Women & Business: Michelle Pagano Heck

Heck is President of Nonprofit Talent LLC.

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Michelle is President of Nonprofit Talent LLC, a company specializing in leadership transition management and executive search for the nonprofit sector. Her client roster is a who’s who of Pittsburgh nonprofits.

Founded in 2013 with partner Todd Owens, Nonprofit Talent is an outgrowth of the former consulting firm Dewey & Kaye, where Heck worked as senior consultant beginning in 2007. In 2017, Todd exited the firm and Michelle became the sole owner. That same year, she expanded the staff to seven professionals and added services to include leadership transition consulting and organizational staff development as well as executive search. In 2020, Nonprofit Talent launched a partnership with the Executive Action & Response Network, an initiative to recruit and hire more Black Pittsburghers into executive roles.

How would Heck describe herself as a businesswoman? “I am an unintentional entrepreneur.” Heck’s first job with a “mission-driven” organization was in 1995 with the former Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, now known as Allies For Health. “The trajectory to owning and running a business dedicated to uplifting the sector through talent identification has been circuitous. Nonprofit Talent is what I love, not just what I do,” she says. After leaving her hometown of Fredonia, N.Y., Heck’s career path included positions with organizations including WQED Multimedia, The Children’s Home and the American Cancer Society. Currently, she serves on the advisory board of the Humane Animal Rescue, the board of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations and the alumni board of her alma mater, The College of Wooster.

The economic and public health events of 2020 created new challenges for Heck. “This year, our team proved to be incredibly swift and effective at pivoting our resources to adapt to the virtual landscape.” Last year, the company completed 11 executive searches that were completely virtual from launch to hire, with leaders now in place at some of our region’s most essential organizations.

“The women I count as friends and mentors are the highlight of my career,” Heck says. One of her favorite quotes is: “Surround yourself with women who would mention your name in a room full of opportunities.”

What is the best advice Heck has ever received? “Leap and the net will appear” from Frank Leavens, in 1995, the director of development of the Pittsburgh Aids Task Force. “All of my best moments, personally and professionally, came when I took a chance, and jumped.”


For more than 10 years, Pittsburgh Magazine has spotlighted exceptional businesswomen within our pages and at quarterly networking events. Join us Feb. 25  for a vibrant conversation with our four inspiring honorees and keynote speaker, Dorothy Andreas, Founder of Streamline Success LLC, who will discuss how following your instincts can make or break your business. Click here to register.

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