Executive Search for Nonprofit Organizations

Are you a member of a board or search committee tasked with finding an outstanding leader for your organization? As specialists in nonprofit executive search, we can help. We know that an exceptional leader adds much more value than an acceptable leader.

Most BoardWalk searches are national in scope. Many of our clients, even those serving locally focused missions, request a comprehensive search into multiple geographic markets. We routinely work across the U.S. and as a member of Panorama, a global network of leading independent executive search firms, we are active over the world’s major time zones. With this strength at our disposal, we can access top talent, worldwide.

Highly diverse clients
The majority of our searches are for CEOs, often for leaders succeeding iconic, long-serving CEOs, with the balance for board members and C-suite executives. Our clients are highly diverse—in missions and markets served—and so is our own team. And since we have recruited CEOs for dozens of foundations as well as hundreds of operating nonprofits, we offer a perspective informed by both sides of the funding stream.

In short, we respect and leverage the power inherent in diversity, and the benefit to our clients is significant.
Matching passion with purpose
We come to work every day excited to connect with clients and candidates. Our goal is to recruit exceptional leaders who will make a significant, lasting difference in your organization.

In finding leaders that matter for missions that matter®, we identify and recruit top talent by deploying:

  • The latest business disciplines and research tools employed by traditional for-profit executive search firms
  • The passion, tenacity and commitment to mission that’s integral to success in the nonprofit sector
  • The creativity and flexibility to frame our searches in new and unexpected ways.

We commit the time upfront to understand the organization, focusing on issues of context and culture. What does it mean to work here? What gets celebrated in the hallways? How do we honor the heritage of the past while embracing the future? How do we define success, now and in the future? What matters most?

“You were masterful in helping us define the future we would like to achieve, and then you found us the leader to take us there. Well done indeed!”

~Chair, CEO search committee, major operating nonprofit

Trusted by leading
nonprofits nationwide

FOUNDATIONS
CDC Foundation Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham Robert W Woodruff Foundation The Imlay Foundation Community Foundation for a greater Richmond Charlottesville Area Community Foundation Foundation for Louisiana The Cameron Foundation Princeton Area Community Foundation
CIVIL RIGHTS / SOCIAL JUSTICE
Anti Defamation League Civil Rights Southern Poverty Law Center The Leadership Conference Education Fund NAACP Legal Defense Fund
FAITH-BASED
Presbyterian Mission Agency Lutheran Services of Georgia Chicago Theological Seminary Habitat for Humanity
YOUTH SERVICES
YearUp RMHC Save the Children Big Brothers Big Sisters Sheltering Arms Covenant House
EDUCATION / CIVIC
Strive Together Atlanta Public Schools Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation A Plus Southern Education Foundation
ENVIRONMENT / CONSERVATION
Southern Environmental Law Center Southface Buzzards Bay Coalition 100 miles Jane Goodall Trustees

“BoardWalk's process works, their service is stellar and results are assured. They really understand nonprofit needs.”

~CEO, Major multinational non-profit

Our Search Process

A BoardWalk search typically takes four to five months and includes these essential steps:


Leadership Profile
MONTH 1
  • Search committee chair communicates overall plan to staff
  • Kickoff meeting* held with search committee; private discussions also held with an array of stakeholders, internal and external, as agreed
  • Leadership Profile and search strategy are drafted for committee’s review and approval
  • Research and sourcing begin in earnest
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Benchmark Review
MONTHS 2-3
  • Sourcing and preliminary discussions intensify
  • Benchmark review is held with client to share market feedback and review preliminary slate of representative prospects
  • Based on committee feedback, search strategy is refined as needed, and more targeted discussions commence with prospects
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Candidate Interviews
MONTHS 3-4
  • BoardWalk reviews emerging finalists with search committee, recommends slate for candidate interviews
  • Briefing books are prepared and distributed, and committee convenes for two consecutive half-days for first-round interviews
  • Subset of finalists is invited back for second round discussions
  • Transition and communications plans are drafted
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Offer Negotiations
MONTHS 4-5
  • Search committee conducts further discussions with 2-3 favored finalists
  • Full references commence for most favored candidate(s)
  • Search committee reaches consensus
  • BoardWalk negotiates acceptable offer with final candidate and documents agreement-to-agree, always subject to board ratification
  • Transition and communications plans are reviewed with nominee
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Transition Management
MONTHS 5-6
  • Search committee conveys recommendation for Board vote, arranges appropriate introductions
  • Board confirms appointment, sets start date
  • Communications plan is implemented
  • Ongoing: BoardWalk works with client leadership and the new leader to ensure a smooth transition and long tenure
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What Our Clients Say

