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DRiWaterstone Client Stories: Help Heal Veterans

At DRiWaterstone Human Capital, we have the opportunity to help a diverse roster of clients fill roles that are integral to their ability to meet their strategic goals. We are also fortunate to work with some of the best candidates in the non-profit and social impact space.

And sometimes we’re lucky enough to work with an outstanding candidate who turns into a client.

Meet Joe McClain, Chief Executive Officer at Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets). “For 50 years, Help Heal Veterans has made a real difference in the lives of America’s veterans by helping them heal from the visible and invisible wounds of war through creativity and therapeutic crafts. Founded during the Vietnam War, Heal Vets supplies craft therapy kits free of charge to active duty military and veterans undergoing health care and is the nation’s leader in using craft therapy.”

DRiWaterstone helped place Joe at Heal Vets. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Joe and the Heal Vets team on several different projects, including a Board assessment, two Board member searchers (that resulted in four Board members acquired), and the search for a Vice President of Development.

We recently sat down with Joe to catch up and learn more about his experience working with the DRiWaterstone team.

DRiWaterstone Human Capital (DRiW): Let’s talk about your experience as a candidate first. What was it like working with DRiWaterstone?

Joe McClain (JM): What resonated with me most was that they had a transparent process. Obviously, the recruiting team wanted to know that they were getting the best candidate for the client, but I also felt that they were open and honest with me as the candidate around what to expect. It was important that I was a good fit, but also that I felt like I would be a good fit too.

As a result, I knew what I was getting into. Nothing was sugar coated – I knew there were some problems that would need to be solved, but because it was out in the open, I felt like it gave me a leg up as to how to approach the problems. It also gave me the assurance there was good work I could do here. I knew going in what the Board as looking for and it gave me the opportunity to tell my story and highlight what I could bring to the fight. That assurance had a lot to do with how things were presented to me and the integrity of the process.

DRiW: As a client, why did you choose to work with a retained executive search firm to fill this role?

JM: In my previous role, I was hired by a different firm, and I have used [that firm] to fill roles in the past. So, I’m not unfamiliar with the process. I had a very positive experience with DRiWaterstone and that team, and that led me to hire them to do our Board work.

We’ve now done a Board assessment, Board member searches, and we’re now in the middle of a search for a Vice President of Development.

I knew how important it was to find the right fit for our culture. As part of our assessment, we needed a bit of a culture change – to make us more diverse, younger, more gender diverse as well. We wanted to bring in some non-veterans and people with a strong business sense.

We’re a unique non-profit, so I wasn’t just looking for a Board member who could put their name on the wall and make us look good. We needed people who we could lean on, people who wanted to contribute idea and, in seeking true diversity, people who weren’t already in our network.

We get all of our funding through small individual donors. In these situations, you want to get strong ROI on the person you bring in, to show donors that their money was well spent on the search, and that the people you’re bringing aboard will increase the impact you make in service of others. DRiWaterstone helped us with that.

DRiW: What surprised you most about working with the DRiWaterstone team?

JM: I don’t know if it’s surprising, but what I’ve come to value with DRiWaterstone is the honest advice and assessment, and the sense of integrity they have. They also have an ownership mindset – when they come in, it’s not the typical vendor client relationship. I always feel they have our best interests at heart; they tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. They also aren’t afraid to give advice – and having worked with them on a few things, they’ve really come to understand our culture, our needs, and our values and so we can have a good conversation about the type of person we need to hire to grow, not just type of person we think we need.

DRiW: How did DRiWaterstone help set your search up for success?

JM: The process. It starts with a good conversation around the need and what’s driving that need. It’s not just “give me your job description and we’ll go find someone.” They help with developing that job description so that it reflects the true need of the organization.

Also, with their experience in other searches they understand the marketplace, they understand what kind of person will resonate with us, they know where to search to find the kind of person you might need.  

DRiW: How would you describe the quality of candidates that you met as part of your search?

JM: Excellent. We’ve brought on four Board members with DRiWaterstone, and all four have been outstanding people who’ve brought an energy and a different way of doing things to our deliberations. They’ve brought a lot of passion, a “roll up your sleeves” approach, and have been great partners for me as a CEO as far as offering advice on areas that I may not have experience in. I’d say they’ve helped bring diversity, energy, and excitement to our Board.

In our current search, there are some candidates that are coming in with a different skill set than I imagined, but I can see that they will do a good job. These are people we would not have found without DRiWaterstone.

DRiW: What did you learn about your organization during this process?

