Your mission is only as strong as your people. Every day, staff members make decisions, large and small, that will determine whether your organization fulfills its mission and adheres to your intent. Here are four steps to increase the likelihood of successful hires.
• Choose the right CEO: Aside from your choice of board, picking the man or woman who will lead your foundation is the most crucial decision you will make. No matter where your search leads you—even among friends and family—be diligent in vetting your choice. You may know an individual’s professional credentials but not his core values, her personal attributes but not her philosophy of private philanthropy. No matter how eager you are to get your grantmaking off the ground, don’t risk hiring a CEO who is not aligned with your beliefs and goals.
• Evaluate beliefs, philosophy, and integrity for all staff members: You and your foundation’s executive should take time to understand the philosophical underpinnings of each potential staff member. Pay particular attention to program staff who will play a significant role in your grantmaking, but get to know your administrative staff as well. Don’t assume that administrative staff have little influence on office culture and practice.
• Create a culture of fidelity to donor intent: Deviations from donor intent should be addressed immediately, but your long-term goal isn’t to create a culture of fear. Rather, your goal is shared values, genuine care, and reverence for central principles. Look to build traditions and practices within your operations that create loyalty to your intentions among the people throughout your organization. Cultivate your staff members over time. Invest in their professional development and give them increased responsibility as they show a greater appreciation and understanding of your foundation’s mission.
• Consider time-limiting your foundation: Sunsetting can be a simple solution to concerns about future staff composition in the absence of a living donor. If you choose this route, be sure to have attractive incentives in place to retain key staff up to the shutdown.