As executive search consultants, it’s our job to help philanthropic organizations attract the best pool of candidates available. To that end, one of the most important areas of discussion is the issue of remote and hybrid work. It’s one of the first conversations we have with new and prospective clients, and we’re finding that different organizations are in different places on the journey to reimagining their workplace.

We have lived an 8-to-5, office-based life for decades and know how to navigate that world, compared to the two years we’ve had to adapt to this new remote/hybrid workplace. Though things continue to change, we sincerely believe that many recent adaptations are not going away. And most importantly, even if we have not figured it all out, we need to hire great talent right now.

So, bearing in mind that the workplace journey continues to evolve, there are still a few things we can say with certainty about its impact on recruiting and hiring.

Think deeply about your workplace policy before you begin a search, so you don’t have to revise and restart the search later.

We understand that workplace policy is still evolving in many organizations. But to get the deepest, most talented candidate pool from the start, it’s important to have fully considered all the parameters for the position, especially remote and hybrid work possibilities.

The most talented individuals are seeking flexible employers willing to give them what they need at this time in their lives.

Over the past two years we have seen many employers rethinking both salary and remote work flexibility: during the search as a way of increasing the candidate pool, or at the end of the search to hire their top candidate. If an organization ends up recognizing that it has to offer more workplace flexibility than originally thought, wouldn’t it have been better to start the search that way? Rather than rethinking it at the end, or even restarting mid-search to expand the pool? Thinking ahead also reduces the potential for introducing internal inequities that have to be managed on the fly.

The more workplace flexibility you can offer, the bigger your candidate pool.

For the first time in our professional lives, the labor force is in the driver’s seat. Strong candidates have leverage because the high demand for top talent greatly outstrips the supply. And candidates are telling us that they will not even apply for positions if those opportunities don’t meet certain requirements, with remote/hybrid flexibility often being at the top of the list.

In fact, Aspen Leadership Group’s applicant pools for posted remote jobs are routinely larger than for non-remote jobs, and candidates applied more quickly compared to non-remote opportunities. Thus, your openness to this possibility will increase your qualified pool of candidates.

The most talented individuals are seeking flexible employers willing to give them what they need at this time in their lives. So, even if your workplace policy is a work in progress, getting the biggest pool of the best candidates means at least having that conversation. Even if candidates can’t get everything they want, at a minimum they’ll want to talk about the options. If you can’t, or won’t have that conversation, it will be very difficult to attract the most capable talent.

Talented fundraisers, and metrics-driven organizations, have already proven their success with remote work – we can’t unlearn that lesson.

Many organizations met the remote work challenge with gusto and had some of their best fundraising years ever in 2021 and 2022. There’s no way to turn back that clock.

We now have the right technology to be productive remotely, or on a hybrid basis. Collaboration and productivity tools like Zoom, Teams, Slack and other applications are game-changers that enabled us all to adapt and thrive in a remote environment. We have recognized that many positions related to fundraising are well suited to a hybrid work model: fundraising involves extensive relationship building with outside stakeholders; and organizations can quantify and track performance in a remote work model just as easily as they can from an office-based model.

It’s time to take a closer look at what the profession is doing to create a more impactful, joyful, and purposeful way of working.

Philanthropic organizations have been successful in a remote workplace, and talented fundraisers (the kind you’re looking to recruit) have proven that not only is it not an impediment, but it can be a valuable component of their success. Ultimately, one cannot undo that kind of progress, and the best candidates know it.

Workplace flexibility won’t fix everything, but it can be a start.

For years, advancement has faced a persistent retention issue, with the average gift officer staying in their position barely two years. That begs a question: Have we created a culture where people are inspired to do their best work?

Philanthropy often operates with a manufacturing mentality and a highly bureaucratic culture, but these are mission-driven jobs, whether one is raising money for cancer, education, the betterment of the environment, or some other deserving cause. It’s time to take a closer look at what the profession is doing to create a more impactful, joyful, and purposeful way of working.

Workplace flexibility can be a big part of the solution.

There’s no going back: workplace flexibility and creativity are essential.

In this world, getting the largest pool of the best-qualified candidates requires at least talking about workplace options, and in most cases offering flexibility.

Some candidates will want to be in the office full-time because they work best that way. Some will need to be in the office at least part of the time to engage with management and other important internal constituencies. Many will need to be in the office at least part of the time so that the organization has an opportunity to build its culture – a key point from the previous article in this series: an Expert Q&A published a couple of weeks ago.

But the one theme that carries through all these conversations is flexibility. The market is speaking: talent is in short supply: so we need to be more creative and flexible in how we find and invite the best talent into our organizations.

Curious to learn more? Read the next article in our series here.

Contributing authors:


Don Hasseltine, PhD., VP and Sr. Search Consultant, Aspen Leadership Group






Felicia Garcia-Hartstein, Search Director, Aspen Leadership Group

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