E.S.S. – Frequently Asked Questions

Executive Search Services (ESS) is a job placement service for nonprofits that seek to hire an Executive Director or a Development Director.
Our goal at WVDO/SPIRE is to create strong, stable nonprofit leadership that will engage in the community. We serve nonprofits and their employees with fundraising and leadership programs and want to engage with an organization throughout its life-cycle. Strong, successful matches are in the best interest of the nonprofit, the community and of WVDO/SPIRE.

WVDO (Willamette Valley Development Officers) started in 1977 as a way for nonprofit fundraisers to learn, network and support one another. Over the past 36 years, WVDO has grown and expanded to meet the needs of those engaged in nonprofit fundraising throughout the Portland-metro area. In 2005, WVDO began operating the first Job Posting service for nonprofits searching for fundraising professionals. As a phone service, then as a Web service, the Job Source has become the primary location for local nonprofits to find their fundraising staff. In 2011, WVDO expanded into direct searches to respond to the needs of the local nonprofit community. Nonprofits were having difficulty finding nonprofit leaders with fundraising credentials that fit the culture and needs of the organization. Because of WVDO’s history, our staff understands the nonprofit fundraising, understands the fundraising culture in nonprofits and has developed a search process to “match” individuals and organizations. Realizing that to better meet the need for the service, it would be important to extend that service to the mid and south Willamette Valley using people who lived, worked and were more knowledgeable of these communities. In 2015 they partnered with Spire Management, an association management and nonprofit consulting company located in Salem, Oregon. Spire was asked to provide these services to nonprofits south of Portland, focusing on Salem, Albany and Corvallis. Along with Spire’s sister company, VanNatta Public Relations, they have been providing management and development services to associations since 1968.

The Executive Search Service is managed by WVDO Executive Director, Agnes Zach. Agnes has an MBA from Willamette University’s Atkinson School of Management and has managed associations for over 20 years. She has served as Executive Director of WVDO for seven years, created the Executive Search Services program, participates in the in-take for all searches, candidate recruitment, candidate reviews and presentation of the report. She also leads searches for select nonprofit personnel. Services through Spire Management are managed by Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE. She holds a Certified Association Executive designation from the American Society of Association Management, earned in 1993. Since 1986 she has managed a number of nonprofits, serving in roles from Executive Director to Development Director. She is a graduate of Willamette University and along with her role at Spire she writes a weekly nonprofit events column for the Statesman Journal and co-hosts a local cable access show that features nonprofits. 2 Searches are conducted by consultants under contract with WVDO/Spire. Consultants are required to have 10+ years’ experience in nonprofit fundraising and leadership, 5+ years in staff management and 3+ years in direct consulting. This combination of experience allows the consultant to view a nonprofit from the perspective of an employee and an outside consultant giving them unique opportunities to assess culture and need. Consultants are assigned to clients based on the size of the organization, position that needs to be filled, estimated time to complete the search and contacts within the community. Zach or VanNatta are always the main contact for an organization under contract with WVDO/Spire

WVDO/SPIRE’s Search Services was created to walk an organization through the process of identifying skills and attributes needed to succeed as well as build a job description, establish key criteria and shape candidate screening questions.

WVDO/SPIRE begins each search with an in-take interview with the client. This 2-hour interview reviews the position characteristics, past performance measures, management styles, metrics and organizational culture. Based on this interview, a job description is written and/or updated to include key criteria. This job description becomes the basis for job postings locally, regionally and nationally.

Positions are generally posted for three weeks on WVDO’s 1,500+ person Job Source distribution list and posted in various professional arenas appropriate to the position. Also used are WVDO Eblast and WVDO’s Confidential Database, past members and job placements. All applications are received through an electronic application service. Within this system, screening questions are asked, demographic data may be collected and ranking systems are established. The system also tracks where people received information about the posting so future listings can be targeted.

Once applications are received, they are ranked based on client criteria. Applicants receiving the highest scores are interviewed via phone. A new ranking is established. Those receiving the highest marks are scheduled for an in-person interview. Individuals geographically unable to participate in an in-person interview are scheduled for a skype interview. Based on this interview, a final ranking is established and the top 3-5 candidates are presented to the nonprofit client.

The nonprofit receives a ranking sheet of all candidates, resume, cover letter and summary of interview responses on all recommended candidates in a written report. The report summarizes key characteristics of the top candidates as well as areas to explore with the organization’s interview process.

The nonprofit should be fully ready to meet and share job requirements, salary and benefits for the position. WVDO/Spire can assist in some of these areas and in writing the job description, however. The nonprofit should be ready to provide contact information for key board and staff members for informationgathering interviews. 3 At the end of the search, the nonprofit should be prepared to perform an in-person, traditional interview with the top three to five candidates recommended From that group, a second interview that includes a short-presentation, staff meetings, etc. should be offered to the top two candidates. Reference and background checks should be performed. Additional services are available for an hourly fee including: participating in interviews, performing reference and or background checks, assisting with salary negotiations.

WVDO/SPIRE established its search service on a retainer basis; one-half of the retainer up front, and the remainder at the time of hire. Retainers are based on the base salary of the new hire. Search consultants are paid a flat rate for their service and WVDO/SPIRE works with the client to estimate a fair base salary estimate. Salary is verified.

If a candidate is not found or leaves within the first 60-days, WVDO/SPIRE will re-start the search or provide a refund to the client equal to ½ of the retainer.

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Along with Spire’s sister company, VanNatta Public Relations, we have been providing management and development services to associations  since 1968.  Services through Spire Management are managed by Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE. Searches are confidential and conducted by consultants under contract with WVDO/Spire. Consultants are required to have 10+ years’ experience in nonprofit fundraising and leadership, 5+ years in staff management, and 3+ years in direct consulting. This combination experience allows the consultant to view your organization from the perspective of an employee and an outside consultant gives them unique opportunities  to assess the culture and need of your specific organization.