Jennifer Dunlap, President & CEO, Nancy Racette, Principal & COO, DRiJennifer Dunlap, President & CEO, Nancy Racette, Principal & COO
Non-profits need to be rigorous, not ruthless, in determining who should be in their organizations, and in which seats. Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great.

Having the right candidate in a senior leadership role significantly impacts an organization’s ability to achieve its potential. It is therefore crucial for non-profit organizations to invest the necessary time and resources to attract and retain such leaders. But identifying and evaluating candidates extensively to see whether they match up against the open position is no easy task for any organization, let alone non-profits.

Enter Development Resources, inc. (DRi), an industry-leading executive search firm that recruits senior executives on behalf of non-profit organizations to help them mutually grow, thrive, and excel.

DRi was founded by two industry experts, Jennifer Dunlap and Nancy Racette, in 2001. The duo leads the company as President & CEO and Principal & COO respectively, with an intention to provide high-quality executive search services to social enterprise organizations - non-profits, foundations, associations, and companies with a social responsibility ethos.

Since its inception, DRi has collaborated with over 750 non-profits to conduct over 1000 searches and helped them achieve success by developing an innovative and holistic approach to searching and recruiting cutting-edge leaders. The firm is also the only one in the market to employ a dedicated Candidate Stewardship manager to safeguard clients’ reputations amongst every candidate, no matter whether they get selected for a position or not.

In an interview with Manage HR magazine, Jennifer talks about how DRi’s decades-long expertise helping non-profit and social enterprise organizations find the right-fit executives.

What kind of challenges are the non-profits facing today in terms of leadership, and how is DRi addressing them?

The current hiring situation is perhaps the most challenging scenario I have witnessed in the past two decades. While there are many factors, such as the direct impact of the pandemic and the onset of the “great resignation,” where people are thinking differently about what they want to do or whom they want to work for. Combined with that, in the early days of the COVID-19, many non-profit organizations had put a hold on their hiring, resulting in the sudden recent surge in hiring, which is all leading to a labor shortage. Also, organizations are focused on running an inclusive hiring process while attempting to complete the whole recruitment process in minimal time through rigorous evaluations. All of this combines to create an incredibly competitive and challenging hiring market.

Therefore, many organizations are reaching out to executive search firms like ours to navigate this challenging market scenario.

What, according to you, makes DRi stand apart in the market?

Our company stands on four pillars mission, transparency, trust, and candidate experience. We are a mission-focused organization that believes in conducting transparent search processes to build trust with our clients while providing an unmatched experience to the candidates.

Nancy, I, and most of our team members have had direct experience working in leadership positions in the non-profit sector. We understand the nuances of the environment and know the mission and passion that drive people to work in this sector. Accordingly, we spend time chalking out the requirements of our clients, not just for the position but for the overall organization. Based on that, our communications team develops detailed job overviews that deliver the organizational message to get people excited about the job opportunity. We maintain complete transparency in our search process by providing regular updates and insights to clients. Clients have full transparency into the search process through our client portal and can see whom we are talking to, what we like or do not like in the candidates, and share their thoughts on candidates early on in the process. Many of our clients have attested that they value this level of transparency and dedicated partnership while working with us.

We understand the complexities of the environment and know the mission and passion that drive people to work in this sector

Another thing that sets us apart is that we believe that candidates should feel valued and respected throughout the process. To the end, our dedicated Candidate Stewardship team works closely with the search consultants and the candidates to make sure everyone is aware of what’s going on and that they have all the information they need to be successful. This ensures that at the end of the search, regardless of whether the candidates get the position, they feel valued and respected by the clients and DRi.

How has DRi aligned itself as a company to better serve clients in the wake of the pandemic and post-pandemic world?

Remote interviewing has become even more critical during the pandemic. We have been using video conferencing tools to work with our clients in real-time for many years. These technologies have positively impacted our business and how we function in several ways. For instance, we do not need to move everyone to the same location for meetings and collaborations now. We harness the power of solutions such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams to accelerate the search process and deliver a seamless experience to clients and candidates.

There is an ongoing trend where people desire to be a part of a more mission-based organization. As a result, we are being approached by candidates who want to work in the non-profit or social enterprise sector. We have been capitalizing on this because our experience allows us to guide them through this journey. DRi also helps our clients understand how the market is changing and becoming more competitive day by day and how fast they have to move to stay competitive. We show them how to navigate the market and be aligned with it in a way they probably did not need to do before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please share some scenarios to elaborate on how you nurture a healthy relationship with your clients?

We have two kinds of success scenarios. First, we have long-term clients whom we have helped build a significant number of their senior-level teams. Our company nurtures the relationship by understanding the culture of organizations and then utilizing the knowledge to attract and evaluate candidates to find the best fit for both the candidate and the client. For instance, we have been collaborating with AARP, one of the most prominent non-profit organizations in the US, on multiple hirings since the early 2000s. Many of our clients are repeat clients who have been with us for a long time because they trust us and have faith in our expertise.

Lastly, we help clients figure out why some positions have been revolving doors and how to mitigate the situation. Because of our collective experience in leading large teams and managing large non-profit organizations, we can help our clients understand how to improve the likely hood of success of a candidate, break that cycle, and improve staff retention.

What are the milestones DRi has achieved so far, and what lies ahead for the company in the next 12 to 18 months?

This year our company is celebrating its 20th anniversary and completing over a thousand searches. We are proud to have been continuously nominated in the list' of Forbes top executives' search firms.

Moving ahead, we are actively expanding beyond the non-profit sector into the social enterprise sector. We are looking forward to working with mission-driven organizations, both profit or non-profit, and assisting them in hiring candidates who are equally motivated and aligned with the company culture. Though we started in the non-profit sector, now we want to bring our passionate expertise to drive other enterprises towards success. As a result, we are broadening, building, and expanding our business to better serve the entire social enterprise community