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Search Case Study: VP, Real Estate & Asset Mgmt for Non-Profit

Search Case Study: VP, Real Estate & Asset Mgmt for Non-Profit

Helbling was retained by a non-profit organization to attract and secure a Vice President of Real Estate & Asset Management. The role's primary objectives are to effectively manage real estate assets, and to improve service delivery. The position requires a solid business acumen and strong financial skills, and also demands an understanding of cultural, religious, and disability issues. Our client selected an individual who has broad experience working in real estate and non-profit organizations. Most importantly, she has a mission-centered mindset. Thus far in her tenure, this professional has been successful in streamlining processes, which has resulted in reduced costs and enhanced transparency.

Our Client's Objectives

Our client is a non-profit organization that provides community-based services to individuals with disabilities. The Vice President of Real Estate & Asset Management (VP) has the responsibility for all aspects of organization’s facilities, construction projects, and real estate portfolio. The role's main objectives are: advancing systems, processes, and procedures; improving the group’s financial management practices; and enhancing professionalism.

We began the assignment by traveling to the organization’s headquarters to personally meet the professionals with whom we would be working with closely to understand the organization and its structure, culture, and goals, and to comprehend the challenges and opportunities of the VP role. In doing so, we were able to identify the many dynamics of the position and the entire organization.

The most critical aspect of the search was that the organization’s executive leadership and its end-users felt that the real estate function was under-performing. End-users were not able to understand the constraints being applied to facilities schedules and budgets, and practices needed improvement, especially relative to customer requests. With these being some of the impetuses for the VP search, the individual secured would be expected to analyze and improve the real estate aspect, providing transparency, and enhancing communication and relationships with end-users.

The new VP would also be responsible for assessing current practices and systems; identifying areas for improvement; and executing strategies for more effective management processes and responsive service delivery.

In considering the many dynamics of the role, our search consultant was able to comprehend the necessary technical and intangible qualifications to seek and assess in candidates. Our client had a preference for candidates to have Master’s degrees in Planning, Architecture, Engineering, Construction Management or a related field; and ten to fifteen years of experience in capital planning and project management, with an emphasis in healthcare, long-term living, and education facilities. Our client also preferred candidates to have backgrounds in real estate purchases and sales, residential leases, building permits, and zoning requirements.

Due to the nature of the role, a strong business acumen, knowledge of sophisticated financial systems, and negotiation and strategic management skills were also required, as well as an understanding of cultural, religious, racial, disability and gender issues. Excellent leadership and communication skills would also be essential due to the VP needing to develop relationships with operational leaders, funders, vendors, and landlords, and governmental officials and regulators.

Search Strategies

Our consultant who was responsible for this search is highly networked within our client's region. He worked in close collaboration with the organization's Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer on the search. To initiate recruitment, he reached out to the professionals he knew within the area. As is done for every search, he conducted comprehensive research to learn of additional candidates, focusing on executives within facilities, real estate, or construction, or a combination thereof, with mission-centered organizations such as other non-profits and service organizations, higher education institutions, and healthcare organizations, all within the regional market.

To ensure an inclusive pool of candidates, he also considered professionals within facilities management and real estate services firms. As a result, several candidates were identified who were highly qualified with the technical expertise for the VP role.

Search Results

After interviewing candidates, one professional stood apart from the others for her experience and roles within real estate development and property management firms, as well as non-profits and prominent higher education institutions. This individual was especially qualified for the VP role due to her considerable involvement in public service and participation as a board member for a non-profit organization that protected women. Her compassion and dedication to human services made her a true match for the VP role, and she was ultimately selected by our client.

In follow up conversations with our client, they have expressed all positive comments about the new VP's technical capabilities as well as her intangible qualities. She has succeeded in making significant progress in the refinement of the organization’s construction processes and procedures, which has increased efficiency, reduced costs, and provided transparency. Through her management style and leadership capabilities, she has developed strong relationships with her team, resulting in improved engagement and productivity.

When speaking with the VP, she has expressed that the spirit and mission of our client’s organization is something that is ‘near and dear’ to her heart. She had always sought a career in which she could apply her knowledge of real estate to a mission-driven organization that supports people in need. As such, the VP role is an ideal opportunity for her.