Nonprofit Strategies

A nonprofit conundrum: How would you proceed?

Special to The TribuneMarch 20, 2013 

Barry VanderKelen

The executive director of Clear the Air just announced during the board of directors meeting that she has accepted a new job. She plans on leaving the organization in three weeks, at the end of the month.

The board immediately goes into executive session to discuss the transition.

Clear the Air is a nonprofit that works closely with residents and businesses to reduce air pollution. Its operations are funded through a combination of grants and fundraising. Some of the grants are appropriations and contracts from local and state government agencies.

One of the major programs is to administer the incentives given to businesses to reduce employee and company car trips. Clear the Air has a full development program that includes special events, foundation grant writing, direct mail and major gift solicitation.

Anyone hired to lead the organization will need to have broad skills to oversee the complex menu of programs and activities.

Sally, the board chair, introduces the discussion asking if the board can manage the search process or if a consultant should be hired to recruit and screen candidates. Consensus quickly emerges to hire a consultant, and board members start offering names of people to consider for the role.

Consensus is not as easily achieved when each person is considered. As the previously announced adjournment time approaches, the frustration level of the board increases.

Finally, Bob announces that he’d be delighted to lead the search. He is a mostly retired search professional who does contract work with a national firm. He would provide access to the firm’s resources thereby increasing the chances of finding suitable candidates for the executive director position. He states that he would do all this work for the deeply discounted price of $25,000.

Should the board accept Bob’s offer?

Look for my answer in my next column.

Barry VanderKelen's Nonprofit Strategies column is special to The Tribune. He is executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation. Reach him at

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