Nonprofit HR’s Executive Search team places hundreds of candidates in positions each year. This story features Arlis Whalum who is making incredible impacts in the social sector.
Interviewee: Arlis Whalum
Organization: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Title: Chief Financial Officer
In Their Own Words – Executive Search Highlights
Arlis Whalum, thank you for speaking with Nonprofit HR today and congratulations on your new position! We wanted to ask you a few questions regarding your new role as Chief Financial Officer at NAACP.
Nonprofit HR: What lead you to a career in the nonprofit sector? What skills do you think you bring to the sector?
Whalum: Mid-way through my career, I made an intentional decision to work in the nonprofit sector. Although there were tremendous learning opportunities from public accounting and the Fortune 500, I felt the need to be a part of something greater than making money. I wanted to contribute to a work that improved the lives of others. My first mission-based opportunity was with a local church that grew to a megachurch during my six-year tenure. My entire nonprofit career has been about improving financial and operational infrastructures while also enhancing the financial acumen of organizations.
Nonprofit HR: What drew you to NAACP’s mission? What do you love about it?
Whalum: Nonprofit HR reached out to me through a LinkedIn connection. There aren’t many opportunities that would draw me from Illinois, but the NAACP could. They hold a tremendous long-term record in the civil rights movement that is well respected by many. What an opportunity it is to contribute to an organization that is about justice and equality everywhere and for everyone.
Nonprofit HR: What are you looking forward to most about the culture of your organization?
Whalum: I am still learning about the culture, considering I start on August 5. I can say that based on my conversations with President Derrick Johnson and his leadership team, I feel a genuine passion for the mission of the NAACP and the desire to improve so that the initiatives can grow and flourish in a proactive way. During the hiring process, I was very encouraged by what I heard, and I feel that my experiences and skill sets can help the NAACP achieve their expected outcomes.
Nonprofit HR: What would you say excites you the most about your new role?
Whalum: The goal and the opportunity to be a part of an organization that is transforming and changing. I enjoy being a part of making something better. I have an entrepreneurial spirit, coming from an entrepreneurial family. So, I feel positive energy from the leadership team and it will be exciting to join the team.
Nonprofit HR: How is the organization itself going through a big transformation?
Whalum: Whenever you hire a new CEO, you’re going to have a transformation. President Johnson is building the team that will implement the many initiatives that are ahead. It is exciting to be at the front end of this type of transition.
Nonprofit HR: What impact do you wish to have in your new role?
Whalum: Finance touches every realm of an organization. I want to improve the financial infrastructure, help with new revenue streams, profitability, and all things financial. My greatest objective is to ensure a financial mindset for the entire team as we move forward.
Nonprofit HR: What advice would you give your fellow executives looking for their next dream role in the sector?
Whalum: First, take some time to identify what you are looking for in your next opportunity—responsibilities, industry, organizational goals, culture, outcomes, etc. When you find an opportunity, evaluate the leadership and assess whether the direction is in line with yours. For starters, I was looking for a challenge that would allow me the opportunity to utilize my experiences and skills to improve the financial acumen of an organization. However, secondly and more importantly, I was looking for a transparent team that would be inclusive and willing to collaborate for success. I believe that the NAACP, under the leadership of President Derrick Johnson, will be that organization.
Nonprofit HR: What’s your favorite part of the executive search process?
Whalum: Nonprofit HR is the thought partner for both parties. It was nice to have someone that I could converse with and that supported me as the individual, providing me with value added information. They prepared me for the process by helping me understand the talent management aspects of the NAACP. Nonprofit HR played a great role in making sure that I was a good fit for the NAACP. Much of the work was done before I was even aware of the opportunity. They did and do a great job in understanding me as the candidate and understanding their client. Then they put us two parties together as a good fit.
Nonprofit HR: How has the team exceeded your expectations while working with us?
Whalum: Myra Briggs was excellent to work with! It felt like I was working with a good friend. Unlike any process in my past, I could text her, call her and get real responses. We created a genuine relationship that I will cherish throughout my career, which is a bonus for any career search process. In reflection, Myra was someone I could confide in to ensure I was thinking through every aspect of the process. She gave me good sound guidance through the entire process.