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One Year Later: An In-Depth Conversation with Howard University’s Amber Haywood 

In 2022, we did a search for Howard University, a private historically black research institution in Washington DC. Howard is one of the highest producers of black professionals in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, religion, social work, and education. In our 20-plus years of business, we have placed over 1,000 candidates, and it is great to reconnect with them. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Amber Haywood, who we placed as Director of Development for the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work at Howard University. One year after being placed, we learned more about the role, what projects she has enjoyed working on, and advice for candidates looking for their next executive position in today’s job market, among other key topics. 

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DRiW: Talk about your role and what you’re responsible for.  

AH: I serve as the Director of Development for the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work, which means I serve as a frontline fundraiser for those schools and a strategic partner to the Deans of the respective schools. I’m responsible for stewarding and managing the individual giving portfolio and bolstering the institutional giving portfolio at the major gifts level.  

DRiW: What attracted you to the position and the University?  

AH: The position was uniquely aligned with my skill set and my background. I’ve spent most of my career in education, working on issues around educational equity. I’ve also straddled the development world, working for many social justice and racial equity causes at the grassroots level and in larger, more established nonprofit organizations. I also have a background as a community organizer and did a lot of work through my church around issues of homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, and a lot of issues that were plaguing low-income communities. The Director of Development for the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work position was aligned with my interests. Howard also had a mission I wanted to contribute to. 

DRiW: What initiatives or projects have you worked on this past year that you’ve enjoyed?  

AH: One of my favorite things has been building the Case for Support for the schools. The largest school brought on a Director of Development; my schools were the smallest of three schools at the University. So, when I came on, there was a lot of foundational work to get them towards being a world-class development shop and to have all the resources and materials they needed to acquire funding. So, the Case for Support has been a really fun project. I took the history, the programs, and the mission, and then coupled that with the strategic plan and the vision of the schools I work with.  

I’ve enjoyed building out the Case for Support through predominantly text and visual cues. I’ve also worked on the corresponding one-pagers, and it’s been nice to feel like I’m returning to my roots as a Head of Development, or back to when I was a Communications Director.  

Also, testing out our new Case for Support with potential funders and seeing the impact that has had has been great. It has been resonating with partners who may not consider becoming donors to the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work. That’s been a fun and fruitful project I’ve worked on.  

DRiW: Can you describe your experience working with the DRiWaterstone team?  

AH: It has been incredible. I have told everybody about it. Whenever a friend is looking for a job, especially in development, where at this level, the development process is long, I recommend reachingtout to the DRiWaterstone team. Even finding the role was because of the team. I applied for a different position and talked to the DRiWaterstone team. They said that position was too junior, and they had another role that they thought I would be uniquely aligned with and well positioned for. Such an intentionality was given to me as a candidate. They learned about who I was and matched me with an opportunity, and I don’t think I could have found a better fit for myself on my own. It was an incredibly supportive process, and working with the team was great.  

DRiW: How was your experience with DRiWaterstone compared to other search firms you may have previously worked with?  

AH: With other firms, it felt like they were working on behalf of the organization, and it was more of them scheduling and coordinating things for me – here is where you need to be and when you need to be there – and that was the extent of the relationship. Working with DRiWaterstone was different, and it was really surprising. It was more of looking for fits from both sides and connecting people to the causes that resonate with them and the job opportunities aligned with their unique skills, talents, and passions.  

DRiW: What advice do you have for other nonprofit executive candidates in today’s job market?  

AH: The advice would be to acknowledge, celebrate, and document your wins. It’s so important to have examples of the impact that you’ve had. Add them to your LinkedIn, but also have them in your documents on your computer, because when you enter the job market, and you’re trying to interview and tell those stories of impact, it’s amazing how much memory can fail us when we’re put on the spot and we’re looking for a role. Another thing I would say is to leave gracefully. Many candidates stay in positions where they’re feeling burnt out and don’t feel supported or appreciated. I think leaving gracefully when you realize that there’s no fit or a huge value misalignment is great because then you can leave on good terms. And these are people who would gladly give you references for other jobs. 

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At DRiWaterstone, we have the pleasure of working with some of the best clients and candidates in the nonprofit and social impact space. To learn more about how we can help you build high-performance teams and drive growth, email us – we’d love to talk!  

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Executive hiring in the nonprofit and social impact sectors can be complex, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. And according to Forbes, December averages 26% fewer new hires than the typical month. But just because the festivities are in full swing, doesn't mean that organizations can put off identifying and securing top-tier talent for key leadership roles. This blog will explore targeted strategies for navigating executive hiring during the holidays, ensuring a smooth and successful recruitment process.  

1. Flexible Interview Scheduling  

"Recognizing the significance of flexible interviewing schedules during the holiday season is not just a gesture; it's a strategic commitment to attracting top-tier talent," says Julio Suarez, managing director at DRiWaterstone. "By doing so, it demonstrates both our interest in a candidate, as well as our respect for their time and priorities. This creates an environment where exceptional candidates feel valued, ensuring our quest for excellence remains unwavering, even during the festivities."  

During the holidays, flexibility is key. Consider virtual interviews for convenience and provide interview slots during early mornings or after hours to align with varied schedules during the season. Additionally, you may need to provide a longer lead time for decision-making, considering your candidates' needs. Integrating these flexible options can enhance efficiency and the overall candidate experience in your holiday hiring process.   

2. Emphasize the Impact of the Position  

Because of the busy nature of the holiday season and to capture candidates' attention, it's important to take the time to highlight the transformative potential of the executive role in your organization. Executives in the nonprofit sector often seek positions where they can significantly impact society. Craft your job descriptions and outreach messages to underscore the meaningful change the incoming executive can facilitate, aligning their professional aspirations with your organization's mission. Setting your unique opportunity apart is crucial to attracting purpose and mission-driven talent. 

3. Consider Hiring a Retained Executive Search Firm  

The holiday season is a busy time for nonprofit and social impact organizations. Enlisting the services of a retained executive search firm can free up your team to focus on mission-critical activities while still achieving your hiring needs. These firms (like ours) specialize in identifying and securing top-tier executive talent, alleviating the burden on your organization's internal resources. Retained search firms bring expertise, industry knowledge, and a vast network to streamline recruitment, allowing your team to focus on essential year-end activities.  

4. Personalized Outreach  

Executive candidates are often busy with crucial end-of-year activities during the holiday season. Because of this, it is important to take the time to conduct a personalized approach when reaching out to potential candidates for your opportunity to stand out. Candidates appreciate tailored communication acknowledging their expertise and the value they can bring to your organization. Craft compelling messages that highlight your nonprofit's unique value proposition and the critical role the executive will play in advancing your mission.   

Work With Us on Your Next Executive Search this Holiday Season.  

For over 20 years, we have been dedicated to matching mission and purpose-driven organizations with top purpose-driven candidates. Our team of experts has developed an extensive network and knowledge of the nonprofit and social impact sectors, and we excel in helping our clients find the best possible talent to support their growth and performance goals.   

Let's start a conversation—contact us today to talk to one of our dedicated team members.  

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