In an earlier post, I listed 10 key strategies that need consideration in the strategic plans of nonprofit organizations. The first strategy described in that post is “Embed capacity building into the fabric of your nonprofit". The second strategy is to "Build an exceptional board". The third strategy discussed in my last post is to engage in accelerated strategic thinking and planning. The fourth strategy is to "Forge partnerships, alliances and mergers to increase mission impact and sustainability".
The fifth strategy is to develop board and staff succession plans. A change in executive leadership is one of the most important and challenging opportunities a nonprofit will face. These executive leadership transitions have become more common. According research compiled by the Annie E Casey Foundation, leadership transitions from the Baby Boom generation to Generations X and Y will become more common within the nonprofit sector. Owing to these demographic and other factors, the number of executive director jobs that will turn over is therefore expected to increase. The recession has put off retirement for many older executive directors, at least for a while. But retirement or career moves by executive directors aren't the only cause for concern. Sudden absences due to illness, accidents or death also put many nonprofits at risk. Many nonprofits are highly dependent on their executive directors. If there were an unplanned absence, the organization would continue to exist without her or his presence, but very likely experience some significant setbacks.
The problem is that many nonprofits don't have succession plans in place; even more nonprofits have not begun to think about succession in an organized manner. A nonprofit organization's strategic planning process can present a golden opportunity to finally respond to this critical issue. The good news: over the last several years many excellent resources have become available. Some of the most important work has been done by The Bridgespan Group in Boston and Compass Point Nonprofit Services in the Bay Area. The Annie E Casey Foundation has published a series of monographs on all aspects of succession planning and executive transition available at no charge at their website. One of the most important, "Stepping Up, Staying Engaged: Succession Planning and Executive Transition Management for Nonprofit Boards of Directors" is geared to boards of directors who have an important governance responsibility to lead on this critical issue.
Another valuable resource is Executive Transition Initiative Succession Planning Toolkit. The Toolkit was developed by the Milwaukee-based Executive Transition Institute (ETI) directed by Mindy Lubar Price, CEO of LeadingTransitions. The ETI is a collaborative effort of the Donors Forum of Wisconsin, the Brico Fund, the Davis Family Foundation, and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The Toolkit consists of four manuals
· #1 Overview of Succession Planning
· #2 Departure Defined Transition Toolkit
· #3 Emergency Succession Planning Toolkit
· #4 Strategic Leadership Development Toolkit
Now for many of the same reasons, there needs to be a leadership succession plan for the board of directors as well. There are not as many resources available to help with board succession planning but here is an excellent one to consider:
· Succession Planning with Your Board with links to a number of worksheets and tools prepared by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)