conscious Capitalism, an organization whose mission is to promote free enterprise capitalism as the norm for global human interaction.

“As globalization and interconnectedness continue to flourish, free enterprise capitalism as a foundational norm is, I think, ingenious,” says Mohr, a talent expert with a growing team at Y Scouts, a purpose-based leadership search firm that connects organizations with exceptional leaders.

“There is a large body of research showing that diverse groups of people can come together in harmony through business interest. Conscious Capitalism emphasizes the human element of the local and global economy.”

Y Scouts members are enthusiastic to be part of social enterprise efforts of Conscious Capitalism because the two groups share the same spirit of values, Mohr says. Among this spirit is the notion that work, business, economy and related activities should not be seen in a compartmentalized, fragmented shard of the human mosaic, he says.

“Many see money and work as a necessary evil in one’s life, but in the macro and micro levels, I think this is a flawed and unhelpful point of view,” he says. “Work gives us purpose, focus and yes, a way to earn a living. But if you find the right position, work provides a platform to follow your passion in life while providing something in return for others.”

The fact is business can and does make the world a better place. So, too, does following one’s passion as a job can make someone a more productive and happy person.

“Business and the right job actually empower us,” Mohr says.

Nonprofit Executive RecruiterAbout Brian Mohr
Brian Mohr is co-founder and managing partner for Y Scouts, a purpose-based leadership search firm that connects organizations with exceptional leaders. Y Scouts operates under the belief that people are the only real competitive advantage in business and the best employer/employee connections start by connecting through a shared sense of purpose and values. Previously, Mohr worked as a talent strategist and in leadership management for major corporations, including P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Jobing.com. He is a graduate of the Advanced Executive Program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. Or, to be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

What Are Your 4 Things?

I ran across a quote by Jim Carrey on twitter. It said something to the effect of, “I wish everyone could be rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so they would know it’s not the answer”. Given the usual goofy nature of his movie characters, it might be hard to believe such an introspective quote would come from Carrey, but then again, you may recall his Maharishi University Commencement speech from a couple years ago – really powerful stuff.

Carrey’s quote resonated with me. It prompted me to think of the factors that contribute to my genuine happiness and sense of peace and well-being. There was a time when I was on the chase. You know, the chase of stuff, the chase of status, the chase of material treasures, the chase society tells us to pursue. But when I stopped to really think about what makes me genuinely happy, it comes down to 4 things. These are my 4 things.

Love. I am so fortunate to have an abundance of love in my life. I have an amazing wife, the most precious daughters any father could ask for, and a small army of family that no matter how much I may annoy them, they always love me. For me, it all starts with love.

The second is meaningful work. Like most of you, I am going to spend at least ⅓ of my life earning a living. As a young college graduate, I didn’t know what I wanted to be or how I was going to earn my living. I knew I was going to work, but never had the vision of what or where. I didn't let the trappings of a decent compensation tether me to work or to a company whose purpose I didn’t find meaningful. I continued searching until I found it. Now that I’ve found it, it’s been a huge contributor to my happiness.

The third thing is having one best friend. Having someone you can talk to about anything and everything. That person who knows everything about you, who can call your bullshit, who will celebrate your victories, who will be there during your defeats, and who will take a bullet for you god forbid the situation ever arose. When I moved to Phoenix in 1997, I met my best friend on my first day of my new job. I didn’t know he would become my best friend at that time, but it’s funny to look back and appreciate how our paths ebbed and flowed over the years. I wish for everyone to have at least one best friend.

The final piece of my happiness puzzle comes in the form of a hobby. I’m lucky in this area. I actually have 2 hobbies that I could lose myself in at almost any time of day. The first is my love of music. Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to at least an hour, maybe two, of music. I get lost in the story, the melody, the passion behind the playing, and the emotional connection of a great song. If I’m answering the question, “what one album or band would you choose to take with you on a deserted island?”, I’ve got my answer ready to rock. My second hobby is poker. I love the game, the strategy, the cast of characters I play with, and the camaraderie we enjoy. If I think about the similarities of my two hobbies, I guess they serve as my sources of meditation. I think it's important to have at least one hobby you do for love, not for money.

Love, meaningful work, one best friend and one hobby – these are my 4 things. My 4 things may not be your 4 things, but I hope this short post prompts you to think about, recognize and celebrate your 4 things. I’d love to hear about your 4 things – here’s to hoping you’ll share it with me.

with appreciation,

Brian Mohr | Co-Founder & Managing Partner

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. Or, to be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

Above and Beyond Vetting Practices For Executives

vetting practices for executives

What above and beyond vetting practices for executives do we take at Y Scouts? How do we identify and separate truly executive-level hires from the rest of the candidates we’re considering for C-Level roles?

As you can see by reviewing our Exceptional Leadership Search Model, the recruitment process we take at Y Scouts involves several different phases and layers of recruiting. By the time we get to the vetting practices, we already have our best candidates. Then, it’s time to go above and beyond.

