Leadership is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”
Would you want to fly on an airplane without a pilot or sign up for a class without an instructor? Of course not—you need someone to be in charge of these events, or you set yourself up for failure. The same is true for the nonprofit world. Organizations need someone at the top to lead them by setting the tone and guiding the organization to success
The executive director or CEO is the cornerstone of every nonprofit organization. As trusted, strong leaders, CEOs give nonprofits a sound footing that extends to all other areas of the organization in one way or another. When an executive director or CEO leaves the organization, whether planned or unexpected, the foundation of the organization can become unstable. Executive succession planning is a part of the core organizational process—an important part that should not be overlooked.
Whether a transition occurs due to an unexpected vacancy or the anticipated transition of a long-tenured leader, being deliberative and thoughtful and having a plan in place can help a nonprofit weather the inevitable challenges of leadership transition.
When executive directors leave, they typically take valuable knowledge with them. When that knowledge isn’t available to the new executive director, an organization can experience serious issues. Loss of strong and effective leadership can slash morale, reduce productivity, result in lost donations and even threaten the organization’s mission. Nonprofit organizations must always be prepared for unexpected leadership transition. Change can be a good thing when organizations actively plan for it. Planning will make the process cleaner, smoother and more transparent.
According to BoardSource, a nonprofit board planning organization, there aren’t enough nonprofit organizations taking succession planning seriously. BoardSource cites that only 27% of nonprofit organizations have a written plan for executive director or CEO succession currently in place, as reported in the Leading with Intent survey.
The National Council of Nonprofits offers the following list of tips to assist your nonprofit plan for leadership transition when (not if) it happens:
Ten Planning Tips for Leadership Transition
For more information on how to plan for leadership transition, contact the Eide Bailly nonprofit team today.