Departure-Defined Succession Planning

A wide range of terms are used in succession planning and the type of plan you create varies depending on your current stage in the process. I covered the basic types of planning necessary for all organizations in my article on succession planning. In this article, I will provide an overview for those organizations that have a long-time executive director who is planning far in advance for a transition.

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Organizing Your Board with a Calendar

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

It’s easy to get to the end of a year on your nonprofit board and realize that you haven’t taken care of essential tasks for your organization. An easy way to keep tabs on all of the tasks of a board of directors is to create a board calendar that you refer to as you develop each board meeting agenda. This will systematize your work and make it much simpler to check off the tasks.

Here is a starting list for your board calendar of tasks and events to include. The document itself should be reviewed and updated annually.

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Writing a Board Succession Policy

As organizations begin to plan for succession for the executive director and other key staff, they often realize that the board needs a succession plan as well.

I remember all too well the board meeting when our chair breezed late and announced this was her last board meeting. She’d changed positions at her company and could no longer serve. None of us expected this news. She’d been a fantastic board chair for the past couple of years. She was involved, brought great ideas, and cared about the mission. Everyone else looked around at each other, with no one willing to step up. Our vice-chair had stated from the beginning that he was unable to put in the time to be the chair. We had no one ready to step up.

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Creating a Crisis Communication Plan

Communicating effectively and quickly to your stakeholders in an emergency is an important part of building trust within your community. Imagine the difference between hearing through the grapevine that an executive director was fired, versus hearing from the organization directly that there’s a change in leadership and a plan to move forward with an interim or acting leader. In the first situation, you don’t know what has happened or why, and you don’t have any idea what is happening. It seems like the firing happened suddenly and without any thought. In the latter situation, you know the board took careful and thoughtful actions. Even if you disagree with their process, you know that the board recognizes the repercussions of their decision.

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Succession Planning for Success

Leadership changes at nonprofit organizations are expected, but too often no plan has been created. We know that so much can happen. The current leader’s spouse gets a job offer in another state. Their elderly parent suddenly needs around-the-clock care. The board finds out about an incident outside work, forcing the resignation of the current leader. Often, though, it is much less drastic. Maybe the current leader decides to take an extended vacation and realizes how much they need to record and delegate before they go.

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Advantages of Executive Search Firms for Nonprofits

Partnering with an outside search firm to hire the next executive director allows the board to focus on leading the organization, and on choosing the best candidate, rather than getting bogged down in the details of the search. Too often, boards try to do everything themselves, not realizing until it is too late how much time a search takes, and how different it is from a corporate hire. The executive director is the most important position in the organization and putting in the necessary time to get it right will save everyone time and frustration later on.

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Engaging Board Members [video]

Engaging Board Members Webinar – recorded August 12, 2020

Every ED and board chair wish that their board did more, but how can you actually make that happen? I share a wide variety of methods from simple changes to your agenda to systemic changes to your whole board structure.

Watch here.

Online Survey Sites

Conducting online surveys can provide a range of valuable information but the most popular survey sites have limitations on their free versions, especially in the number of questions, and the number of respondents allowed. Below are three sites that offer great value on their free plan, and a reasonably priced paid plan. They are listed below along with some of the key features that nonprofits need. Overall it seemed that QuestionPro offered the best options for a completely free version.

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What Interim Executive Directors Do [video]

What Interim Executive Directors Do – recorded August 12, 2020

Interim executive directors play an important role in a nonprofit leadership transition. But what do they actually do? Why are they valuable? How can you become one?

Watch here.