Here is how a couple of our executive recruiters go above and beyond to vet out and confidently recommend executive level hires:

Nonprofit Executive HeadhuntersI’m really big on references. I make sure I speak to the executive’s prior direct manager(s). In addition to gaining an understanding for the executive’s personality and most prevalent values, I want to understand what the one or two things that the executive is truly phenomenal in. I also want to understand where s/he struggles (i.e. weaknesses). I don’t let the reference get off the hook without letting me know where the executive has needed coaching in the past. Finally, I ask the reference how many executives have reported to him/her over the years. Where does this particular candidate rank in those group of executives? Since references are usually kind (for example, top 25% probably means top 50%), I’m looking for exceptionalism. It means a lot if the executive is the absolute best out of 25 people who’ve reported to the reference. In those instances, I know I’ve got a truly special candidate.

– Paul Eisenstein, Nonprofit & Social Enterprise Practice Leader

Marc RuterWatch the little things along the way – how do they treat you and the client, how do they react to unexpected situations, changes, roadblocks that come as you are going through the process. How do they follow up with you, do they honor their commitments, do they complete tasks on their end completely and on time? Finally, how they handle the final stages, such as negotiating salary and benefits will reflect on how they will behave at work.

– Marc Ruter, Culture-Fanatical Practice Leader

What vetting practices for executive-level hires do you take when hiring a new leader at your organization?

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. Or, to be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

What Executive Recruiters Look For On A Resume

What Executive Recruiters Look For On A Resume

How do executive recruiters absorb a resume when they receive one? What do executive recruiters look for on a resume to determine whether to follow up?

We asked several executive recruiters what they look for on a resume for senior to leadership level opportunities and summarized their quotes below. Note: Most recruiters mentioned that they look at and analyze all of these areas in about 30 – 60 seconds.

Most recent role
I’m generally trying to figure out what this person’s current status is and why they might even be interested in a new role. Are they laid off? Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months? Is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I’m hiring? – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

What were you actually doing (‘software engineer’ is a generic title with a huge variance of responsibilities – be specific about what that meant for you). Who were you actually working with (include details of team size, how your team fit into the org structure). Why was the work important to the company (was this the company’s core product you were asked to work on, or some other piece to enable things to happen)? – Andy Barton, Former Quora recruiter; Facebook recruiter for 4+ years.

“What does their most recent leadership role say about their purpose and values? Is the most recent role consistent with what is required to be driven at your organization?” – Brett Farmiloe, Nonprofit Executive Recruiter

Company recognition
“Not even gonna lie. I am a company snob. It’s not even that I think certain companies are better than others (although some are). It’s purely a matter of how quickly can I assign a frame of reference. This is often more difficult to do when a candidate has only worked for obscure companies I’ve never heard of. When I can’t assign company recognition, it just means I have to read the resume a little deeper, which usually isn’t an issue, unless it’s poorly formatted and wrought with spelling errors in which case…you lost my interest.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

“The better question to ask is what gets a look of over 6 seconds – what puts you in the upper 50%? Company worked for – they have an idea in their head, if it matches, you match. If not, you don’t. Unless you have a time machine your fate is sealed here.” – Chad Porter, Co Founder of Invisume

“Employer name near the top of the resume. If I have to scroll through education, lists of SEO-happy buzzwords and descriptions of what skills you think you have, It’s painful. Recruiters want to know within fractions of a second who you work for, as they usually know the industry they are recruiting in and can garner a lot from that data point.” – Michael Wright, Recruiter

Overall experience
“Is there a career progression? Do they have increasing levels of responsibility? Do the titles make sense? Do the responsibilities listed therein match what I’m looking for.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

“Why your job matters to who you work for, what you achieved for them, rather than the day to day duties, we can usually guess those from your title. Data points. And not just “increased by 800%” either, increased something from X to Z is more meaningful.” – Michael Wright, Recruiter

“What you studied, and what the progression of your career was. Though, I don’t mind hiring you for a job that is unrelated to what you studied, as long as it’s your passion, and you self taught yourself a whole bunch.” – Nada Aldahleh, Sandglaz CEO and Co-Founder

“I don’t mind gaps so long as there’s a sufficient explanation. Oh you took 3 years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add, I bow down. You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained. Whatever it is, just say it. It’s the absence of an explanation that makes me wonder.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

“Longevity / gaps. Are you “in” or gun for hire?” – Chad Porter, Co Founder of Invisume

Keyword search
“Do they have the specific experience for the role I’m hiring for? I Command + F the crap out of resumes. On any given day I’m searching for things like Ruby on Rails, Mule, Business Intelligence, MBA, Consulting, POS, Cisco, Javascript, and seriously, anything you can think of.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

“Due to rising competition in today’s job market, 90% of companies (larger than 1,000 employees) use Application Tracking Systems in order to help them search for qualified candidates from a large pool of applicants. ATS (Google “Applicant Tracking System”) help employers by analyzing applicants’ resumes and identifying those whose content match given sets of keywords.

