Esther Rosenberg, Co-Owner, Howe-Lewis International
Esther Rosenberg is Co-Owner of the executive search firm, Howe-Lewis International. She has conducted searches for local, national, and global health, education, human services, advocacy, cultural and community-based organizations. The firm recruits C-suite executives across the board and has a particular specialty in advancement searches. Esther started her executive search career at Korn/Ferry. Her earlier experience was in the not-for-profit community with the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the Metropolitan Opera, and Case Western Reserve University, Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she attended the American University of Paris and received both a BA and an MA in French from Case Western Reserve University.
WID: Many WID members have experienced significant career transitions. What led you from your role as a nonprofit executive to the field of nonprofit executive search?
Esther: I would love to say that it was a strategic move, but it was entirely serendipitous. Having had amazing experiences in development in higher education and in arts and culture, I knew I wanted to continue to be connected to the not-for-profit community. I grew up in a family of educators, social workers, and “culture vultures.” I literally fell into executive search, and the draw was the ability to focus on the independent sector. So, while our work is not technically mission-driven, it gives us great satisfaction to help identify talent for this vital community and to help mission-based organizations move forward.
WID: What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen for women in the development field in recent years?
Esther: While the field is not where it needs to be in terms of gender and racial equity, great strides have been made—with still a long way to go. WID and Women of Color in Fundraising and Philanthropy (WOC) are two different organizations that are doing such important work here. As for the work itself, we see much more emphasis on data and technology as tools to measure success and trends. Not to mention the extraordinary digital transformation that has occurred during the pandemic. Our clients are looking for candidates who are flexible, creative, and can pivot and adjust, particularly in keeping staff, donors, prospects, and board members engaged virtually.
WID: We all know these are challenging and uncertain times for fundraisers and nonprofits. What’s your advice for staying positive?
Esther: Despite the moment we’re in, we are finding that, after the initial shock at the start of this crisis, most clients are now forging ahead and many are reinventing themselves and taking hard looks at outmoded ways of doing business. Many have an entirely new flexibility around remote work. Many are doing more concrete and introspective work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. From crisis comes innovation and change.
WID: At this summer’s Board Retreat, the members shared a favorite WID memory. These ranged from important mentoring conversations to particularly delicious desserts served at previous retreats! We’d love to close with a favorite WID memory from you.
Esther: That is a tough one; there are plenty of moments to choose from—but rather than one in particular, I would say that the Woman of Achievement award events have been powerful and inspiring over the years—impressive and accomplished women who are pacesetters and mentors in the field.