Nonprofit Executive Search: A Scientific Success Story

Finding successful leaders for not-for-profits is no easier than for corporations—all top executives today need broad skill sets combined with the ability to think strategically and with vision.

When the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS) set out recently to find a Director for its new Center for Science and Democracy, it sought someone who was a demonstrated leader, proven scientific intellectual, a specialist in public policy, and PR/communications expert. It was a tall order, in other words.

UCS turned to Witt/Kieffer to assist, with senior partner Manny Berger and consultant Brian Bloomfield teaming together on the search. Both had a wealth of experience in nonprofit executive search, placing leaders for academies and institutes, medical research centers, university departments, museums and trusts, and more. Both understood the depth and breadth of the challenge of finding someone who fit the mold of the new Director position.

Manny Berger

Manny Berger

Starting the Center for Science and Democracy was “a mission-critical move” on the part of UCS, says Berger. “It was the first Center they had launched, and so they needed a Director well-respected in the science and policy worlds, and also with an entrepreneurial track record in launching successful initiatives and attracting funding.”

Supported by Witt/Kieffer’s research team, Berger and Bloomfield combed through their database and personal connections, consulted with leaders in the scientific and policy arenas, and conducted exhaustive interviews of candidates and their references. Eventually, they presented a short list of finalists to the UCS search committee. Following on-site interviews in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one candidate stood out and was selected—current Director Andrew Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Brian Bloomfield

Brian Bloomfield

What Went Right

According to Bloomfield, the search worked because everyone involved appreciated the significance of the task at hand. “We knew what a critical initiative the new Center was and were in full support of its mission,” he says. “It needed a Director who could give it immediate credibility and momentum, and this guided each step in helping to find the right person.”

From Rosenberg’s perspective, the expertise of the search consultants stood out. “I learned that there is a huge difference in the responsiveness of firms and their styles of interaction,” he says. “It’s important to meet the consultant face to face, so you can really get a sense that the consultant is trying to figure out if the position is right for the candidate, and the candidate is right for the searching organization.”

Read here for the full success story on our work with UCS, and here for more on our nonprofit executive search practice.

By Paul Thomas, Witt/Kieffer Senior Writer (@PaulWThomas)

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