The smartest, most conscientious, efficient and responsibly priced outfit
“If you are looking for a search firm, I recommend BoardWalk Consulting. I have worked with probably 20 search companies, and BoardWalk was by far the smartest, most conscientious, efficient and responsibly priced outfit I have experienced.”

~ CEO, major US foundation and chair of a technology-based nonprofit’s CEO search committee
Superior search process
“The wisdom of our selection of BoardWalk Consulting to lead our CEO search was confirmed at every step of the process. If you engage BoardWalk, I have every confidence that you will have a superior search process, and you will be thankful you did.”

~Chair, CEO search committee, nonprofit broadcaster
Exceeded our expectations
“{We] needed a partner who could help us work through the extensive planning, research and facilitation of process needed to find our next great leader. From day one, BoardWalk exceeded our expectations. BoardWalk facilitated a process that resulted in a unanimous vote for a next-generation leader.”

~Chair, CEO search committee, national nonprofit transitioning from an iconic CEO in the role for over 30 years
Terrific job
“BoardWalk was interested in – and good at – understanding the strategy of our organization and the culture in which the executive would have to fit. They did a terrific job.”
Appreciate the work and heart you brought
“Without BoardWalk Consulting leading our executive search, the outcome would not have been as good. I truly appreciate the work and heart you brought to the effort.”

~Chair, CEO search committee, important civil rights organization
Seamless process
“Thank you for all you did to make this search process seamless and, most importantly, very effective. We have very strong leadership.”

~Chair, CEO search committee, regional housing organization
Professional and responsive
“BoardWalk Consulting is great to work with. I have worked with them on several searches and have always been impressed. I have found them to be thorough, professional, responsive to our needs and very well organized. I will continue to recommend them highly.”

~Experienced search committee chair, a veteran of numerous regional and national boards
High quality
“BoardWalk provided a high quality experience. They found the exact right candidate to lead our launch, and ten years later they found the exact right person to succeed him upon retirement.”

~Board chair (1st time) and search committee chair (2nd time), regional health legacy foundation
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Talented leadership
"BoardWalk helped us identify talented leadership who would help drive the work of this organization. That is something that I greatly treasure."

~Chair of the board, one of the largest human services nonprofits in a major market
Experienced expert
"Boardwalk Consulting took control of our search. I felt I was in the hands of an experienced expert."
Respect
"I was disappointed by the outcome, but I greatly appreciate the respect you respect you showed throughout the process."

~#2 finalist in a regional foundation’s CEO search
The best experience
“I’ve worked with several [search firms] over the last seven years. And without qualification, the best experience I’ve had was with Boardwalk Consulting. Their diligence, thoroughness and care were extraordinary [and] simply been unmatched by any other search experience I’ve had. Note that this testimonial comes from a guy who didn’t get the job!”

~#2 finalist in the CEO search for a major regional nonprofit, the third largest of its kind in the country
Sensitive, supportive and creative
"BoardWalk was a wonderful resource for us. They were consistently sensitive to our culture, supportive of our aspirations and creative in their approach."
Diligent counsel
"On behalf of our partners and supporters in the goal to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness, thank you for your diligent counsel."
Above and beyond
"BoardWalk went above and beyond to help us in every way we needed help. I have an excitement and confidence about the future that before I only hoped to have."
Saved time
"I cannot believe how much time your approach saved us!"
Value
“You didn’t charge us enough for the service you delivered.”

~Chair of a nonprofit board recruiting its 5th CEO in 5 years. Our placement recently celebrated his 10th anniversary with the organization, which is now four times larger (in both revenues and assets) than when he started.
You have earned our trust
"You have earned our trust and shown us what great search work looks like.  It is a pleasure to be able to work with a true staffing partner as opposed to many "search firm vendors" that I have worked with over my career."

