Succession Planning for Nonprofit Organizations

Every nonprofit organization will, at some point, be faced with the challenge of a change in leadership. While many of these transitions are anticipated as when a leader retires, other times an agency is faced with the dilemma of filling an unexpected opening. The key to making any leadership change a seamless process for staff and clients alike is to have thoughtfully developed a succession plan that will guide your decisions. We offer the following succession planning considerations that can help your nonprofit to Prepare for Greatness!

  • Always include both the executive leadership staff and the board of directors in succession planning and its implementation.
  • Develop an emergency transition plan that outlines the delegation of responsibilities and authority in the event of an unplanned vacancy or leadership disruption.
  • For planned leadership transitions, develop an appropriate timeline for a smooth transition.
  • Consider whether naming an interim leader would be beneficial during the transition period.
  • Ensure that the proper supports are in place for new leaders, including mentoring opportunities and well-defined goals (for both the individual and the organization as a whole).
  • Make it an organizational goal to support new leadership, allowing him or her to develop a personal comfort level and lead with confidence.
  • Create ample opportunities for staff and board members to cross-train and/or broaden their leadership skills so that there are several individuals ‘at the ready’ to step into larger leadership roles when the time comes.
  • Communication is paramount! Throughout the entire transition process, it is essential to maintain adequate lines of communication within all levels of the organization.
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