Hiring a Nonprofit CEO: How to Attract Strong Nonprofit Leadership

hiring a nonprofit ceo

Hiring a Nonprofit CEO: How to Attract Strong Nonprofit Leadership

Chances are you if you’re involved with a nonprofit, you know what you’re looking for in a CEO to help lead the organization. But knowing what you’re looking for and attracting strong nonprofit leaders to consider for the job are two very different things. There are recruitment strategies and headhunting service information that can help you not only find the nonprofit CEO you want but also the one your need.

The nonprofit you’re involved with fills a niche in society that provides your community with a positive impact. That’s why you want a nonprofit CEO that can make a difference in how your nonprofit is positioned, its community outreach, its mission’s strength, a positive charge financially and endowment building. How you market your nonprofit CEO can make all the difference in the world in finding the one that can benefit the nonprofit the most.

Finding the best nonprofit CEO doesn’t just happen. You have to take control of the process and have a clear sense of your organization’s future direction. Read on to learn about how you can find a nonprofit CEO to lead your organization into a strong future.

Role of a Nonprofit CEO

Many people are surprised when they find out there is a difference between a corporate CEO and a nonprofit CEO. That’s because a nonprofit CEO has a smaller profile and role in the strategic direction of the nonprofit as that is already defined by the nonprofit’s mission statement. But a nonprofit CEO has to be able to:


  • Work with the board of directors
  • Contribute and enhance the vision of the nonprofit mission statement
  • Understand and grow the organization’s fundraising capabilities
  • Maintain the budget of the nonprofit, and
  • Experience with human resources and staff expertise.


Plus a CEO works with the chief financial officer and department heads to help meet the board of director goals while developing operational strategies and tactics to meet them. A nonprofit CEO also is able to delegate duties effectively, while helping to develop his board of directors and recruit new volunteer committee members. Nonprofit CEOs must also face public scrutiny on many of their financial decisions on the annual budget line items.

Sample Nonprofit Executive Director Description

A typical nonprofit executive director’s description can vary depending on the nonprofit’s targeted population, mission, objectives, and purpose. Every financial decision an executive director makes can be scrutinized by the board of directors and the public at large. However, the CEO does need to work with board members to let them know what initiatives the organization will be pursuing.

For the purpose of guidance and detailed information, below is a good example of a nonprofit executive director’s description.

The CEO will provide the following:


  • Lead the nonprofit vision and mission
  • Implement strategic plans based on data-driven analytics and projections
  • Manage the nonprofit budget and provide program growth and development
  • Build an exemplary, reputable and performing senior leadership team
  • Deliver quality and cost-effective programming
  • Cultivate new and maintain current corporate, individual and foundation sponsors
  • Provide oversight to community outreach
  • Develop and work with the board of directors


Most of the time nonprofit organizations prefer to have nonprofit CEO candidates that have a master’s degree in nonprofit management, business administration, finance, economics, or a business equivalent. Many nonprofits want their CEO candidates to have five to ten years of successful nonprofit administration experience with an emphasis on past performance making a positive impact on their surrounding communities. It goes without saying the nonprofit CEO candidate must also have excellent communication and presentation skills.

Communication Expertise Walks Hand-in-Hand with the Nonprofit CEO Job

A nonprofit CEO works closely with the organization’s marketing or development director and relies on their organization’s public relations, advertising, promotions, fundraising, and communications staff. Sometimes they have to do all of those communication department tasks themselves. That’s why the CEO doesn’t need to be a marketing expert, but the CEO should know the image the board of directors wants to communicate to the public,

It’s all about who, what, and how the CEO reviews and approves key external messages to ensure that they maintain the brand of the organization.

Nonprofit CEO Search

Finding the nonprofit CEO sometimes takes a bit of help from a stellar recruitment agency that can help you find CEO candidates that can become agents of change. These agents of change are screened, researched, interviewed and their backgrounds are checked by the recruiting agencies well before nonprofit board members schedule a formal interview. You want a recruiting search firm that has led hundreds of successful executive searches throughout the world.

Finding the nonprofit CEO through an experienced, effective, and efficient executive search company allows the nonprofit the opportunity to concentrate on transforming their mission statement and financial needs into a successful combination instead of wading through sometimes hundreds of applications. When you use a leading staff firm for your CEO needs, you’re able to not only provide what your nonprofit wants but also enhance the nonprofit program services. Remember you’re hiring a CEO that will oversight the nonprofit’s high-level employees and approve all the nonprofit employees hired or subcontractors needed.

The oversight’s job tasks cannot be overvalued because it represents everything the nonprofit is that the community, fundraisers, and donors observe. Every CEO of a nonprofit is the final link in the chain of day-to-day operations of a nonprofit organization. It is the CEO of the nonprofit that has to provide the management expertise that helps guide the learning and skills sets employees and volunteers implement.

