5 Best Practices for Successful Nonprofit Succession Planning

A strong leader is critical to the success of a nonprofit organization’s ability to provide continuous services to the community, and its long-term sustainability for the future. This is why having a succession plan for when an executive leader departs is so important.

When developing a succession plan, organizations should consider the following five best practices.


  1. Make a commitment to establish a succession plan.

Current leaders should take a proactive first step by scheduling a day and time to meet with the executive committee to begin the process of developing a succession plan. Communicate the importance of committing to and following through with the plan, and schedule additional follow-up meetings to review drafts and make final approvals.


  1. Identify the skills of the next executive leader.

What worked in the past may not necessarily work moving forward. When putting together a succession plan, careful consideration should be given to what will be required of the next leader. Now is the ideal time to make changes to the executive’s job description so that it better aligns with the organization’s goals and provides direction for the next executive.


  1. Create a plan that’s flexible.

It’s important that a succession plan be able to adapt to the changing needs of the organization. A simple way to accomplish this is to revisit the plan annually to ensure that it remains current and applicable.  


  1. Establish accountability.

The board or executive committee should have a built-in agenda for reviewing the plan’s progress in accordance with the action steps outlined, and should be held accountable for the implementation process and follow-through.


  1. Include an operational manual.

In the event of an emergency or unexpected departure, having a written operational manual for administrative systems can help minimize disruptions during staff transitions. This can include information such as who will act as an immediate backup, key activities that should be immediately addressed, computer usage policies and other management processes. 


At Charity First, we’re passionate about providing innovative products, services and resources to meet the changing needs of nonprofit organizations. For information, contact us at 800-352-2761 or email cfsubmissions@charityfirst.com.