What is a Succession Plan and Does Your Nonprofit Need One?

The executive leader of a nonprofit plays a critical role. When that individual departs, it can leave a void fraught with challenges that could disrupt the sustainability of the organization. One way to avoid the problems that come with this type of unexpected departure is with a well-thought-out succession plan.

A Succession Plan Defined

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing new leaders who can immediately step into the incumbent’s role when necessary. Its purpose is to help nonprofits be proactive in building a pipeline of qualified individuals (within the organization as well as externally) so that when required, there is a pool of leaders who are ready to act. 

Does Your Organization Need a Succession Plan?

It’s important to think about the effect the transition of an executive leader can have on an organization. Some good starting questions to bring to the attention of the board of directors when exploring the organization’s succession-planning preparedness are:

  • If an executive leader is suddenly unable to serve, could specific operations and programs successfully continue? If not, is there a list of qualified individuals who may be good candidates for the position – either on a permanent or a temporary basis?
  • Are there people in positions other than the executive leader who could leave the organization vulnerable should they depart? If so, what plans are in place to address their departures?
  • Does the board of directors have the right mix of talent to effectively hire a new executive without a long delay?
  • Could the organization sustain a decline in income or fundraising activities without the executive? How important is the financial role held by the executive – will it be necessary to immediately replace the person in this position?

Unfortunately, only 27% of nonprofits surveyed have a written succession plan in place, according to Board Source research. The fact is, it’s in an organization’s best interest to plan for the unexpected. Things like retirement, illness, disability, death or an unexpected shift in leadership positions can happen without notice. Effective succession planning increases the likelihood that a nonprofit will have the strong leadership needed to ensure long-term stability and sustainability.

At Charity First, we understand the importance of stability and long-term commitments that our brokers have with their nonprofit clients. That is why we believe in building strong relationships with our retail partners – the mission of our dedicated and responsive team is to serve the unique needs of the nonprofit community.

For information, contact us at 800.352.2761 or email cfsubmissions@charityfirst.com.