Poorly managed transitions can erode organizational effectiveness and service quality, and even put a nonprofit out of business. However, nonprofits that receive the proper support and understand the transition process use these periods of change as opportunities for growth and improvements. This monograph describes the benefits and basics of using an interim executive director in a leadership transition. Interim executive directors are highly skilled managers who temporarily take the helm of an organization (four to eight months on average), help the board and staff address important systems and capacity issues, and lay the groundwork for the permanent leader’s success.
Groups that do use an interim executive director emerge stronger, more financially sound, and with high levels of optimism.
Findings & Stats
It Happens to Everyone
Each year, 1 in 10 nonprofits goes through a leadership transition.
Benefits of an Interim Director
An interim executive director brings a honed administrative skill set and time-tested wisdom in running a nonprofit.
Transition Phase 1
Beginning phase – welcoming and orienting the new executive leader, organizational changes.
Transition Phase 2
“Bridges” – the middle phase – organizational vulnerability and heightened opportunity.
Transition Phase 3
Ending phase – the organization gets closure on the departing executive’s tenure.
Statements & Quotations
The interim Executive Director identified a major disconnect between board expectations and staff's ability to deliver. With the interim's help, our board gained a better understanding of current staff's limitations and the need to improve staff capability.
– Melanie Heacock, Paul's Place
As a seasoned nonprofit manager hired from outside the agency, the interim can step in as a steward and change agent. He or she can both manage the transition’s risks and heighten the neutral zone creativity of board and staff.