Nonprofit Executive Director’s Search

Countless board members go through leadership changes at a nonprofit they volunteer with, and their usual issue is trying to determine how to find the nonprofit CEO leader they need. Not only do you need to find the nonprofit that’s a great fit for your nonprofit organization, but you also have to ensure they have short-term and long-term strategic viability. This means reputation means everything in the nonprofit arena and once you have a stellar record, reputation, and outreach record you want to protect it as much as possible.

That means your nonprofit Executive Director or CEO search needs to take into account what’s called ‘positioning.’ DEO or Executive Director Positioning has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with hiring someone who you know can compete for funders as there are a finite number of them. You also want the search to include CEO search criteria which state they can attract new clients, and donors while advocating for mission policy within the community.

There are several methods and deliverables a nonprofit executive search will encompass. The executive search companies will provide you with pipeline creation where they tap into their already impressive and expansive network of candidates. They will also manage everything from the advertising, recruitment, administrative, and strategic process of finding your CEO or Executive Director candidates.

Nonprofit President Job Description

Oftentimes nonprofit organizations and the community they serve will think a CEO and a President are the same things. Most of the time these two positions are different with each having their own task deliverables. A President will often assist the Chairman and Board of Directors in the development and implementation of the long-range plans especially as they relate to funding raising operations.

Presidents often serve as the chief fundraiser and are often the spokesperson for a nonprofit. Concurrent job duties include but aren’t limited to:


  • Recruiting Donors
  • Doing Interviews
  • Fundraising or endowment building
  • Liaison to the board of directors
  • Recruitment of new board members


Presidents are also the ones that usually do the annual work plan which is approved by the Board of Directors. They do a continual and ongoing review of the programs and contractual obligations the nonprofit has as well as deal with any legal issues that may arise.

Roles and Responsibilities of Nonprofit CEOs

The roles and responsibilities of a nonprofit CEO are almost endless. Almost everything a nonprofit goes through, needs or plans is in part the CEO’s responsibility as they execute their job role. That means the CEO is one of the most important voices that help create and then implement a nonprofit’s strategic plan. Every nonprofit has strategic policies that must be established by the board of directors.

The CEO for almost all nonprofit reports to the board of directors and helps set up the directional flow of the nonprofit day-to-day operations. The CEO is the leader extraordinaire and as the CEO they are the head information bearers. Their vision for the nonprofit means they interface not only with the board of directors but the community at large. In addition to being the visionary interface, they are where the buck stops as the final decision maker once they have board approval.

It is in the formulation and facilitation of policies that help decide the direction a nonprofit organization will go. So, finding the correct course of action for a healthy financial future with just the right number of operational staff and volunteers is almost an art form as it is a delicate balance between what you need and what you can afford as a nonprofit CEO.

Roles and Responsibilities of Nonprofit Executive Directors

Sometimes Executive Directors of nonprofits get the short end of the stick in job title even though they perform many of the same duties as some presidents or CEOs of nonprofits. But sometimes there is an inherent difference. Many times, an Executive Director will oversee the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit. These day-to-day operations duties can include some of the minutiae details of staff meetings, intranet communications, writing grants, answering queries, managing the physical resources of a nonprofit, and more.

Often it also includes implementing plans that the board of directors or President passes down to you. Executive Directors are also the hands-on person for many fundraising events and building up the donor base for a nonprofit organization. An exemplary executive direction will also support staff and board orientation or self-evaluation if needed.

There are times executive directors have to do the community outreach and ensure that delivery of the nonprofit programs and products are top-tier and of the highest quality.

Your Next Step in Finding the Best Nonprofit CEO

There is only one best way forward and it’s through using a company that’s proven itself many times both in the history of their CEO candidates and in the process, they use in finding you the best nonprofit CEO match. Scion Executive sources stellar candidates for you to review and they use competitive intelligence to provide you with top-tier nonprofit CEO choices. Reach out to Scion Executive when you’re ready to take the first step in finding a nonprofit CEO that can deliver the future your nonprofit deserves.

The best nonprofit CEO you can find is one that has the reasoning abilities that enhance your operations with the experience you need for them to find an operational and financial formula that works for your mission statement. There is a growing need among nonprofits to find a way to develop and even expand their programs as their organizations have to serve more people with an honest need for services. That’s why it’s so important to hire the best executive search firm possible for your nonprofit CEO search.

There’s nothing more important than a nonprofit organization’s impact on society’s challenges. Your nonprofit organization needs to find new ways to solve ongoing problems that so many solutions too.

Whether you are looking to have your questions answered, or ready to dive into starting your search, Scion Executive is your trusted partner to help your organization and community!