How can we ensure that a candidate in a vice president for advancement search is a good fit for our institution?
The core question about fit should be “what are the critical success factors for an effective vice president for advancement here.” It is easy to throw general criteria into the mix (e.g., likable, good fund raiser, good manager, etc.), but try to define what is really meant by these and other stated priorities.
Professional search counsel can provide nuance in developing the position profile, but not until the search committee and campus leadership have first come to terms with what is really most critical. Advancement is clearly about effective fundraising. But oftentimes the critical path to success may well lie with strong organization, planning, and team/volunteer leadership skills as much or more than a personal track record of attracting major gifts.
Some questions the search committee may want to ask itself are:
- Where should this advancement program be in five years, and what will it take to get us there?
- What is the president’s level of interest and ability in fundraising, and how much guidance and personal involvement will s/he need from the vice president?
- What role will planning and execution play in shaping future success (e.g., for growth, or a campaign, or ongoing operations) and what should be the expectations for the vice president in these realms?
- Since “advancement” is more than fundraising alone, how experienced and cognizant of best practices should this vice president be in the areas of alumni relations, marketing and communications, community and legislative relations, and the panoply of prospect research, gift reporting, event management, database management and other support services?