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As nonprofits are called upon to take on increasing responsibility to make our world better, the need for strong leadership has become more important. A3 provides support by recruiting outstanding candidates who among other things, find purpose and meaning in their work.

A3 uses a participatory approach with clients, actively engaging stakeholders to create a framework that supports a well-researched process, consensus-derived decision-making, leading to a successful placement. A3 has a solid track record of working with a range of nonprofits, calling upon experience with executive level searches, as well as having a vast network from which to draw. ​​​​​​

Businesswoman in Office


There are many considerations that go into hiring a new leader. Over the last 30+ years in nonprofit search and HR, I've developed a nuanced understanding of how small, early-on decisions manifest, impacting an organization’s future. ​Working with board hiring committees, CEOs, staff and many, many  candidates has helped create best practices that support productive leadership transitions, aligning candidate qualifications with organizational needs. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • The person you hire will impact your organization's future, no matter who he or she  is. 

  • No one candidate will be perfect. Taking a deep dive into understanding the organization’s challenges and a candidate’s growth areas ensures there won’t be significant holes. 

  • It’s rare that everyone agrees. Disparate viewpoints usually mean engaged discussions, leading to a better-informed hire. 

  • Weigh quicker ramp-up against longevity in the role. While it’s possible to have both, in general there’s a choice to be made about bringing someone on with more experience who can make an impact more quickly but may stay engaged for less time, versus a candidate with less experience who may need more time to get up to speed, but is hungrier and will be challenged for a longer period of time.

  • Whenever a senior leadership position is open, remaining staff have increased responsibilities and are nervous about who their next boss will be. If at all possible, keep them in the loop and acknowledge how much they’re juggling.

  • While there is often an urgency to alleviate staff and board challenges by filling a position quickly, a well-executed search is worth the time it takes and best not rushed.

  • Letting go of a bad hire sucks time, money and energy, decreasing productivity and moving an organization away from mission. It’s also detrimental to staff morale and can lead to other departures.

  • Setting up and executing an onboarding plan that clarifies Executive Committee expectations is an important part of a successful transition.

  • Sitting on a board is a commitment requiring navigation of organizational oversight with a full-time job, often a challenge.


Job Posting vs. Full Search 

While it makes sense to rely on website postings for entry and mid-level openings, the health and future of your organization will be shaped significantly by the next leader you hire, calling for a more strategic approach.  Measure twice, cut once, as the saying goes.  For a successful hire to be made, there needs to be all kinds of alignment. Like Roger Federer, who appears to make his tennis look “effortless” yet has spent his life perfecting it, having all parts of your search aligned may seem obvious and straightforward, but achieving it takes knowledge, experience, support and a well-tested process. 

  1. Search committee members need to be aligned on what the priorities for the position are,

  2. Anyone assisting with the search needs to be aligned with the committee,

  3. The requirements of the position and compensation need to be aligned with the responsibilities,

  4. Candidates need to have experience aligned with what’s required, and

  5. A candidate’s understanding of the position needs to align with the search committee’s.


That’s a lot of aligning. When you hire a retained search firm, they build this work into their process, something likely more difficult for a board. When I support a search, one of the things I do is gather feedback from between 25 and 50 stakeholders, including some combination of board members, donors, staff, volunteers, partner organizations, even clients. Understanding and raising different viewpoints leads to important discussions and prioritizing. Inviting more people into the thought process earlier creates better buy-in once a new leader is appointed. 

There are of course other things we search people do: synthesize and present data about what your stakeholders think, create compelling job scopes, share compensation data you don’t have access to, advise about offer packages, research like organizations, cold call passive candidates/reach out to many many people, conduct efficient screening interviews, provide executive summaries, create interview formats with questions and assessment tools, schedule, negotiate, do reference checks, extend offers and provide structure for onboarding.

A3 Search and Talent Management


Having a hiring partner who embeds themselves into your organization for the time a hire is being made provides you with a thought partner, project manager, advocate, advisor, scheduler and a corraller.  As someone who has been both in-house and a consultant, has executive search and organizational development experience, I am well equipped to help you with your next search and would be happy to talk more about my services.  Here’s a list of my current and prior clients.

When to Hire a Search Firm

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