JM:  We work hard to fulfill our mission for those we serve every day, so it’s not new to us, the impact we make or the stories we tell.  But it’s always surprising and refreshing when someone new experiences the impact Heal Vets makes for the first time.  We feel their excitement and it validates our core mission and values. It energizes us to keep growing and changing to meet the needs of veterans. People come in and they see the factory, talk to our vets, they get emotional about the difference we make, and it reinforces the importance of what we do and creates more excitement to keep going. Just having new people see it, with a fresh set of eyes, not only helps identify new opportunities you can take advantage of, but it brings new passion to help you going forward.

I was a pilot in the U.S. Navy. We used to say in flying and joining a new squadron that you’ve got three to six months before you become part of the problem. At first, upon joining, it’s all “why do you it this way” and “why do you do it that way” – asking a lot of questions. But after a while it becomes “we’ve always done it that way,” and you stop asking the questions. So, having people come in and question the status quo is important and that’s what the people we’ve brought in do.

DRiW: What advice do you have for other non-profit organizations looking to attract top talent in today’s job market?

JM:  I think having the right folks on your team is critical. We have a very small shop with a very small bench. And we have donors who we are responsible to. That donor dollar is important – we owe it to people to spend their dollars in the right way, and in a way that will have the biggest impact. So, it’s important that you find the right person when you’re hiring, to make sure that your investment goes toward getting the right person on your team. You need someone like DRiWaterstone to make sure that you get the right person the first time – to make sure you get an honest assessment of the process so you can be successful and not just trying to fill a seat or a quota.

At DRiWaterstonewe have the pleasure to work with some of the best mission and purpose-driven clients and candidates in the non-profit and social impact space. To learn more about how we can help you build your high-performance teams and drive growth, email us – we’d love to talk!

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Meet DRiWaterstone’s senior team! This week, we’re sitting down with Senior Consultant, BJ Davis, to find out, in her own words, what drives her and why DRiWaterstone is one of North America’s top executive search firms for the non-profit and social impact sectors.


DRiWaterstone Human Capital (DRiW):  How do you describe what the organization does?

BJ Davis (BJD): Usually I say that we’re a women-founded, women-led firm that works with mission-driven and purpose-drive organizations in the social sector to ensure they have the right leaders to continue to make an impact.

I lean into the fact that we’re women-led. Jennifer and Nancy have been doing this for 22 years and everyone here, we all know this industry inside and out. We’ve all sat in seats like CEO, founder, Chief People Officer and more, so we know what we’re looking for and what we’re talking about.

DRiW: Why should mission and purpose-driven organizations consider working with a firm like DRiWaterstone to fill their leadership roles?

BJD: One, is the amount of time and energy it takes for organizations to do it themselves. That translates into a loss on ROI – they’re losing time if they’re recruiting, identifying and interviewing 30 people. If you’re really invested in finding that right person, that’s going to take a lot of time, learning, and people hours invested in the process.

The other thing is our ability to dig into the nooks and crannies, to find that niche person. Even if you’re working with one consultant, we talk to each other, we ask our team to go into their networks – and they have big networks. So, anyone we work with will get our history, our database, and all the consultants digging into their networks, and to find candidates you didn’t even know you had access to.

It's such a tight market now, and there’s been a bit of an exodus from the non-profit space. So, we have to be able to navigate that and find the talent – some left non-profit and want to come back, some are new talent coming up the ranks, and some are for-profit talent where we can help translate their skills to non-profit. Either way, we show our clients that we bring the best of the best to the table, and that we can read not just what’s on paper or on a resume, but that we read our clients, their culture, and understand what alignment means to them.

And to do that for the candidates too. That’s where it all comes together. Having that perspective increases the likelihood that the candidates we present are above and beyond what the client would have been able to recruit themselves.

DRiW: What advice do you have for organizations looking to attract top talent in today's job market?

BJD: First, be transparent – about your culture, about who you are, and about what you’re looking for. Second, don’t be afraid to let those who may not be in leadership roles shine and speak for your organization. And finally, listen. Listen to your talent. Not everything is going to make sense or fit, but having someone feel valued, and having candidates or employees who know that they are valued, and who know that no matter where they sit in the hierarchy that they have a voice and have agency and are leaders, I think that’s what a lot of people I’ve talked to or hired over the last five years have been looking for.


At DRiWaterstone, we work with mission and purpose-driven organizations across the U.S. to help them build mission and purpose driven teams. We’d love the chance to work with you – reach out today and book a meeting with our team and find out how we can help.

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