Seven Dating Tips for Nonprofits

| by Priscilla Bratcher

Looking for a new executive director, assistant director, development director or other team leader? No, you’re not. You’re dating. And just as you are assessing candidates, they are holding the magnifying glass up to you. So get ready to sell yourself to your chosen potential suitor.

    1. Know who you are. Are you clear about your mission? Your direction? Your aspirations and dreams? When was your most recent strategic plan? Was it put into action or did you put it on the shelf and return to business as usual.
    2. Know your own flaws but don’t apologize for them. All candidates want to feel that they can make a difference in their new job, but no one wants to go to work for (or date) an organization that is overly needy. Be prepared to be honest but avoid the temptation to complain.
    3. On the flip side, don’t believe your own PR. Yours is not the most fabulous nonprofit on the face of the earth. Just as in dating, nonprofits that are unrealistic about their own abilities and impact are not attractive to serious candidates. Any sophisticated job seeker has seen this before and will probably lose interest fast.
    4. Know what you are looking for. Here’s a hint: there is no white knight in shining armor who will solve your board problems, turn your declining revenues around and change your dispirited staff and volunteer culture within one week. Not possible. Be realistic and understand you will need to help your successful candidate identify and prioritize areas that need to be addressed. Just as in dating, you’re looking for a partner, not a savior.
    5. Be patient. Dating is all about patience. If you don’t meet your soul-mate on the first try, learn from the experience. And don’t blame the miss entirely on a poor candidate pool as in “there are no good men/women out there!” Is there something you did, shared or said during the first date that made good prospects run for the hills? Regroup, fix the problem and get out there and try again.


  • When you find a great candidate, be ready to move into the enticement phase. Ask yourself these questions:


    • What does this great candidate want, and can we provide it?
    • What might be frustrations that the candidate is feeling in his/her current role or with their current organization?
    • How might our opportunity address those frustrations?
    • What can make this opportunity stand out among others the best candidate might be pursuing?
  1. Be positive and excited. Even if the candidate was not your first choice, he or she must believe that they were. No one wants to be thought of as leftovers, either in dating or in a job search. After all, your number 2 might actually be exactly the person you needed all along.

So if you’re looking for a great person to add to your leadership team, prepare first. Then get ready. Be realistic about your own flaws and remember that neither you nor your candidate is perfect. Metaphorically get a haircut, new outfit and, polish your shoes. I promise, there is someone out there who could help you achieve your goals.


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