Engaging with the third sector – a better way
17th Oct, 2019
In our latest blog, Engage Director Patrick Minne considers some of the differences in leadership challenges between third and private sectors.
If you think the pace of change in the private sector is accelerating, you should try working in the third sector. The majority of the sector is exclusively focused on the welfare of its beneficiaries, but there has been some history of charities being forced to compete with their peers for the same pots of dwindling grant funding. Some big, competitive egoes dominated executive teams and charity boards, defending their patches. Life was a lot simpler in the for-profit sector where decisions tend to be more binary – profit v no profit.
Now, many grant funding sources have dwindled to nothing, and charities are increasingly relying on new ways to generate income, often adopting commercial tactics to do so, with help from bodies like Social Enterprise NI and UCIT. No surprise, then, that they extend their senior executive and trustee recruitment searches to the private and public sectors, in the hope they can further ‘professionalise’ their organisations and tap into sympathetic corporate networks. But smooth assimilation of executives new to the third sector is not a given. Marshalling the expertise of volunteer trustees can feel like herding cats; maximising the impact of shoestring budgets can be as much art as it is business; and you have to adapt to the very existence of the organisation being subordinate to the wellbeing of the beneficiaries it serves.
Traditional, private sector recruitment agencies are, of course, guided by the binary profit question. Their priority is to fill each post for the client who is paying for the privilege, but the candidate can get neglected if their interests aren’t seen as being in perfect alignment with the employer’s. In the minority, thankfully, are those agencies who will pressure candidates into taking a job so they can collect at appointment time, then walk away. In a June 2019 survey of members of Chief Officers 3rd Sector (CO3), 52% of non-profits who had used recruitment consultants reported feeling they didn’t get value for money. On the flipside, candidates too feel underwhelmed – “As an active job seeker, it’s dispiriting to see how organisations and not just agencies treat job seekers” tweeted one former third sector leader in September.
CO3 set about designing a new executive recruitment agency model that would address concerns around trust and relationship building. The new model incorporates a much deeper dive into the culture and values of a prospective employer, including by embedding the consultant with them, well before the candidate search begins. The model exploits CO3’s networks of third, private and public sector contacts built up over its thirty year history to assist in the search, in addition to its 800-strong membership, and offers all the procedural heavy lifting required to unburden clients of administrative overheads.
Uniquely, it offers support to both the candidate and the employer in the form of access to CO3’s mentoring, training, mediation and peer networking services (including for instance a ‘New to Post CEO’ group). That approach helps the employer/postholder relationship gel in its crucial early months, as well as fostering links to supportive networks in the long term.
The new model was launched in September under the brand name Engage Executive Talent and you can find more details at engageexec.co.uk about its fully supported Permanent Executive, Interim Executive and Board Recruitment services.
For more information you can contact Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.