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Leadership Columbus

How an Ohio Nonprofit Dedicated to Training Leaders Found a New Leader of Its Own

The Challenge

Leadership Columbus–the premier leadership development organization in Columbus, Ohio– provides education and training for the individuals who steer businesses, guide nonprofits, craft legislation, energize cultural life, and generally contribute to the city’s growth and prosperity. When the organization’s long-time Executive Director retired, its Board of Directors knew they had big shoes to fill. Their selection of a new executive would, in many ways, help to shape the city’s future. 

As such, the volunteer board was committed to conducting a structured, inclusive, and equitable search for their new Executive Director. Understanding the importance of an effective search process–and the benefit of dedicated, objective counsel–the board of Leadership Columbus engaged Benefactor Group in 2021.

The Three-Phase Search Process

Leadership Columbus engaged Benefactor Group to conduct a three-phase search process to hire its next Executive Director. 

Phase One: Discovery 

The process began with an extensive discovery phase: conducting surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews with diverse stakeholders (including volunteers, and a cross-section of community leaders in business, government, higher ed, and philanthropy). These conversations provided clarity around the competencies and experience necessary for success.

They also illuminated a clear opportunity for the incoming Executive Director: the flexibility to write the next chapter of the organization’s history, while building on a solid, respected foundation. Leadership Columbus has earned the trust of the community through 46 years of reliable results and over 200 successful community projects. The next executive would build on those strengths–while also rising to meet the demands of a growing city and evolving community interests.

Phase Two: Search 

In the search phase, Benefactor Group employed advanced search techniques to identify and approach potential candidates about the role. Knowing some of the best candidates are unlikely to respond to an ad, consultants leveraged their networks, as well as the expansive network of the search committee (a volunteer body composed of board members and community leaders), to identify additional individuals to invite to consider the opportunity. 

Benefactor Group reviewed dozens of applications and assessed each candidate’s alignment with the qualifications set forth in the discovery phase. After extensive vetting, the team put forward a slate of candidates for consideration and further interviewing by the search committee. 

Phase Three: The Offer and Ongoing Support

After a competitive, thorough interview process, the Leadership Columbus board selected Shannon Lee to serve as the organization’s new Executive Director. Benefactor Group worked with the board to negotiate the offer, install Shannon into her role, and provide ongoing coaching and support. 

A Leader of Leaders

Shannon joined the Leadership Columbus community after spending the last 10 years as executive director of another leadership development program. And with more than 25 total years of experience working in nonprofits, education and sales leadership–as well as formal training as a teacher and principal–Shannon brings both leadership development expertise and a deep understanding of pedagogy to the role. She’s committed to helping leaders reevaluate the way they approach the role of supervisor or manager. Her goal is to create a permanent shift in the way they think. 

“During the interview process, I remarked to my husband, ‘I don’t know who will get this job. But I know whoever is selected will definitely be the right person for the job because Benefactor Group has been so thorough.

– Shannon Lee, Executive Director, Leadership Columbus

Since beginning her tenure on March 8, 2021, Shannon has worked with the Leadership Columbus team to: 

  • Add a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) framework to Leadership Columbus’ Signature Program
  • Launch NxGen, a development program for young leaders
  • Create ExecGen, a six-month training program for professionals with 20-25 years of management experience 
  • Expand nonprofit board leadership training programs to offer customized workshops for area businesses
  • Incorporate DEIA into every training program Leadership Columbus offers, including sessions on trauma-based leadership and DEIA-focused emotional intelligence 

Furthermore, Shannon has updated Leadership Columbus’s own internal policies and procedures to ensure an equitable experience for every staff member. 

With Shannon at the helm, Leadership Columbus continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of the region’s leaders.

Our Services

Benefactor Group knows what it takes to conduct an equitable, well-structured search aimed at finding qualified leaders for nonprofits of all kinds. Furthermore, Benefactor Group can help your nonprofit navigate:

  • The executive search process
  • Capital campaign planning
  • Conducting a campaign feasibility study
  • Strategic planning and goal setting
  • Endowment building
  • Creating a culture of philanthropy at your organization
  • Implementing general development best practices
  • Nonprofit technology, systems, and data

Want to learn more about the services Benefactor Group provides? Let’s talk.

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