How Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast engaged their community to welcome a new Executive Director

Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast (MMBNE) is a community nonprofit and one of 31 nonprofit milk banks accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America to provide pasteurized donor human milk to babies in fragile health throughout the Northeastern United States. Core to MMBNE’s mission is advocacy and education in the larger landscape of breastfeeding support, in which donor milk plays a critical role, including equitable distribution of donor milk to all babies in need. Whether participating in cutting-edge research at teaching hospitals, working with state and local breastfeeding coalitions, advocating for Medicaid and insurance coverage for donor milk, or presenting educational sessions at local and national conferences, MMBNE staff and board members are committed to ensuring that milk donation becomes as widely known to the public as blood donation.

The Opportunity

Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast engaged us in 2021 to help with  their search for a new Executive Director. The organization’s former Executive Director was Naomi, Bar-Yam, Ph.D., who had founded the organization in 2006 and had served as its highly respected and beloved leader. It was a pivotal time in the organization’s history, as it prepared to welcome new leadership and embark on an ambitious vision to expand its capacity and service. The new ED would be tasked with partnering with the Board of Directors to develop and implement a new 5-year strategic plan, engaging with constituents, including teaching hospitals and state and local breastfeeding coalitions, and representing MMBNE at local and national conferences.

The Results of Our Partnership

To attract and recruit a highly qualified candidate pool, we focused on a number of core strategies:

  • Early research and candidate identification – To bring efficiency to the search process, our consultants began conducting research and identifying potential candidates prior to the position announcement being finalized. This was possible thanks to the breadth of assessment conversations we conducted with MMBNE leadership, staff, and key community members, which shaped our understanding of who would be most successful in the Executive Director role. We were able to present a strong slate of unique candidates early on in the process, as a result – many of whom currently working at organizations and in industries beyond our usual network.
  • Strengthening brand awareness – Many of the potential candidates we spoke with were unfamiliar with MMBNE. This provided a rich opportunity to educate professionals in the region on the organization. Even when candidates did not advance in the search process, they held a better understanding of the MMBNE’s mission and impact, which in turn raised its profile.
  • Engaging organizational leadership – We partnered closely with MMBNE’s search committee, board, and interim Executive Director. By doing so, we could ensure a smoother and unified search and decision making process, as well as a thoughtful onboarding for the new leader. We prioritized identifying candidates who could become a member of the community and have an impact from day one.

Throughout the search process, we paid close attention to the marketplace, candidate feedback, and the organization’s evolving needs. This allowed us to adjust the profile and process, as necessary, while always ensuring we stayed focused and on track. Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast welcomed Deborah Youngblood as its new Executive Director. Deborah joined MMBNE from the City of Newton, MA, where she served as the Commissioner of Health and Human Services. In this role, Deborah developed city-wide community health programming and policies and created partnerships with local hospitals, nonprofits, and other institutions to protect, promote and sustain the health and well-being of all Newton residents. Prior to this role, she served as the Vice President of Research and Innovation at the Crittenton Women’s Union where she supported the development of an innovative social service model and conducted advocacy and public policy work.

Looking Forward

With Deborah at the helm, Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast is well poised to expand its reach, impact, and platform, as it advocates for and educates communities on milk donation and distribution.

Development Guild came highly recommended to us, and we chose to work with them based on the very positive impression that their team initially made. Over the course of the search we found them to be genuine, trustworthy, and highly responsive to our questions and concerns. They helped educate us on the candidate marketplace, and we really appreciated the advice they shared around assessing candidates and internal decision-making. The process was clearly tailored to our organization and needs. Development Guild was exactly what we were looking for in a partner, and we are very pleased with our new Executive Director.

- Mark Rosen, Board Member

Contact us to learn more about our executive search services.