Succession Planning

A nonprofit director called me recently with a couple of questions about their succession plan. Right away I congratulated her for even having such a plan. Unfortunately this is a project that is too often set aside in the press of more critical work. But, if your CEO or an important program director all of sudden are not available for work, then this becomes the most critical thing of all.

There are many publications that will guide you in the creation of your succession plan. You can’t miss with anything by Tom Adams, Don Tebbe or Tim Wolfred. Take a look at Transition Guides for more details.

Your Succession Plan will have two areas of focus: what to do during a temporary absence of a leader, and what to do when a leader departs, for whatever reason.

A Succession Plan is not a description of the hiring process in the event of a vacancy. Certainly hiring will occur, but the plan is one of assuring continuity in the organization.

A key to some changes in leadership is the transition period, and your Succession Plan should address this. Especially when a long-term and/or founding leader departs, how this transition period is handled will make or break the success of your future permanent leader. Rushing to hire a replacement is not a good strategy. Bringing in a professional Interim Executive Director will pay dividends for years down the road. If you are facing this possibility, there are a number of Interims in the Puget Sound region. You can find an Interim Director through the State Resource Directory or you can contact the point person for this group, Cory Sbarbaro, to distribute your request for proposals.

Stable leadership is always a goal, but changes do occur. The best nonprofits will make sure they are prepared to manage the change well.

© Elizabeth M. Heath 2012

Published in a 2012 issue of “Perspectives”, an irregularly published newsletter from Sound Nonprofits. To receive this newsletter, go to the Contact Us page.