Furthermore, humans (recruiters) scan for keywords in their 10 second reviews also to make a judgement if you are a “match” or not. How else can anyone go through a large pile of resumes in minutes?” – James Hu, Founder & CEO of Jobscan

Personal web presence
“This includes personal domains, Twitter handle, GitHub contributions, dribbble account or anything a candidate has chosen to list. 2 out of 3 times, I almost always click through to a candidate’s website or twitter account. It’s one of my favorite parts of recruiting. Random aside: I care less about what people say on Twitter and more about who is following you and who you follow. So much insight gained by seeing who values your thoughts.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

“Hyperlinks. To work you’ve done, if relevant, to communities you participate in and add value to, to Twitter, etc” – Michael Wright, Recruiter

General logistics
“Location, Eligibility to work in the US.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

Overall organization
“This includes spelling, grammar, ease of use, ability to clearly present ideas.” – Ambra Benjamin, Recruiter @ Facebook

“Lose those adjectives. You may think you are a visionary, creative, analytical problem solver but maybe only your mum would agree, it’s useless.” – Michael Wright, Recruiter

What do you think executive recruiters look for on a resume? Contact us to let us know and we’ll consider adding your insight into the post!

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. Or, to be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

Nonprofit Turnover: Hiring Staff That Will Stay

Stuart Wachs

CEO Stuart Wachs

“Oy vey.”

It was early 2014 and CEO Stuart Wachs, who’d recently been recruited to lead the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, had lost his Chief Development Officer. The circumstances were understandable – the departing CDO wasn’t quite the right fit. Still, a reset on CDO was going to hurt. Goodbye goal of 10% growth. Merely breaking even would be a victory.

This wasn’t Stuart’s first rodeo. As with previous organizations he’d led through change, Stuart knew the Phoenix Federation’s long-term success would depend on a committed, cohesive, and talented leadership team. This is why he didn’t simply dust off the old job description and push it though his networks to find willing applicants. Landing a phenomenal CDO who was the right cultural fit would take a much more thoughtful approach. More on what Stuart did do below…

nonprofit turnover
We all know that turnover in the nonprofit sector is terrible. According to CompassPoint (UnderDeveloped), 50% of development leaders plan to leave their organizations within two years. The story is especially stark for small nonprofits, where 57% of development leaders plan to leave. These are frightening stats since there’s no possible way an organization with chronic leadership transition can effectively achieve their mission.

At Y Scouts, I help nonprofits/social enterprises find new leaders. I can say definitively that organizations making hasty leadership hires contribute to these sad statistics. This is because, in their rush to plug a leadership hole, they haven’t built a framework that leads to hiring clarity. Nor have they gained stakeholder input or buy-in. The negative consequences cascade from there:

  • Incomplete picture of role needs
  • Lack of support from key stakeholders
  • Limiting the applicant pool to active candidates only (even though 75 – 95% of potential candidates aren’t looking)
  • Inability to rule out unqualified and poor-fitting candidates
  • Unclear definition of role success. A recipe for disaster.

So, what’s the key to bringing in leaders that stick? It starts with slowing down and building out a thoughtful decision-making platform. Identifying stakeholders and gaining their input is also key. This generates clarity and confidence at every step of the hiring process.

I suggest the following steps to help you prepare for a leadership search. These aren’t complicated but they require thoughtfulness and purposeful action. And if you’re feeling impatient, ask yourself this: if I can’t afford the time now, can I afford the time, energy, and lost opportunity to replace this failed hire in 6 months from now?


Stuart learned important lessons from the loss of his CDO that would enable him to make a better hire. If you’re replacing a departing (voluntarily or involuntarily) key leader make sure you understand what went wrong or could have gone better. Conversations with the departing leader as well as their colleagues, direct reports, and other key partners will be helpful. Use this time to just listen and understand. Don’t point fingers or be too harsh on any one person – especially yourself. Accept the departure and ready yourself for a brighter future.


Stuart recognized that finding an exceptional CDO would take several months. In the mean-time, he’d have to take on the CDO’s responsibilities, including direct leadership of the development team.

An interim solution allows you to move forward with existing goals and projects, while acknowledging internally and externally that a permanent leader is still to come. If you have the interim skill-set internally you can, for a time, expand a valued team members’ responsibilities. You can also knit together a patchwork of solutions that includes a temporarily increased reliance on consultants. I’ve also worked with highly effective interim leaders who are able to float in (not unlike Mary Poppins) and shore things up and then leave once the organization is ready to move forward.

You have a number of options. The point is – an interim solution buys you time and allows you to focus on the best possible long-term outcome.


Stuart knew he didn’t have all the answers so he didn’t go it alone. Neither should you. Your search committee can be formal or informal. You’ll want a small group of people (at least 3 but preferably less than 8) with the explicit or implicit authority to make the hiring decision. The only individuals that should join this committee are those that bring essential insights to the role, the process, and/or will be critical to the new leader’s success.

