Nonprofits and the executives who lead them are a critical part of our communities, providing essential services and support to individuals and groups that may otherwise go overlooked. 

When selecting a nonprofit executive, boards and search committees should seek candidates who possess a combination of leadership qualities, strategic thinking skills, passion for the organization’s mission, and a strong understanding of nonprofit operations. 

Here are 11 key traits that boards should consider: 

1 – Passion for the Mission: A deep commitment to the nonprofit’s cause is essential. The executive should genuinely believe in the organization’s mission and be motivated to work towards achieving its goals. 

2 – Leadership Skills: Strong leadership skills are crucial for guiding the organization, inspiring staff and volunteers, and fostering a positive organizational culture. Look for candidates with a track record of effective leadership in previous roles. 

3 – Strategic Thinking: The ability to develop and execute long-term strategies is vital to a nonprofit’s success. Nonprofit leaders should be able to analyze the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and develop and implement strategic plans to advance its mission. 

4 – Financial Acumen: Nonprofit executives need a solid understanding of budgeting, financial management, fundraising, and resource allocation. They should be able to ensure the organization operates within its budget while maximizing its impact. 

5 – Collaboration and Relationship Building: Building strong relationships with key stakeholders, including donors, partners, volunteers, and board members, is an important part of a nonprofit executive’s role. Candidates should be skilled at fostering collaborations and networking within the community. 

6 – Adaptability and Resilience: The nonprofit sector can be unpredictable, with challenges ranging from funding fluctuations to changing regulations. Executives must be able to quickly adapt to change and remain resilient in the face of adversity. 

7 – Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial for conveying the organization’s mission, vision, and impact to stakeholders. A nonprofit executive should be a skilled communicator who can articulate the organization’s message clearly and compellingly. 

8 – Ethical Integrity: Nonprofit executives must uphold the highest ethical standards and act with integrity in everything they do. Boards should look for candidates with a strong moral compass and a commitment to transparency and accountability. 

9 – Experience in the Nonprofit Sector: While not always necessary, experience working in the nonprofit sector can be beneficial. Executives who understand the unique challenges and opportunities of the nonprofit world may be better equipped to lead effectively. 

10 – Innovative Thinking: In today’s day and age, nonprofits need to innovate to stay relevant and effective. Seek out candidates who are creative and innovative thinkers and capable of identifying new approaches to serving their constituents. 

11 – Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging: Nonprofits have an opportunity to lead the way in making our communities more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Candidates should embrace these values and ensure they are part of their approach to leadership and mission advancement.   

By prioritizing these traits during the search process, nonprofit boards can identify executives who are well-equipped to lead their organizations and make a positive impact in their communities. 

Partnering with an executive search firm like TalentRise can also help you find the nonprofit executive that meets your organization’s needs. To learn more about our executive search services for nonprofits, contact us today. 

This blog was authored by TalentRise Practice Leader Pete Petrella.