Our Guiding Principles…
In our years as fundraising professionals we were recruited by many different firms. Without knowing that we would someday purchase a firm of our own, we could not help but make notes in our mind. Some experiences were satisfactory, while others were embarrassing. When we purchased this firm in 1998 we did so with the thought that we could do much better and we dedicated our process on the following principles:
- Only senior staff would manage a search, no green associates, thank you. We learned early on that clients were leery of contracting with a “new firm” or any firm. They had been burned too many times with a famous firm selling their product and then shoving the responsibility off to a junior associate who knew next to nothing about philanthropy or recruitment. We did not want to have that reputation. Candidates have told us that their experience with some firms was not inviting. While they might have a senior person manage the search, they were interviewed by a staff member who obviously knew next to nothing about philanthropy—based upon the strange questions they asked.
- We wanted to avoid the common practice of many firms: Recruiting favorites time after time. We knew that most firms that dabble in an occasional philanthropy search had a list of maybe 30 to 50 potential candidates in their “Rolodex” file (some had a lot less, actually). This list would get smaller and smaller as the months and years passed—by attrition, retirement, getting a new job. When the firm got a new search in philanthropy, they would busy themselves to expand their “list” by 25 people or so and this process would continue.
- We are different. We decided to build the largest and most complete database of working professionals that exist on this planet. We do not just track names and contact information—we also track areas of specialty and work experiences, current and former positions and biographical information. We work every single day in maintaining this asset, adding new constituents and updating those that have moved. It is a daunting task that takes a majority of our expense resources, but this makes us unique in the industry and provides the ability to perform open and broad recruiting, something that every organization that is interested in fairness in recruiting would champion. The number of people on our database is a trade secret, but it includes every major college and university, every health care system and related hospitals, every cancer center, disease research facility, international relief organization and the most famous national charities. Since we attend every national and most of the regional professional fundraising conferences, we watch closely to who is attending and who is presenting professional papers on emerging topics. We focus on the best practitioners and we come home with notes and updates. This builds and keeps our system relevant. Costly to do? Yes it is, but it is what you would expect of a specialty search firm.
- We are committed to maintaining communication with our client and candidates—and we do so honestly. How this came to be important was the result of experiences when we were recruited. We learned that when becoming involved in a search a candidate starts dreaming of the possibility. For a candidate, life changes slightly and there are a certain measures of excitement that develop when thinking about a career change, a new city, a new home. To not receive regular updates on the progress of the search is draining on a candidate and their family. We keep candidates informed and this keeps them focused on the opportunity.
- We are committed to keeping all parties informed of the status of the search process. We have had clients who decided to make an offer to candidate A, but wanted us to keep candidate B treading water in the event candidate A did not accept. We caution against this practice and have counseled clients that it is much more likely that they can move to candidate B if we have been completely honest with that person regarding their status. If we find that candidate B is “offended” that they came in second, maybe candidate B is not the right alternative after all. Our job is to keep all potential candidates interested. They know (because we remind them) that only one person will be hired and that a decision, in most circumstances, is not a reflection on the value of others. We love honestly and openness and it has paid big dividends on our searches and on our relationships with clients and candidates nationally. Closing a candidate with the right person is critical and you don’t gain any leverage by keeping second level candidates treading water—they know what is going on.