The Importance of Forming a Diverse Executive Search Committee

The Importance of Forming a Diverse Executive Search Committee - image of male executive looking at chess board

The Importance of Forming a Diverse Executive Search Committee

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Nonprofit Executive Search Series

Welcome to the first installment of our Retained Search blog series! Today, Scion Executive Search discusses issues to consider when forming a search committee when seeking a new leader or top executive for your nonprofit.

With a remarkable 17-year legacy, Scion Executive Search (SES) stands as a trusted leader in retained search recruiting. Our purposeful hires transcend conventional talent acquisition, propelling organizations forward in today’s competitive landscape. We embody resourcefulness, agility, and a commitment to excellence, ensuring candidates are uniquely suited for each role. With diverse expertise and esteemed certifications, including CDSP, CDR, CSC, PRC, and SHRM-SCP, we serve national clients across multiple industries, leveraging our vast network of 14 million candidates for unparalleled results. Learn more here.

Are you seeking a new executive leader for your nonprofit organization and wondering how to begin the search process? At Scion Executive Search, we understand embarking on this journey can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve developed a comprehensive guide outlining the key milestones you’ll encounter during the search process. Just as each organization and its respective roles are unique, so, too, is each executive search. We hope the following series will provide insights and assistance as you search for your nonprofit’s next leader who can meet the organizational needs of today and materialize its dreams for the future.

The task of replacing an executive leader can be incredibly daunting, not to mention time- and resource-consuming. However, this is no reason to delay the work or delegate the responsibility to any staff member with availability. The decision-maker possesses significant influence on who will be chosen for the position, making this a critical moment for the future of your organization. In the context of an executive leadership position, this decision should be made by a search committee, which can be formed by taking the following considerations into account.

The Composition of the Search Committee

The composition of the search committee is crucial, requiring members who are both willing and able to participate actively in the entire search process, from intake and calibration meetings to interviews. . Each search committee will be unique to the organization and its needs, but, for the purposes of this article, we are prioritizing putting together a diverse committee.

What Constitutes a Diverse Committee?

When forming a search committee, incorporating a variety of unique perspectives is essential. An executive role is responsible for influencing and molding organizational direction and culture. Including a range of perspectives from differing backgrounds and life experiences will be critical to effectively thinking through possible future scenarios and challenges, as well as assessing how the candidate will connect with team members and address day-to-day concerns.

In terms of size, no more than eight (8) participants are recommended for a single search committee. This allows for a wide range of perspectives and opinions while allowing space for each individual committee member to be heard and considered. Further, SES recommends creating an odd-numbered committee, as this will eliminate future potential for tie votes and decision gridlock.

What Positions Should Comprise the Committee?

For the hiring of executive-level positions (President/CEO/Executive Director), we recommend the inclusion of Board members. Their insight and access to high-level information make them well-equipped to determine who can lead the organization in achieving its goals, and they are unlikely to have personal aspirations for the role. For leadership below this level, executive personnel may also participate in the committee.

When the Wrong People Are Involved

Determining exactly who should be considered for the committee matters. Participating in the search as a member of the committee is no small task and should be taken seriously. While we focus on who should be on the committee, there are certain categories of individuals who would be detrimental to the search process. In particular, individuals who are vying for the same position (past, present, or have voiced potential interest in future consideration) or who are a direct report to the role should never be on the search committee; this conflict of interest can present serious issues for maintained confidentiality and lead to uncomfortable situations as well as unfavorable outcomes for all parties involved.

Begin Establishing Search Priorities

Leverage the search committee to perform an honest internal audit of the organization. Is it achieving its stated goals? Are those goals still relevant to the work of the organization today? Where do you want the organization to go in the future—both in the short-term and the long-term? Determining what “success” looks like for your organization will allow a search committee to make a more accurate assessment of what is truly needed to succeed in this role. For more on this topic, check out the second installment of our series here.

This presents an incredible opportunity to define what the organization expects this position to achieve and to adjust the role description to better align with where the organization is today as well as where it is headed in the future. Drawing upon the analysis of the organizational direction, identify key skills and attributes that will ensure role success, and harness this information to create and refine the formal position description. Consider wants versus needs through open dialogue amongst the committee members.

Considerations to Keep in Mind

It is important to keep in mind throughout this process that the search committee will likely not achieve 100% consensus on all topics it addresses, and that is okay! What truly matters is that everyone on the committee voices their perspectives and their positions are understood.

Although a “wish list” may be created to describe an ideal candidate, not all top candidates will completely fulfill every requirement. That should never eliminate someone from consideration. The committee is looking for potential and abilities, and these will be far more useful in the future than a checked box on position titles held.

Let the Search Begin!

Investing time, energy, and resources into finding a new executive leader is critical for any organization and should be given the appropriate level of consideration and prioritization. Central to the entire process is the search committee, and setting up the right one is critical to the success of the entire search process. These individuals will be instrumental in finding your nonprofit’s newest executive and should be carefully selected or self-selected to form a diverse group of voices who are informed and active participants. Once this committee is established, you are on your way to finding the next leader for your nonprofit!


In our next piece in this series, we will focus on important factors for the search committee to consider as they begin the search for their new executive leader. We will discuss the importance of discovering your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and developing a deep understanding of both, as a driven candidate will no doubt have questions on these elements. The location of the role, its compensation parameters, and much more will be central to the design of the search and will create parameters for who will apply, or be invited to apply, to the role.

About the Author

Bailey Olderog, Technical Writer (she/her/hers)

Bailey Olderog brings her passion for storytelling and language to her role as technical writer at Scion Executive Search (SES). She is dedicated to telling the stories of others, and it has been her lifelong effort to make contributions that ensure that even the quietest of voices are heard.

Bailey has spent most of her career in service to those who serve. Her extensive public sector experience includes ghostwriting for elected officials and military generals, authoring investigations and public reports, and bringing a voice and audience to those without a platform. She believes language is an art and enjoys using language to advocate for others in ways that are professional, clear, and respectful.

Veterans’ mental health and support have been the guiding star in her career; Bailey volunteers at and has extensively advocated for veteran organizations in her native Texas. She has spent over a decade researching PTSD in veterans, using her research and connections to advocate for positive change and support for military families. She has written extensively on behalf of service members in need of assistance, as well as for military leaders seeking authentic ways to connect with their personnel. She has organized events and supported advocacy efforts for organizations such as Gideons 300 and Texas Veteran County Service Officers. On a nice day, you can often find her volunteering at a park or trail cleanup.

Bailey received her degree in political science from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where she also minored in studio art.

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