~Chief Operating Officer, major nonprofit operating in multiple communities nationwide
Customer service and results are differentiating
"BoardWalk’s process, customer service and results are differentiating. Together, we have recruited leaders who can take our superb development model to scale, to help more people out of poverty and hunger."

~CEO, major international nonprofit for which BoardWalk recruited much of the senior executive team
Confidence and professionalism
“Thank you for the excellent job you and your team did on the CEO search for [us]. It is a daunting task to find a successor to a founder and yet you approached it with confidence and professionalism."

~Search committee chair, mid-sized NGO with global reach
Understand nonprofit needs
"BoardWalk's process works, their service is stellar and results are guaranteed. They really understand nonprofit needs."

~CEO, Major multinational non-profit
Fantastic job
"It was an absolute pleasure to work with the BoardWalk team. They did a fantastic job guiding us through the search process."
Exemplary
"It's clear to all of us why BoardWalk Consulting is such a busy place: Expertise, talent, discipline and caring. You and your team are exemplary."

~Chair, regional association of grantmakers following the CEO search
Thank you!
"Thank you, thank you, thank you! Because of you, we know more about ourselves, our strategy and our possibilities as an organization."
Just the best
"What a pleasure to work with BoardWalk during our search for our new leader! Your reputation is stellar and you were just the best. Many thanks!"
Delivered with excellence
“BoardWalk far exceeded all expectations – they delivered on their promise with excellence.”
Trust to find the very best people
“BoardWalk made wonderful finds that make our team super strong. I cannot thank them enough. There is no one I trust more than you to find the very best people.”
Dove deep
“BoardWalk dove deep to get to know our organization. I would highly recommend Boardwalk and will use them again if the opportunity presents itself.”

FAQs

What is an Executive Recruiter?
Executive recruiters are the recruiting professionals who assist organizations in filling executive and senior level positions.  They are typically hired by an organization on a retained or contingent basis to find a slate of qualified individuals for a role.
How do executive search firms work?
Search firms are hired by organizations to find a slate of candidates for a position.  The client organization “retains” or pays the search firm to work on a particular high level job.  In addition to finding the right individual, the search firm will typically assist with salary negotiation, market research, interview set up and transition planning.
How do executive search firms find candidates?
Executive search firms use a range of approaches to find candidates including their own databases, research on organizations that might have candidates or sources, their network of previous clients and placements and social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Does BoardWalk have a specialty area/focus?
BoardWalk serves nonprofits, the public sector and mission based organizations.  Since its founding 16 years ago, BoardWalk has served more than 250 organizations across 30 states in the US.
How much experience does BoardWalk have in the nonprofit space?
BoardWalk focuses exclusively on the nonprofit space.  It is one of the leading firms in serving this sector.
Does BoardWalk work with clients outside of the Atlanta area?
BoardWalk is a national recruiting firm and has served clients in more than 30 states.
How long does a search take?
A search will vary depending on many factors including role, location and type of organization.  Most executive searches take 4-6 months to complete.
What is the cost/price of a search?
The cost of a search will vary depending on the level of the search, type and size of the organization, and fee structure.  Some firms charge a fixed fee while others will charge a fee based on the salary of the role.  In addition to the fee the search firm will charge for travel and other expenses associated with the effort.
Who should be on the search committee?
The vast majority of the CEO search committees we serve are charged with identifying, attracting, vetting and recommending a final candidate to become CEO of their respective organizations. The final hiring decision always rests with the full board, of course, but we have never had a board reject its search committee’s recommendation.

Clearly, the CEO search committee is a critically important arm of the board.

There are many protocols governing the establishment of these committees. The ideal size, the meeting frequency, the pros and cons of taking formal notes, respect for confidentiality, even the form of the search committee’s mandate are topics of much interest. Surely an early key to the committee’s success is the choice of individuals asked to serve on the committee, and thus we’ll tackle this issue first.

Two cautions before we share our views with you:

  • One, every nonprofit CEO search is unique in its own way, and yours will differ in some fashion from the last we conducted or the next one we undertake.
  • Two, committees are made up of people, and people are full of surprises. We’ve seen individuals who meet none of the criteria below make exceptional search committee members, and we’ve seen some who meet every criterion prove to be ineffectual.

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