How Long Does a Typical Nonprofit Executive Search Take?

by Laurie Minx
Director of Client Relations
The Moran Company  “We Find Great Nonprofit Executives”


One of the questions we often receive from organizations is how long a typical nonprofit executive search takes. The timing of a search is very important. We like to allow enough time to complete a comprehensive recruitment process while acting swiftly enough to keep top candidates engaged before they lose interest or are hired elsewhere. By partnering with a respected nonprofit executive search firm like The Moran Company, you can ensure the most efficient use of everyone’s time while establishing a professional recruitment effort.

In general, our searches take about 12-14 weeks. Depending on how quickly the vacancy must be filled, this timeline can be flexible. We typically organize our efforts into three phases:

  1. The first 3 weeks are used to conduct a stakeholder survey, visit your location for an orientation, confirm the candidate profile, and finalize the position description.
  2. The middle 6 weeks are dedicated to the active recruitment of candidates through a variety of ways including telephone outreach and job postings.
  3. The final 3-5 weeks of our process includes screening interviews, search committee and Board interviews, background checks, and negotiations.

Sometimes a sudden departure can dictate a more abbreviated approach. However, in order to avoid making rushed hiring decisions, we might encourage an organization to consider utilizing an Interim Director for a set period of time while a more thoughtful search effort can take place. This space allows an organization to pause and steady itself under the leadership of an experienced Interim Director that The Moran Company can refer as part of our services.

Other times, an organization knows in advance about the planned retirement of an Executive Director and might want a longer search process in order to find the right person to fill his or her shoes. However, it can be detrimental to extend the recruitment process too long because you can lose excellent candidates found early on in the search. Instead of leaving a longer window for candidates to apply, we recommend using more time to prepare at the start of a search before recruitment begins in earnest. For example, the initial phase of our process might be lengthened to include a special planning session for the Board of Directors.  At this session, the strategic plan is reviewed and the retiring Executive Director may lead a discussion on the challenges facing the organization. Then everyone has a chance to offer input into the attributes needed in a new leader.

If you are on a tight deadline or prefer a more extended approach, a general search timeline of 12-14 weeks often can be adjusted to meet your needs. Be sure to ask firms in advance how they might lengthen or abbreviate their efforts while still maintaining fidelity to a high quality recruitment model that ensures a successful outcome. At The Moran Company, we stand behind our work with a one-year guarantee and are proud of our search process that can be customized for our clients.

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© 2016 The Moran Company, “We find great nonprofit executives.” We specialize in searches for nonprofit executive directors, directors of development/fundraising staff, and other top nonprofit leadership.