For his informal CDO search committee, Stuart brought in a few development-savvy Board members and a leadership team member to participate. For CEO searches, the search committee should be very Board-driven and include members who are trusted by the larger Board to guide the organization to an exceptional outcome.

The search committee should be led by somebody with the capacity, authority, and trust to make decisions or facilitate a group decision. This would be the CEO/ED for any c-level search. It may be the Board Chair or another trusted Board hand for a CEO search. Clarity around the search committee leader will allow for timely, consistent progress. Lack of clarity will result in decision paralysis.


Finding an exceptional leader takes an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and people-power. If you skimp on sourcing talent, you’ll end up only considering active applicants versus the 75 – 95% of candidates who are busy working and need to be proactively engaged. Perhaps you have a capable HR or talent acquisition leader who can lead all sourcing and build out an effective selection process.

For Stuart, he recognized that finding a game-changing CDO would require an exhaustive, national search so he partnered with Y Scouts to source exceptional CDO candidates. If you partner with a search firm , ensure that the firm is competent in nonprofit search and understands the nuances of what makes somebody successful in this particular role. Bridgespan offers a great guide for helping nonprofits choose an executive search firm.

No matter how you get the search done, it’s essential that you don’t cede decision-making responsibilities to your sourcing team. The buck must stop with you.


While Stuart kept his CDO search committee small, he engaged a larger group of stakeholders (mostly Board and staff members) who were highly invested in a successful search outcome. Stuart sought mostly culture-focused insights from these stakeholders. What values were most lived out at the Federation? What type of leader would thrive in the Federation culture?

The stakeholders for your search will include individuals who have an important impact on your organization AND will be highly vested in the new leader’s success. As soon as you have your search committee together, let this larger group of stakeholders know about the search on which you’re about to embark. Let them know you’ve put together a select group of people uniquely qualified to find and recruit this new leader. Your communication with these stakeholders will be appreciated and calm their nerves.

But go beyond communicating at these stakeholders. Gain from their insights. Times of transition are unique opportunities for everybody in the organization to reflect and ensure that the next decision is better than the last. Don’t waste this moment. If there’s a quarterly, all-team meeting, this might be a good time to generate feedback from the team on needed characteristics to thrive in your organization’s culture.

At Y Scouts, before starting a search, we send out an “Organizational DNA” survey to a large (often to 20+ people) and diverse (from front-line staff to external stakeholders) group to understand the purpose, values, culture, and leadership of the organization. And we don’t just look for the positives, we want to know what’s not right and ask where the culture needs to go. These insights frame our discussions with and evaluation of potential leaders. This invitation for input also builds a tremendous amount of trust and support for the process.


Congratulations! You’ve selected a capable search committee and you’ve communicated with and received input from your stakeholders. You’re ready to convene a search strategy session. There are a lot of moving pieces to a search strategy session, so I’ve devoted an entire post to the topic.


You have input. You have buy-in. And you have a search strategy. Now go find that exceptional leader!

Nonprofit Executive HeadhuntersAbout Paul Eisenstein
Paul is the Social Enterprise Practice Leader for Y Scouts, a leadership search firm that helps nonprofits, social enterprises and innovative companies find exceptional leaders. Learn more about Paul here.

How To Avoid A Lousy Nonprofit Recruiting Strategy

In Nonprofit Turnover is Terrible. How You Can Avoid an Ill-fated Search., I shared the story of Stuart Wachs, who very thoughtfully set the stage for a successful CDO search at the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix.

Nonprofit Recruiting StrategyIn this post I’m assuming you’ve identified the leadership role you need filled. I’m also assuming you’ve selected a capable search committee and you’ve communicated with and received input from your stakeholders. Now it’s time to quit dilly dallying and launch the search, right? Well, not quite yet. Like with any complex task (see image), winging it won’t work. You’ll need a strategy to guide your search efforts.

Search strategies are complex and best built in-person through in-depth, working sessions. Each person on your search committee should be in attendance. And don’t forget to include whomever will be sourcing the talent – whether that’s internal HR personnel or a partnering recruiting firm.

To make the session most productive, send a short survey to the search committee ahead of time. Ask questions like, “Hiring the right person for this role will lead to what/where?” and “at the end of two years, I would be thrilled if the new leader has accomplished [fill in the blank].” A little pre-work will get the committee in the right frame of mind. Bring the compiled results to the session and you’ll be off to a great start.

Building a search strategy requires reflection, strategic thinking, and creativity. When done right the session will be full of vigorous conversation and perhaps a splash of contentious (but respectful) debate. If it’s all head-nodding and comments of “Sure – sounds great” you’re not giving enough credit to the complexity and importance of the role.

Your strategy session has been successful if you leave with a clear path ahead. You’ll want to achieve 4 outputs from the meeting: why, who, where, and how. More details below:


Forget the traditional job description. For complex leadership roles, the overarching why of the role is much more important than the job’s tasks and responsibilities. Why does this role exist? How will we know if this leader is successful? At Y Scouts, we help our clients define a role’s success outcomes. In developing these goals, we insist that the outcomes are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely), leading to much more thoughtful expectations for the role.

