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Chief Operating Officer:

Leading Non-Profit Organization

The Wolf team was identified and engaged as the partner to the CEO and ELT to conduct a newly created Chief Operating Officer search for this leading non-profit organization. The COO would play an integral role leading the aggressive transformation strategy. Paramount to achieving growth targets, the new COO would focus on building relevant and effective infrastructure, systems and technology and HR platforms to enable the non-profit to scale up in the short-term. The COO would be charged with driving cultural change fostering a high-performance environment focused on driving value for all stakeholders.

The challenges included securing stakeholder buy-in, balancing non-profit compensation with target candidate criteria, cultural fit and candidate motivation factors. Wolf’s strategy required deploying a custom target candidate strategy focused on securing candidates with the right technical skills and right motivation for the opportunity. Wolf conducted rigorous candidate vetting to ensure candidates brought the exact business acumen and mission-based values.

Company Life Stage - Large scale transformation stage of a leading non-profit that ignited the organization name change and requisite branding campaign. Mission is to broadly contemporize and deliver operational excellence to optimize the membership and corporate partnership experience and prepare to scale.

Situation – Lean and fast-growing organization operating like a 20-year start-up. The COO role was newly created as an integral part of transformation strategy. In order to hit growth targets, the new COO would focus on building the right infrastructure, systems and technology to support the scale up initiative.

Challenges & Opportunities

  • Stakeholder Buy-In - High exposure search with multiple stakeholders including internal organization team, Board of Directors and corporate partners.
  • Balancing Compensation with Target Candidate Criteria - Attracting executive level candidates with the optimal skills, capabilities and leadership competencies created a potential challenges due to the commensurate non-profit compensation ranges.
  • Candidate Fit and Motivation Factors - Challenge of identifying and vetting potential candidates for the right motivation and cultural fit. Balancing candidate attraction to the cache and allure of a COO role in a mission-based organization with the reality of leading an aggressive transformation strategy in a lean organization.

Optimal Fit Factors

  • Operational excellence expert; future focused and practical visionary; relentless pursuit of ‘better’ practices
  • High EQ, ego-free; genuine and real, non-political; tough-minded but able to lead, influence and collaborate across all stakeholder groups
  • Confident and commanding business presence; adept at public speaking
  • Strategic change and transformation shaper and agent
  • Builder of high performing and highly engaged teams; relentlessly pursues culture of accountability, performance and learning


  • Developed a custom target candidate search strategy casting a wide net to source strong diversity candidates from current organization’s industry verticals served and new verticals with heightened focus on technology.
  • Deployed a rigorous candidate vetting process with multiple steps to filter for the truth in candidate motivation for the opportunity as well as ideal behavioral traits to include capability to thrive in ambiguity, mature and ego-free leadership style aligned with non-profit leadership stakeholder accountability factors.
  • Given the sense of urgency to fill the role and volume of interested candidates, deployed an earlier than usual ‘check-in’ calibration session with regular cadence meetings, to make candidate decisions along the way.

Search Cycle Results


Days from Search Initiation to Candidate Slate Intro


# of Candidates Presented


Days from Search Initiation to Candidate Acceptance


Diversity Candidate Slate Delivery

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