Planning for Succession

Does your organization have a succession plan for its executive director/CEO/key leadership?
According to BoardSource's research, fewer than 28 percent of nonprofits surveyed reported that they had a written succession plan in place.

Every nonprofit organization would benefit by having a clearly articulated succession plan for its leadership. What if your executive director/CEO departs unexpectedly due to illness? Or if she/he get a more competitive offer with another organization? Perhaps you are aware of the planned retirement of key leaders scheduled over a short period of time.

There are many good reasons to have a succession plan ready to go. Clarifying the reason with your Board and putting a plan in place may alleviate a crisis when the time comes.

So, what comes next? There are many variations on how to write your succession plan, and here are a few points to get you started.

  • Put a team together. Include Board, staff leadership, and other constituents who would have helpful viewpoints.
  • With your team, determine what you are planning for, a trend that you can forecast, retirements you see coming, or other opportunities that might cause your ED to leave.
  • Identify the key positions you would like included in your plan: ED/CEO, Director of Development or CFO and determine what competencies you need for individuals in each role.
  • Determine where you might find successful candidates. Perhaps you have internal staff who have the desired competencies or, with some additional training, would be ready. You may need to look outside the organization. What search firms, internet job boards, universities, and colleges might help you identify a qualified candidate pool. Remember that interim executives are available to provide your organization with highly skilled professionals and can be placed very quickly, giving you and your Board time to put a successful search together to find the right permanent executive.
  • Determine who is responsible for moving forward with the plan when the time comes for implementation. What is the timeline for each action that needs to be taken?

For more information about developing a well thought out success plan, contact

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