Defining success outcomes rather than job activities allows for a number of things that a traditional job description doesn’t. First, armed with a clear definition of success, you’ll be much more precise in defining the needed (and can discard the unnecessary) qualifications for your new leader. Second, you and your committee will be forced to develop a shared definition of success – increasing the likelihood that the goals you set forth are indeed reasonable and relevant.

Most importantly, defined success outcomes will give the new leader tangible expectations that s/he can work and talk through with you. It’s astounding that 75% of CDOs and 62% of CEOs cite unrealistic expectations as the prime culprit for CDO departures (Campbell & Company). Defining clear success outcomes will lead to honest conversations about what can (or cannot) be done. Everybody will be happier for it.

nonprofit recruiting strategyDuring Y Scouts’ strategy session with Stuart Wachs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, we were defining the success outcomes for the CDO role and Stuart said he expected a 10% increase in annual giving. A Board Member (a former CDO herself) questioned Stuart and cautioned against unrealistic expectations, especially in the CDO’s first year. This generated fantastic conversation resulting in moderated goals. While Stuart still insisted on growth he recognized that more ramp up time was necessary. Click the image to see the success outcomes Stuart and his team settled on.

Lou Adler, the godfather of Performance-based Hiring, has influenced Y Scouts’ work on developing a role’s why, so Check Lou out when you have a few moments.


Once you’ve defined the success outcomes of the role you’re ready to define who you think could reasonably accomplish those outcomes. Identify specific areas of expertise that will be necessary to accomplish an outcome. But leave out qualifications that aren’t truly needed. Is a Master’s degree actually essential? If so, which outcome will it support?

For the example with Stuart, one of the CDO’s goals would be to maintain the Federation’s annual campaign of ~$3.75M in the first year. In order to accomplish this goal, we knew we needed a seasoned fundraiser who’d not only participated in annual campaigns at a high level but was well-versed in major gift development and stewardship. And since the campaign is highly Board-driven, a CDO with strong ability to work with a Board would be key.

Don’t just define who from a matter of skills and experience. Define what the correct mission-fit looks like. Also, what values are pertinent with your organization? What’s your organizational culture like? What type of person best fits within it?

The Jewish Federation in Phoenix is a relatively large organization with a complex set of actors involved in decision-making, so it was important that the CDO not be intimidated (or frustrated) by a larger, institutional environment. And unsurprisingly, an individual who was Jewish or deeply passionate for Jewish community would be an essential trait of the CDO.

One final note on the who. Avoid fuzziness like the plague. If you’re fuzzy in defining who you’re looking for, you’ll be unable to target the right people and you’ll miss out on the best. Clarity will also provide an excellent evaluation rubric as you engage and evaluate candidates.


Posting your job on multiple job boards isn’t good enough. If all you do is post job ads your result will be a flood of active job-seekers who believe they are right for the role (even if they have no business applying). Lou Adler suggests that 75% – 95% of potential candidates need to be actively approached. This group of leaders is busy working and will miss your opportunity – even if the role could be perfect for them. My point is – don’t leave your candidate pool to chance. Go find the right leader.

Brainstorm with your search committee where this leader likely is right now. I don’t necessarily mean where this leader is physically (although this matters too), but at which organizations and in which roles can your next leader likely be found? Which sub-sectors of the nonprofit world might they be working? Is this person actually working in the private or government sector? If so, where? What associations is the person likely a member of or connected to? Where does s/he hang out and with whom?

When Y Scouts was helping the Phoenix Jewish Federation find their CDO, we obtained a list of all the small, mid-sized, and large Federations in North America. We also built out lists of other Jewish and Jewish affinity groups where our ideal candidate (a development leader with a strong passion for Jewish community) might possibly be associated with. The result was a very long list of prime recruiting targets.

Defining where your next leader likely is will allow you to be extraordinarily proactive in your search. Rather than hiring the best of who applies, you’re ready to hire the best. Period.


Now that you know who you’re looking for and where s/he likely is right now, you need to decide how, specifically, you’re going to find and engage them.

Let’s say you’ve targeted a group of organizations with talented leaders that you want to tap into. Can you map out the relationships of your leadership team and Board members to see how you can access those leaders? Perhaps you’re looking for a CDO – can you connect with leaders of your local AFP chapter and get a sense for the quality development leaders in your area? Is there an industry event where you’ll “bump” into the right kinds of people? LinkedIn is a fantastic tool that allows you to find people with pin-point accuracy. Maybe you’ll leverage that. Are there niche job boards that will catch the eye of your target leader?

You’ll see that there are all sorts of ways to reach your intended leader. The important thing is to not leave it to chance. Make your own luck.


With fantastic clarity on the why, who, where, and how you’re ready to launch your search. It won’t be quick or easy, but you can act with confidence that you’re ready to find and hire your exceptional leader. Go get ’em!

