Identifying the Right CIO for a Nonprofit

Chief Information Officers are an indispensable tool for helping organizations fulfill their mission for the social or demographic they serve. A major investment in differentiating a nonprofit, a quality CIO requires a unique set of technical and cultural skills.

So how does one identify the right CIO for their nonprofit? Based on our experience, there are several factors to consider to help you make the right hire.

December 8, 2022

Insights, Nonprofit


Organizations are increasingly using technology to distinguish themselves, improve speed to market and drive efficiency. It is a common thread across all sectors, including the fast-paced world of financial services and traditional industrial manufacturing. Even tech giants are differentiating their companies’ capabilities with disruptive IT professionals.

In the last 10 years, DHR’s Chief Information Officer Practice has conducted searches across various industries, ranging from Fortune 25 organizations to middle market private equity backed niche companies, and has seen a broad landscape of CIOs and IT operating models. During this time we have seen an increase in the number of Chief Information Officer-related search opportunities that have risen in the nonprofit sector. The role of a CIO in a nonprofit has become increasingly important and complex. They are an indispensable tool for helping organizations fulfill their mission for the social or demographic they serve. So how does one identify the right CIO for a nonprofit?

It’s important to consider several factors:

Business Model

Business models in the nonprofit sector vary from centrally driven organizations to large federations with loose affiliation at the national levels. Understanding the business model of an organization is necessary for finding the right technology leader. In a highly decentralized and federated model, the Chief Information Officer must be able to influence a large set of constituents without having complete authority over decisions, so these leaders must come well-equipped for communicating the technology roadmap and getting buy-in at the member, donor and chapter levels of these organizations.

Future Vision

Covid has deeply affected many businesses and the way they operate. Nonprofits have gone from catering to large donor events, putting on fundraising activities and building communities to looking at their future in a more virtual way. CIOs must adapt technology to ecommerce, virtual reality and online events to pave the way for a new type of business in a space that will continue to evolve.


Software vendors have continued to invest in products geared specifically toward nonprofits. Whether it be data and analytic solutions, donor management systems or member experience software, these software vendors are focusing on the nonprofit vertical to better enable these organizations to operate at the speed and velocity of a large enterprise. A Chief Information Officer who is well-versed at evaluating software tools will be an asset to nonprofits looking to build or buy software for increased efficiencies.


Though a Chief Information Officer is a technology leader, it’s important that all members of the organization believe in the mission of the work they are doing. Many of our clients ask about the difference between CIOs with nonprofit experience and those from other sectors. The answer lies not always with where they come from but what their passion is. Many people want to apply their skills to a greater good, whether they come from another nonprofit organization or an enterprise setting.


A CIO is a major investment in differentiating a nonprofit, and a quality Chief Information Officer requires a specific set of technical and cultural skills. The details will vary by organization, but in general, a Chief Information Officer for a nonprofit must be an effective communicator who is skilled at influencing a wide variety of people. In addition, it’s important that they have a vision for adapting the organization’s operations to a post-Covid world, as well as the ability to evolve through other challenging circumstances that may arise in the future. To do that, they will need to have technical skills that they continue to update. Finally, perhaps more important than their professional experience and skills, are their belief in and passion for the mission of the organization.

Meet the Authors

Ted Yemm


Ted serves as a Principal within the Global Advanced Technology and CIO/CTO Practices specializing in digital, information technology, engineering, product, data, and security functions across all practices. He also has an industry focus in enterprise software, fintech, private equity, healthcare software & technology, and industrial IOT across multiple functions.

Sal DiFranco

Managing Partner

Sal serves as Managing Partner of the Global Advanced Technology and CIO/CTO Practices specializing in cloud, digital transformation, IoT, data & analytics and software & applications including SaaS. He specializes in C-level technology searches across all practices, with a focus on industrial technology, fintech, healthcare IT, consumer & retail and professional services.

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