Reflections on BLF14: Post #12 – Executive Succession: Don’t Leave it to Chance!

Reflections on 2014 Board Leadership Forum, submitted by Carrie Minnich. This is the last review by Carrie.

GOB Washington
The GOB in front of the Washington Monument. Carrie Minnich is standing on the right.

Executive Succession: Don’t Leave it to Chance! (Tom Adams)

According to Mr. Adams, 67% of nonprofit executives plan to leave in less than four years.

  • (10% in less than one year,
  • 24% in one to two years,
  • 33% in three to four years, and
  • 33% in more than five years.

With the increase in the number of retiring executives, nonprofits need to plan for succession to ensure organizational sustainability.

Not only will planning for the departure of the organization’s leader mitigate risk but will also increase the transition success.

Three approaches to succession planning were discussed.

  1. Succession essentials – Having an executive backup plan and succession policy.
  2. Leader development – Developing the talent pool of possible replacements; internal succession.
  3. Departure-defined – An executive director has decided that he/she will leave in two to five years. The organization does not publicly announce the executive director’s intentions but uses the next two to three years to plan for the transition.

It was recommended to combine succession planning and sustainability planning.

In addition to a succession plan for the organization’s leader, sustainability planning includes intentionally looking at the organization’s focus, asking if the right people are involved, how much cash is in the bank, and who does the organization need to work with to be successful.

Many boards are currently or will be facing the need for executive transition in the near future.   Your board should be proactive in planning for the transition in your organization’s leadership so that your organization can have a smooth transition.

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