Nonprofit Executive HeadhuntersAbout Paul Eisenstein
Paul is the Social Enterprise Practice Leader for Y Scouts, a leadership search firm that helps nonprofits, social enterprises and innovative companies find exceptional leaders. Learn more about Paul here.

New Non Profit Recruiting Trends That Will Attract Top Talent

non profit recruiting trends

From increases in staff size to growth in turnover rates, there are a lot of small but significant non profit recruiting trends taking place that will translate to new opportunities for top talent. As your organization grows in size, these trends can present challenges and opportunities for non profits looking to attract leaders.

Non Profit Recruiting Trends: Increases in staff size
Year Up’s National Site Director Scott Donohue experienced this non profit recruiting trend firsthand. As Year Up was looking to expand across the country, Scott was seeking a recruiting outcome of a dynamic and experienced Executive Director who truly embodied their mission. Year Up partnered with Y Scouts, a nonprofit executive search firm to find a new Executive Director in Phoenix.

“The Y Scouts approach was exceptionally effective, delivering a slate of candidates who embodied the essential values and experience we wanted,” says Scott says. “Our outcome was a dynamic and experienced leader who truly embodies our mission. As we continue to expand across the country, we consider Y Scouts a go-to partner in future searches.”

As non profits are projecting growth and staff size increases that could outpace the corporate sector, more organizations like Year Up could turn to alternative recruiting sources like Y Scouts to find top talent. According to a report from Nonprofit HR, 50% of non profits anticipate the creation of new positions in 2015.

Non Profit Recruiting Trends: Growth by functional area
As non profits do not prepare to reduce staff, they do plan to grow different functional areas like Fundraising and Development. This growth by functional area indicates a trend of recruiting budget increases in order to attract talent.

Growth in turnover rate
Another non profit recruiting trend is the growth in turnover rate. Increased turnover will mean that the volume of recruiting will increase significantly, but your organization’s reputation for high turnover can also impact your ability to recruit new talent. Given the high impact of new hire turnover, non profits will need to begin assessing candidates on their likelihood of an early departure.

It’s certainly a candidate market, with the years of the recession fading and giving candidates more choices and opportunities for employment. Increased voluntary turnover suggests nonprofit employees’ confidence in the job market.

Nonprofits are continuing their use of social media for recruitment
More and more nonprofits continue to utilize social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to build up their talent pools of candidates. Recruiters’ use of social professional networks rises over 4 years have become a top source of quality hires. However, as more non profits converge on the space to recruit and social media sites shift to paid advertising platforms, it’s possible that this non profit recruiting trend will not produce the results seen with other initiatives.

What non profit recruiting trends are you seeing at your organization? Contact us to let us know what you are doing to attract top talent to your organization.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

Employment Reference Checks: 7 Screening Questions To Ask

Employment Reference Checks Screening Questions

You’ve done most of the legwork. You’ve developed a pool of candidates, held an initial discovery call, assessed the candidate’s application and invested time in interviewing them face to face. Now, it’s time to perform your employment reference checks.

Employment reference checks are the often glazed over part of the recruitment process. Resist the temptation to skip over this step – especially when recruiting leaders at the senior level. Asking yourself and previous employers employment reference questions during your checks can help determine whether the candidate is the best fit for your role.

Here are 7 employment screening questions to ask yourself and references during employment reference checks:

1. Verify Functional Expertise
The most simple of your employment screening questions, is the candidate capable of doing the work that will be asked of them? To find your answer, ask references to verify the skills and accomplishments your candidate has provided to you.

2. Values
Your interviewing and assessment process should have already ensured that everyone you’re doing reference checks for will fit your organizational culture. In other words, does the true nature, motivations and purpose of the candidate align with the values of your organization? Asking behavioral questions about the values of the candidate to references can reveal some incredible insight. Do the candidate’s energy and persistence go beyond reasons like money or status? Will the candidate be driven, goal-oriented, optimistic, and committed to the organization if hired?

3. Verify Exceptional Leadership Behaviors
Exceptional Leadership is rare. It is a unique combination of purpose & values alignment, modern functional expertise, and a proven track record of the 3 most in-demand leadership behaviors; 1.) Driving Results, 2.) Developing Others, and 3.) Learning Relentlessly. Your employment reference checks should include the verification that your candidate can drive results, develop others, and learns relentlessly.

4. Strengths
It’s time to verify what the candidate is really good at. Ask your references about the candidate’s biggest strengths. If your reference provides you with similar strengths to what the candidate provided, dig deeper to find out how that strength could be applied at your organization. If the reference doesn’t mention the strengths provided by the candidate, candidly ask the reference about the specific strength the candidate mentioned. If the reference balks at the strength, you may not have a self-aware candidate that has differing views from others.

5. Weaknesses
Self-aware leaders are confident and candid. They can realistically assess and talk about their weaknesses, often with a self-deprecating sense of humor. In your candidate assessment you should have already discussed and identified the weaknesses of the candidate. Now it’s time to discover any additional weaknesses of the candidate by asking references, “What are the weaknesses of the candidate?” If the reference provides the same weaknesses as the candidate provided, you have a self-aware candidate that is conscious about where they need the most help.

