Succession Planning: Building a Deep Bench

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It’s absolutely essential for nonprofit organizations to think about the “what ifs” associated with their executive leadership not being able or available to do their job. Is your organization part of the 73% of nonprofits that does not have a written succession plan in place?*

Every nonprofit organization should have a plan in place to deal with an unexpected event, such as the departure of key leaders.

Here are ten planning tips for preparing for a leadership transition*:

  1. Gain the commitment of board and staff to manage transition intentionally.
  2. Identify current challenges and those that lie ahead, and the corresponding leadership qualities that are needed to navigate the challenges successfully.
  3. Consider whether placing an interim leader at the helm is the right path for your nonprofit.
  4. Draft a timeline for leadership successions that are planned.
  5. Adopt an Emergency Leadership Transition Plan to address the timely delegation of duties and authority whenever there is an unexpected transition or interruption in key leadership.
  6. Identify leadership development opportunities for staff and board members to expand their leadership skills so that the organization will have a “deeper bench” of future leaders.
  7. Cross-train current staff to minimize the disruption from unexpected staffing changes.
  8. Make plans to adequately support newly-placed employees, such as with coaching, mentoring, and defining goals.
  9. Communicate: What will your organization say to stakeholders before, during, and after a transition of leadership? Thoughtful communications are needed in order to support the staff and organization during the transition process.
  10. On board deliberately: Help new board chairs and chief staff leaders feel confident and find their own voices.

Find out more at the National Council of Nonprofits and see an excellent list of resources. Start building a deep bench and ensure that your nonprofit has a sustainable future even in the event of the unexpected. 

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