This paper has two primary goals. First, it seeks to continue detoxifying the topic of nonprofit succession planning so that executives, boards, staff, and funders can take up these activities without unnecessary fear or concern. Second, it hopes to provide nonprofit boards and executive directors a framework for their own succession planning activities.
This publication presents alternative models of succession planning designed particularly for nonprofits. The ends in mind:
Pursuing the agency’s mission and service goals as effectively as possible.
Ensuring agency stability by developing bench strength behind its executive and key managers.
Creating the possibility that successors for your executive director and top managers will emerge from your talent pool.
Succession planning is not a top priority for most nonprofit leaders because they believe it: (1) requires too much weight/expense at the top, (2) compromises authority, (3) it demands time and leadership and/or (4) it causes discomfort/uncertainty in funders.
Managing People and Responsibilites
Nonprofit executives must be willing and able to let go and allow their organizations to distribute managerial and leadership responsibilities among a number of staff.
Change is Coming
CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation surveyed 1,900 nonprofit leaders and found that 75% planned on leaving their positions within the next five years.
Opportunities for Diversity
Given that the current generation of nonprofit executives is overwhelmingly white and non-Hispanic, one critical opportunity of succession planning is the opportunity to build the diversity of an agency’s talent pool.
Generational clashes of leadership styles are inevitable. Succession planning helps to make that clash less disruptive to the mission and performance of the agency.
Statements & Quotations
Succession planning may be a difficult subject to face, but our experience suggests it can turn an executive’s exit from a difficult challenge into an occasion for organizational growth and maturation.
As the ultimate guardian of the community's investment in the agency, it is the board's duty, regardless of its practices to date, to attend to succession planning -- and long before leadership issues create a crisis for the agency.
The large numbers of Boomer executives reaching retirement age guarantee that a sea change in how and by whom our community impact organizations will be led is inevitable.