(Enjoy this article written by Victoria Wilson about our new service line!)

Willamette Valley Development Officers Partners with Spire Management to Bring Executive Search Services to Salem and the Mid-Valley.

By Victoria Wilson

If you have ever been on a nonprofit board, faced with hiring an executive director (ED) or development director (DD) you know it can be a challenge. Hire from within?  Look outside the region?  What skills do we need?  How does a group of volunteer board members conduct a fair and thorough search in the limited time available?  These issues have been addressed successfully by WVDO (Willamette Valley Development Officers). Their Executive Search Services (ESS) has placed many executives and development directors, primarily in the Portland area, but they have been experiencing an increasing demand for the services over the past few years.

Oftentimes when nonprofits look to fill an executive position, they are unsure of how the process should go, and more importantly, what kind of criteria should govern it. An executive has tremendous influence on the organization, serving as its primary representative, and is viewed by the board members as the boss. Therefore this person must be a true “match,” possessing fundraising credentials that fit the culture and needs of the organization. Input from professionals who have extensive experience in nonprofit management helps the hiring process seem less daunting, by prioritizing certain credentials and delivering in-depth analyses of candidates.

WVDO executive director Agnes Zach, who created and managed the program said, “Volunteer board members are starting to realize how time consuming and challenging an executive search can be. Because so many groups seek this service and many nonprofits are located south of Portland, we wanted to be able to serve the Mid-Valley better with local representation and relationships.” That’s when WVDO reached out to Spire Management to serve Salem, Albany, Corvallis and Eugene.

Spire Management, the association management counterpart of VanNatta Public Relations, is owned and operated by G. Harvey Gail and Mary Louise VanNatta. Both have served as nonprofit executive directors and have over 25 years’ experience in association management and fundraising. Gail holds an MBA from Willamette University in management and VanNatta has her Certified Association Executive Designation from the American Society of Association Executives.

How the search works:

  • The search committee is a team of highly qualified consultants who have 10+ years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and leadership, ensuring that selecting a new ED or DD will be done with expertise.
  • The ESS provide specialized, comprehensive guidance by walking 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.
  • While positions are posted in an online hiring program, WVDO and Spire Management also recruits actively throughout the community, and does follow-ups on leads to potential candidates. This is key for many organizations.
  • After reviewing applications, the team ranks candidates on approved criteria and facilitates two rounds of interviews. A final ranking is established, and the top three to five candidates are presented to the nonprofit. From there, the client interviews and selects their ED or DD.
  • Ideally the process takes about six weeks, depending upon the speed at which the nonprofit can make decisions. The cost of the service is determined by a percentage of the position’s salary. ESS has already assisted multiple organizations in selecting ED and DD positions, including Albina Opportunities Corporation, Children’s Healing Art Project, Portland Opera, Oregon Humane Society, Metropolitan Family Services, Portland Children’s Museum, William Temple House, SMART, SOLV, and High Desert Museum.
  • At the end of the consulting process, the client will have multiple candidates to choose from who could be the “perfect match” for their nonprofit’s culture and needs.


WVDO/SPIRE’s goal is to create strong, stable nonprofit leadership that will engage in the community.


To learn more visit www.SpireManagement.com or call 503-371-7457.

Victoria Wilson is a student at George Fox University studying business management.

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