Successful Transitions Course

The key to nonprofit leadership continuity

Developing the next generation of leaders to guide your nonprofit is essential for your work to continue making a difference. Yet it is often left to chance, meaning organizations face a crisis when a key leader leaves. It’s understandable, as there’s always something more urgent to be done, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you are planning to retire in a few years, or plan to stay for decades, developing a comprehensive succession plan will benefit both you and your organization now and long into the future.

To help organizations create a sustainable and impactful leadership continuity plan, I have created the Successful Transitions Course. This program combines national best practices with customized coaching so your organization can develop a plan that works best for you. The executive director and a key board member participate in all parts of the program to ensure both levels of leadership partner on the succession planning.

Participants in the Course receive:

  • Five engaging and interactive virtual group sessions with 6-8 organizations participating
  • A detailed leadership continuity checklist that includes templates for succession planning, crisis communication plans, executive transition plans, and more.
  • Three one-on-one coaching sessions with Ingrid to customize the plan for your organization
  • A customized training session for your board of directors

The next Successful Transitions Course opens in Spring 2021. Is this the right program for you? Join Ingrid for a free Developing Sustainable Leadership workshop for an overview.

Ready to get started? Sign up here to join the waiting list.


Are you a Lincoln, Nebraska based organization? Click here for more details on the Lincoln specific course.

Information for foundations, state-wide, and nationwide organizations wanting to set up their own cohort.


Program Overview

Testimonials from Successful Transitions in 2020:

“Our organization had never had a succession plan in place.  For me, as an incoming Board President, this course has made it apparent how vitally important a plan is. Ingrid Kirst provided excellent materials that gave overviews of the process on both local and national levels. Doing this work in a cohort with other nonprofits has the added value of sharing ideas with the other organizations’ leaders and seeing how something that works for their culture might be applicable to your own.”  — Rob McMaster, Abendmusik at First Plymouth Board Member

“The Lincoln Arts Council was so fortunate to be part of the Successful Transitions program with consultant Ingrid Kirst. As my retirement approached with 20 years in the role as Executive Director, we knew that we needed to plan for my transition and leadership development of the board and staff. I had no idea where to begin. It seemed like an overwhelming process. During the class sessions with Ingrid she outlines every step of the way with excellent materials and instruction. Her coaching sessions afterwards helped keep us on track with completing key components of our transition plan. The experience was a perfect blend of expert knowledge from Ingrid, guest speakers who have had successful transitions, and the cohort members there for support and inspiration.” — Deb Weber, Lincoln Arts Council Executive Director


Ingrid Kirst is a nonprofit leadership consultant with over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. After transitioning out of her own executive director position running a small nonprofit organization, Ingrid began consulting with nonprofit organizations. Her focus has been on working with boards and executive directors, with an emphasis on succession planning. Ingrid is a Certified Succession Planner through Third Sector Company and has developed her expertise through working with many organizations on their succession plans. In 2020, she adapted her teaching to the virtual environment and developed a program that was just as effective as in-person classes. Ingrid is excited to help you develop a solid plan for your organization.

The virtual format got rave reviews including this one: “I have used Zoom for years, but never got “fancy”. I was impressed with your planful use of time and activities. Good use of visuals, information sharing (succinct) and discussion Qs. Small group and large group invites to Q/A were timely and sincere and welcomed. Easy to participate and stay engaged. Nice job.”

Course Content

Succession planning isn’t just about who the next ED will be. Successful Transitions covers much more:

Preparing Your Organization
A successful transition starts with a strong organization in all areas. We will discuss how to build the capacity of staff and board to lead at all levels, and the parts of a full succession plan including a succession policy, leadership development plan, and communication plan.

Leading the Organization into the Future
After preparing the organization, the board should prepare for an actual change in leadership, even if it is years away. All organizations need a plan for an emergency transition but this takes it to the next step. We will discuss best practices for a transition of the executive director from beginning to end, including how to find a diverse candidate pool. More importantly, we will discuss how to grow leadership at all levels.

Preparing Yourself 
It is challenging to decide to leave your position as an executive director after many years of hard work. We will focus on how to make that decision and how to know when the right time is, as well as what you are going to do after leaving your position. In addition to talking through how to mentally prepare yourself for this transition, we will discuss what you need to put into place to make it possible.

Join me for the next Successful Transitions! For a limited time, the cost is $1995 $995 per organization. (You may be able to find a local foundation to help you cover the cost.)

The program includes group learning sessions where you can interact with your peers and learn what you need to create a comprehensive succession plan, templates for the important documents you need to create, individualized coaching sessions to customize the learning to your needs, and an overview of succession planning for your full board.

Join Waiting List for Successful Transitions

Want a preview first? Join me for a FREE webinar on Thursday, April 8, at 10:00 am CT. I’ll cover the basics and give you an overview of what to expect in the class. For some organizations, the Developing Leadership Sustainability webinar may be all you need to get started.

Register for FREE Developing Sustainable Leadership Webinar

Target Audience

Which organizations will benefit most from Successful Transitions? There are two groups that have found this to be helpful for them. The first is organizations with long-time executive directors who are planning to retire in the next two to four years. Successful Transitions provides a way to organize all the work that needs to be done to carry out a transfer to a new executive director without the time pressure of doing it at the last minute.

The second group is those organizations with an executive director who wants to be proactive in planning for the future. They recognize that leadership continuity planning will benefit them now, and make for a more seamless transfer later. They may have had a bumpy transition when they came into the position or they have heard about transitions that didn’t go well at other organizations.

Which organizations shouldn’t participate? Organizations that are currently going through the strategic planning process or a large capital campaign likely won’t have the bandwith for this program. Succession planning is a good complement to strategic planning so it could be done shortly before or after that process.

More Testimonials

“The succession planning seminar with Ingrid Kirst was productive, successful, and informative. Across each of the sessions, Ingrid’s facilitation style kept everyone engaged and supported. Ancillary reading/reference materials were always provided and Ingrid ensured every unique learning style was considered. In my role as executive director of Abendmusik at First-Plymouth, there’s no way I could have developed a succession plan alone that would have been sustainable and impacting.” — Trey Lusk, Abendmusik at First Plymouth Executive Director

Melissa Filipi, executive director for Community Services Fund, has no plans to leave her organization but saw succession planning as important. She said, “While we are not facing a transition in the foreseeable future, I felt that having a solid plan in place that captured best practices and common steps would be valuable for Community Services Fund. I want to ensure that when I leave, we have set a solid framework for a smooth transition and future success. We approached this as more than a plan for the Executive Director’s departure by incorporating sustainability and strategic planning into the discussions. Any transition whether staff or board will involve clear discussions about the skills and attributes needed to move CSF’s strategic plan forward.”

“The Successful Transitions program was an exceptionally valuable experience that helped Dimensions Foundation begin thoughtful planning toward a future transition for a long-time executive director. As we learned, it’s so helpful to begin this process years in advance of the actual transition. Ingrid Kirst is an excellent facilitator who ran the program well and shared a wealth of valuable resources. We very much appreciated the opportunity.”  –  Nancy Rosenow, Executive Director at Dimensions Educational Resource Foundation