It never fails that people find our line of work interesting. When we offer an elevator synopsis of what we do – “FaithSearch Partners is a retained search firm; we manage searches for faith-based nonprofits” – we’re almost always met with sincere interest and a slew of curious follow-up questions. These range from the very nuanced (“Where does one find development officers for a Baptist-based, special-needs women’s ministry in Tulsa?) to the simple yet general (“…where do you find your candidates?”). At the very least, someone will affirm the importance of our work, remarking on how crucial it is for nonprofits to have talented leaders and how involved the search management process must be. And their assessment is correct – nonprofits undoubtably need great leaders, and identifying those individuals is a unique challenge every time. Perhaps the most commonly-asked question, though, is strikingly straight-forward: How do we, as FaithSearch Partners, find the right candidates for our clients? Essentially, how do we do what we do?
While the answer to that question is multifaceted and can vary from project to project, there are consistent methods we employ that promote success for our clients. In every search, we commit to a clear, disciplined process, cultivate strong communication in client relationships, and embrace challenges that foster better outcomes. These hallmarks of the FaithSearch approach have paved the way for successful placements at hundreds of faith-based nonprofit organizations across the country.
Commit to a disciplined process
Kings Way Christian School needed a Superintendent – fast. They enlisted FaithSearch Partners in March, looking to make the hire in June. From the project’s onset, we made a commitment to work quickly, efficiently, and with special diligence, leaning on our proven process structure (client assessment, in-depth research, targeted candidate sourcing and evaluation, and candidate presentation) to guide the much-expedited search. We did not cut corners but employed a disciplined approach to focus the search, promote efficiency, and remove spurious expenditures of effort, creating a condensed process that produced stellar results. Ultimately, we presented seven top-notch candidates for the Superintendent role, and Kings Way Christian School made an offer to their candidate-of-choice by the June deadline.
While there is a degree of serendipity with every successful placement, finding the right candidate within the abbreviated time-frame was by no means “dumb luck.” We established clear, fixed deadlines for ourselves and Kings Way, and we held one another accountable to vital project goals, principles that are part of any successful search but become imperative when time is of-the-essence.
Cultivate strong communication among all parties
We love accolades for a job well-done, and FaithSearch Partners clients offer kudos in spades. Some of the most common feedback we receive centers around the level of communication we provide to clients both during the search process and after it concludes. We tow the line between providing consistent, relevant updates to clients – especially at critical process junctures – and giving them essential space to assess progress internally and evaluate additional needs. In every engagement, FaithSearch Partners leadership reaches out to clients regularly, consultants keep search committee members informed, and our administrative team ensures that candidates know what to expect as searches progress. This exceptional level of communication is a key reason that many of our clients – Florida Hospital, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Lionheart Children’s Academy, to name a few – enlist us for multiple searches.
Embrace challenges for clients’ best interests
It sometimes happens that a search we manage presents us with the opportunity to embrace a particularly challenging situation or present an “outside-of-the-box” candidate in order to make a successful placement. It would be easy to shy away from these instances and stick to the safety of the familiar, but we know that finding the perfect candidate for a given role can require operating beyond our comfort zone. This was the case with a large healthcare system that engaged FaithSearch to identify a CFO for one of its member hospitals. One of our top candidates had significant salary expectations going into the interview phase, leading us to wonder about the wisdom of presenting the individual to the search committee at all. Despite these concerns, we were confident that the candidate would be an all-star choice in terms of technical experience and faith and cultural alignment – we firmly believed that both our client and the candidate would be best served by moving forward with the interview. In the end, our research, and, equally important, our intuition, paid dividends. The candidate was the right person for the role, salary negotiations went smoothly, and the hospital CEO was enthusiastically pleased. Patience (and prayer!), a thorough candidate vetting process, and the willingness to take a smart, calculated risk were hallmarks of this search’s success.
Through the years, we’ve seen the practices described above secure smoother, more successful long-term candidate placements for the many organizations we serve. While there is no “magic formula” that ensures positive results, our philosophy of employing a rigorous process, communicating effectively, and remaining open to unique circumstances (as well as praying for our clients, candidates, and team members!) is as relevant to general business as it is to the distinct niche that is retained search.