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DRiWaterstone Client Stories: National Audubon Society

As an executive search firm specializing in the nonprofit and social impact space, we get the opportunity to help a diverse roster of purpose and mission-driven clients fill roles that are integral to delivering on their purpose and their strategic goals.

One such client is the National Audubon Society. We recently sat down with their Vice President of Climate, Sarah Rose, to talk about the incredible work being done at that organization, her experience working with DRiWaterstone, her advice to other leaders looking to fill a unique role, and more.

DRiWaterstone (DRiW): Tell us about the National Audubon Society and your role there.

Sarah Rose (SR): The National Audubon Society is a hemispheric-focused organization with a priority of protecting the environment, addressing climate change, and supporting communities, all with a focus on birds. We work on projects and programs that help sustain big ecosystems needed to support migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere; we work everywhere from the boreal in Canada all the way down to Chile in South America. We see birds as a way to tell the story of the interconnections and the intersections that cross communities, across differences (both geographic as well as political), and to build a community around things that people value. 

I serve as the Vice President for our climate program, leading our Audubon climate-focused work with a portfolio focused on renewable energy and transmission. 

DRiW: What are some recent projects or success stories that you’ve had that you’re particularly proud of?

SR: I am particularly proud of a report that we recently released about birds and transmission with a focus on recognizing that we as a conservation organization have a commitment to addressing climate. We wanted to dispel the myth that conservation organizations, particularly bird-focused conservation organizations, are opposed to renewable energy projects or transmission development. One of the things we need to do is make a more urgent, more efficient transition to more renewable clean electricity, and that that is going to be supported through better distribution of new transmission lines. So, we released the report and it’s given us an opportunity to open a conversation with our members, with people that we work with in local communities and States, and to join a community of practice around advancing these technologies across the country.

We’ve also been working in a number of different geographies from Canada, the U.S., and South America around managing or monitoring and identifying impacts to migratory birds through the specific tracking of individual birds. We’re then aggregating that data to give us a fuller picture of the migratory path of different species and the particular places that they need and rely on for nesting, for safe passage, for breeding and all the different phases of life. Being able to see that in a dynamic, visual way is a really cool accomplishment of the organization.

DRiW: Can you share a bit about the role that you were looking to fill when you first reached out to DRiWaterstone?

SR: I was looking to hire a person who would lead our transmission practice forward and build off of the work that we’ve done over the last couple of years to really sharpen and articulate our view on transmission and its relationship to climate change, to our energy strategy, and to our mission to protect birds.

I was looking for somebody who could grasp the policy challenge quickly, but also think about how to build a program and about the campaign elements of that – how to bring in public support and how to create a movement around support for these projects in local communities.

DRiW: Why was an executive search firm the right choice for filling that role?

SR: Because I was looking for a needle in a haystack. I wasn’t looking for just a policy expert and I wasn’t looking for just a campaign lead. I was looking for somebody who could do both of those things – somebody who understood the policy but who also understood why it was important and could explain why it was important to people who may not be connected to the issue.

I was particularly excited to find DRiWaterstone because of their connection in the community, their pipeline of candidates, their knowledge of the sector, and their particular understanding of the issues. I had a lot of confidence that they understood what I was looking for and had the ability to ask the right questions as part of the screening process, so that by the time we were talking to folks, there was a reasonable chance that these were candidates who could be competitive for the role.

I also felt like the team was creative enough in the way that they approached the criteria that we got some candidates who were not straight down the line, but who were still worth talking to and exploring. A lot of times when you go through these processes, talking to different candidates really does help clarify what you’re prioritizing, and if you only talk to the same kind of candidate, you miss the opportunity to sharpen your thinking around what you’re prioritizing and the skills and experiences that you think are going to be important for success.

DRiW: How was your experience working with the DRiWaterstone team?

SR: I think we hired the right firm for the right search. Different searches need different firms with different kinds of expertise and I’m grateful that we managed to connect with the right firm at the right time for this search.

I really enjoyed working with the team. I felt like they did an excellent job of listening to what we were asking for, but then also probing and pushing and challenging some of the things that we said. They asked what we wanted, listened, but then also added their own expertise to it which was great. I think that was one of the reasons why it was so successful is that they had an idea of what we were looking for in a more fully rounded, multi-dimensional way. They brought their own expertise and understanding of the sector and were able to find us several very good candidates – but one really outstanding candidate.

DRiW: What advice do you have for other organizations looking to hire for senior roles in the clean energy and climate space?

SR: I do think that hiring a firm that has a finger on the pulse of the community – who’s out there, what else is happening – and has a network of contacts and relationships within the sector is important because a lot of these roles are fairly specific. You’re looking for candidates who have cross functional expertise.

Having a firm partner with you in defining your candidate, defining your criteria, and then using their network to help bring those folks in makes your process go more quickly, you get a higher caliber of candidate, and you end up making your hire faster.

DRiW: What’s next for the National Audubon Society?

SR: We are kicking off a new phase of the strategic plan that we’re implementing, which has a specific focus on our climate priority in combination with an intentional focus on hemispheric protections. I’m excited to see what that looks like over the next several years. And I’m very hopeful about the purpose and the need for the work that we’re doing. I feel like we’re really building a team that’s ready to take that next step. So, I’m excited about where we’re going.

At DRiWaterstonewe have the pleasure to work with some of the best purpose and mission-driven clients and candidates in the nonprofit 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, Courtney Bickert, 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 (DRiW): How do you describe what DRiWaterstone does?

Courtney Bickert (CB): We’re an executive recruiting firm, but we’re a recruiting firm that works, and has worked for over 23 years, exclusively in the nonprofit and social purpose space.  We see our role in that space as a very important one because we’re working to match amazing, powerful talent to organizations with important, essential missions.

DRiW: How do you describe your role at DRiWaterstone?

CB: One of the things that’s unique about DRiWaterstone is that our Senior Consultants lead the searches ourselves – so we’re not only engaging regularly with the client, but we’re also doing a lot of the work on the back end as well.

We basically do everything. We all lead our business development, that is, (finding organizations with an important mission who need to find the right talent for a specific role or roles).We then work with clients to figure out what the positions are, getting position overviews written in a way that reflects both the culture and the values of the organization, as well as the role they’re hiring for.

We look for candidates. I make a lot of phone calls - to my network, to people I find through LinkedIn, and to people in our database - to identify the right people and put together a robust pool of candidates for the client to review. And then we work with the clients all the way through until they are making an offer and even afterwards.

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

CB: Culture is key. We know that culture is important to talent these days - it’s important that they feel like they’re working someplace that’s doing something good for the world and for society.

More and more, people are choosing an employer that has a consistent, strong, positive culture and where it’s not just talk about work-life balance, or a good place to exchange ideas. People sense that lack of authenticity very quickly when they’re interviewing and they’re being picky! They want to go to a place that has a supportive culture, where culture isn’t just a set of values on your website, but something that’s lived in the organization. So, take the time to identify the cultural niche that your organization has and really live into it.

We know that in the social impact space, often you’re not rewarding people through salaries as much as corporates can. So how are you rewarding the team? How are you encouraging your staff? How are they talking about your organization to people who might want to come in? It’s important in attracting new talent that your current talent is happy where they are.

Read part two of the conversation with Courtney.

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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