What is succession planning?
Succession planning is the process of preparing for a change of leadership within your organization.
Why is succession planning important?
Leadership transition, whether on the board or in senior management, can prove challenging in any circumstance but a transition within an unprepared organization can be a threat to sustainability. Proactively addressing inevitable transitions paves a smoother way for new leadership and organizational success. Succession planning will also help develop positive relationships with new leadership.
What is involved in succession planning?
First, it is important that everyone commit to "manage transition intentionally" (National Council of Nonprofits). It is essential for board and staff members to agree on the benefits of planning for transition. Succession planning should not be undertaken to hasten the exit of an unpopular leader. Instead, it is a commitment to the organization's future.
Once everyone is on the same page, the next step is to establish a succession timeline. What is on the horizon for the organization this year, within the next five years, or longer term?
Then, identify those responsible for developing a succession plan. A committee of board members may plan for a new board member or executive director. An executive director or a committee of staff members may plan for a transition in senior management.
The committee's most important task is to review the organization's mission, goals, programs, and services to identify the expertise necessary in a new leader. Pinpointing those skills will ensure that new leadership can strategize toward mission fulfillment and implement current and future goals. For example, fundraising and development expertise may be particularly helpful if there is an upcoming capital campaign.
During this process, it is critical to ensure policies and procedures are in place to facilitate the transfer of institutional knowledge. Eventually, message points should be developed to aid communications about the transition both internally and externally.
Finally, don't forget to properly acknowledge the outgoing leader. Solidify a continuing relationship with a natural supporter through a kind gesture of goodwill upon departure.