6. Ranking
After asking employment reference questions around Functional Expertise, Values, Behaviors, Strengths and Weaknesses, it’s time to develop a ranking for each candidate. Where are their gaps when compared to the opportunity? How does their personality fit with your organization? Are the purpose, values and functional expertise of the candidate consistent with your organizational DNA? Spend some time after conducting the employment reference checks to rank the candidate in each area before moving on to conduct another reference check.

7. Best Fit
Is the candidate a finalist? That’s what you’re ultimately determining after employment reference checks. You’ve done all you can – from assessing the candidate on paper to in person to their references – and your job now is to believe that the candidate is the absolute best fit for the role. If you can’t believe in the candidate, then you should pass. If you believe you’ve found your best candidate, make sure to pair your best fit with other candidates who are a “best fit” and have a candid discussion with all internal stakeholders who will be affected by the hire. Ask the internal stakeholders how they feel about the candidate to get a full 360 degree view on your hiring decision.

What screening questions do you ask during employment reference checks? Contact us to let us know how you differentiate your recruiting process to find the best candidates.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

Nonprofit Executive Recruiters & Headhunters

Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that helps nonprofits, social enterprises and culture-fanatical organizations find exceptional leaders. We’d like to introduce you to our team that’s responsible for helping place people in positions that align perfectly with their skills and personal passions.

Meet our Nonprofit Executive Recruiters & Headhunters:

Nonprofit Executive HeadhuntersPaul Eisenstein, Nonprofit & Social Enterprise Practice Leader

Since college, my goal has always been to “put a dent in the universe”. I’ve been driven to help those who struggle become successful. After having the opportunity to run a youth program through AmeriCorps in San Francisco, I returned to St. Louis where I worked in the nonprofit sector. I spent a few years at Big Brothers Big Sisters, connecting mentors with children who could benefit from a caring friend.

In 2008, I joined The Mission Continues, an innovative start-up with the goal of helping veterans transition home through continued service. The Mission Continues was founded on the premise that our returning veterans should be treated as community assets rather than societal liabilities. Military veterans take so much pride in their military service, but many struggle to find their sense of purpose when they return home. Through my experience at The Mission Continues I came to recognize that building and nurturing a sense of purpose is a critical ingredient for life satisfaction – whether or not we’ve served in the military.

Today, I’m a Leadership Search Consultant at Y Scouts and I help organizations recruit incredible people. I joined Y Scouts in 2012 because I believe that each of us should connect our working lives with where we find meaning and value. I also believe that organizations who hold a higher purpose beyond an immediate monetary ROI are much more successful over the long-term and able to attract the most passionate and talented people.

I also…:

am married to the lovely Kim and a proud father to Asher
recruit mentors for the Cleantech Open
enjoy monsoons but love snowstorms
love to fish but mostly come up empty
grew up in Tucson playing in the creek/wash beds
am a big-time Cardinals (baseball) fan

Nonprofit Executive RecruiterBrian Mohr, Co-Founder & Managing Partner

Growing up in small town in Northwest Indiana, my parents gave me the following advice. “Do great in high school so you can go to a good college. Get your degree so you can find a job with a stable company. Work your way up the ranks, and do whatever the company asks of you. Then, when you’re ready to retire you can go do what you love.

…that advice, at the time, sounded logical to me.

For the first 5 years of my professional career, I took their advice. I went into the financial services industry and began building my career. I worked hard, hit my goals, climbed the corporate ladder, earned a very nice compensation, and managed to spend my earnings as fast as I could make it. I had all the material possessions I thought I needed to live a happy life.

…then something horribly magical happened, I got laid off.

At the time, a lay-off seemed like the end of the world, but as I reflected on the situation, I realized I never had a sense of connection to the work I was doing—it was simply a means to an end. Did I want to spend the rest of my career doing work I didn’t feel connected to? Did the money I was making justify the unhappiness I felt?

As you might have guessed, I decided to change careers and do something that provided me with a sense of purpose, something that left me fulfilled at the end of a hard day. I joined a small technology start-up by the name of Jobing.com. For the next 11 years, we grew the company from nothing to more than $38MM in annual revenue and from 5 employees to more than 400. It was my first exposure to the power of Culture, the power of Values, and the power of Purpose. More importantly, it was my first exposure to doing work that truly mattered to me.

…why couldn’t everyone feel this type of alignment and connection?

In early 2012, I teamed up with Max Hansen and Brett Farmiloe to see if we could build a company that would allow anyone to connect, to align, and to build a career based on something other than just money. Y Scouts is a new kind of Executive Search Firm—a Purpose-Based Leadership Search Firm.

With more than 70% of the workforce disengaged in their work, we knew there had to be a better way to help leaders and companies connect in the recruitment process. Bad leadership is the #1 reason for poor engagement, and we believe purpose-driven leadership will reverse that trend. In fact, we’ve witnessed awe-inspiring transformations that prove purpose is not just an ideology, but instead it’s a bottom-line strategy and a competitive advantage.

