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Economic optimism is driving growth in executive search in the charity sector

This week, the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) reported positive growth within the worldwide executive search industry. Its data highlights 10% growth in the second quarter of this year, compared with last year, and year on year growth of 11%.

We’ve noticed increased demand for our executive search services over the last 18 months and expect this trend to continue. As well as businesses seeking senior executives, we are also seeing a big demand in the charity and not-for-profit sector for senior appointments, especially organisations looking for CEOs with specialist skills to take advantage of the better economic conditions.

Research released in April this year from PwC, Charity Finance Group and the Institute of Fundraising found that charities are cautiously optimistic about the future, following signs of economic recovery despite continuing challenges on funding, and are taking steps to enhance transparency in response to greater press scrutiny.

However, the research also highlighted the sector still faces challenges ahead with two thirds of respondents reporting that demand for their services had increased over the last year, with the same proportion expecting further increases in the year ahead. As a result, 27% claimed they were aiming to deliver more with the same resource as last year and 16% thought they would have to make cuts in other services to meet the additional demand.

Now more than ever, charities need talented leaders at their helm with strong business skills as they are increasingly have to act more like businesses in order to look for new fundraising opportunities, as well as operating in an increasingly regulatory environment with high expectations for transparency over finances and costs.

Many are turning to executive search companies as they have recognised they need to find more diverse people with broader skills.  One charity that was recently looking for a new CEO with a rare combination of skills and experience was the Trinity Hospice.

Trinity Hospice delivers palliative and end of life care to patients and families in six London boroughs, and following the retirement of their previous CEO they needed to find a replacement. They required someone with great leadership skills, sound financial experience and strong palliative care skills. They also wanted an inspiring, visionary and enthusiastic leader - an excellent communicator with the credibility to raise the organisation’s profile in the wider public arena.

In 2015 Trinity’s funding model will become tighter so ideally the new CEO would have a successful track record of strategic and operational leadership in a changing and complex environment. They would also have a background of working on joint ventures in the private sector and the NHS and be comfortable with managing budgets of around &pound10million.

We helped them find Dallas Pounds, the new CEO who was chosen unanimously by the Board because of her experience which included senior management roles at The Terence Higgins Trust and Buckinghamshire PCT, as well as time spent as a palliative care nurse. Her skills bridged management skills with empathy, which was the very rare combination they were looking for.

Many charitable organisations are facing similar challenging times in terms of funding and the new regulatory environment. Now the economy is on the up for many this is now the time for them to seek out the best talent to lead their organisation and take advantage of this renewed optimism, and we expect executive search for the not-for-profit sector to boom this year.


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