The highest currency in today’s employment market is meaningful work, not just a paycheck. If that statement doesn’t ring true for you, connect with us.

A little more about me:

Jackie’s husband
Taylor’s and Riley’s dad
Tom and Nancy’s oldest of three boys
Passionate music enthusiast
Above average Texas Hold ‘Em poker player
Deathly afraid of, yet strangely obsessed with sharks

Nonprofit Executive HeadhunterAdam DiBiase, Nonprofit & Social Enterprise Research Manager

What makes everyone around me tick? What separates the people who are perpetually unhappy from those who seem to have their life figured out?

I love to learn, and to connect different pieces of information into the bigger story – especially when it comes to understanding people. I believe we all have a purpose to fulfill, and that living a life deeply connected to that purpose brings more real satisfaction than money, power, or fame ever could.

After spending over seven years with Valley of the Sun United Way in a fundraising capacity, I realized that while my belief in the great work we did for the community never changed, I knew there was something missing in my life. I found Y Scouts, and was deeply moved by the belief in connecting people and organizations based on shared purpose. They offered me the chance to bring my whole self to work every day, and I didn’t look back!

In my role here as a Research Manager, I’m blessed with the chance to learn everyday about our clients and find fantastic, purpose-based leaders who will do amazing things if given the right opportunity. I am motivated to search far and wide to discover the needle in a haystack – the right leader for our clients who can make a huge difference for years to come.

You could say that research is in my blood, and my wife Katie would agree! We met online in 2006, after I discovered her during a search that narrowed everyone on Match.com down to just 85 people. Sure enough, about 18 months later we were married – she was my first great find!

A little more about Adam:

Husband to Katie and father to Luke and Hannah
Valley native and lifelong Cardinals/Suns/D-Backs/Coyotes/ASU fan
Political junkie who wrote a Master’s thesis on attack ads
Member of Palm Valley Church in Goodyear

Non profit Executive RecruitersStephanie Clerge, Nonprofit Leadership Search Director

OK, I admit it. I’m a big nerd. But I’m also a people person. Weird, huh? But that’s the thing. I believe that each one of us is weird in our own way, but that’s also what makes us uniquely awesome! So my why, my purpose, is to find out what that weird thing is about each person I meet so I can help them to shine a light on it. If that person is a leader, then others will see that light and be attracted to and guided by it. In short, I’m on a mission to help passionate and purposeful leaders be excellent. But in my lean manufacturing training I was taught to ask 5 Whys, so I’ll ask four more: Why? So they can help their people be excellent. Why? Because excellent people are the backbone of excellent companies, teams, products and services. Why? Because robots can do more and more things everyday but they still can’t feel. Why? I don’t know, but what I do know is that the world needs more excellence and the fuel of excellence is that feeling of passion. We all have it, but we don’t all know we have it or know how or where to use it. I hope to change that.

I started as a change agent in my nearly 15 years in high tech manufacturing at Intel. During that time I functioned in an operations role as a people and program manager working on multi-million dollar factory start-ups and process implementations. Although I loved designing processes and creating efficiencies, my favorite part was developing teams to meet complex operational goals. As a liaison between Engineering and various departments including Human Resources, Training, Finance and Facilities, my team provided various business support functions ranging from procurement to risk mitigation to workforce planning for a 4000 person organization.

I was well prepared for these challenges by my degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University and corporate entrepreneurship focused MBA from Babson College. Later I added a leadership and transition coaching certification from the Hudson Institute to the mix.

When I’m not working with leaders, I hope that I’m developing some new ones at home along with my brilliant husband, as I have two energetic young children. I also enjoy volunteering in the youth education space and finding simple ways to stimulate my natural curiosity about people, places and things.

Nonprofit Executive RecruitersMax Hansen, Y Scouts Co-Founder & CEO
I’ve been lucky enough to spend my entire career focusing on putting people to work. My experiences range from working at a multi-billion dollar staffing company to organically growing Job Brokers from the ground up. I co-founded Job Brokers in January of 2002 and have grown Job Brokers into a formidable multi-million dollar staffing company.

I have worked nearly every type of position in almost every industry over my career in the recruiting industry. I’ve come to realize the most gratifying feeling in the recruiting business is connecting passionate clients and candidates with a purpose. This ultimately led me to understand my “why” of helping other executives discover their why.

A little more about me:

Father to an unbelievable son named Maxwell
Enjoys coaching Maxwell’s sports teams
Avid golfer
Insanely connected in the Valley
Great backgammon player
Above average wit
Vertically challenged

Are you looking for nonprofit executive recruiters or headhunters? Contact us to experience a different approach to recruiting.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.

Find An Exceptional Leader

Looking to hire an exceptional leader? Searching for the ideal candidate? Contact our team.

Are you a leadership candidate seeking the next step in your career? Join our leadership community.