Build Your Succession Plan with this Free Guide

No succession plan? With this free step-by-step guide, you can get “succession essentials” in place for your executive director position. And you can do it painlessly and with less than an hour’s work in many cases. The guide includes: Simple, step-by-step instructions to develop “the essentials,” a board-adopted succession policy and a backup plan for … Read more

The Three Phases of the Nonprofit Executive Succession Timeline

Executive director succession — the process of managing the turnover in a nonprofit’s chief executive position — involves a range of decisions, actions, and events spread over a year or more. The process begins with the incumbent executive’s decision to leave (or the board’s decision to make a leadership change). And it doesn’t conclude until the successor has settled into the role.

A well-planned executive succession involves three phases: sustainingtransitioning, and onboarding & support, as outlined in the graphic below. The timing of these phases can vary depending on the executive’s departure circumstances, the organization’s size and condition, whether a successor is waiting in the wings, and other factors.

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Webinar Replay: Nonprofit Succession Planning Made Easy

In this 60-minute webinar offered by GRF CPAs & Advisors, Trevor W. Williams, CPA and Don Tebbe cover: The three approaches to executive succession planning and their application What succession planning can do for your organization and which type would be best for your situation/needs The key steps to put “Succession Essentials” in place: a board-adopted … Read more

Two Courageous Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Executive Director Transition

Before forging ahead with an executive director transition and hiring a successor, there are two courageous questions that the board should ask about their nonprofit: should our organization continue? And a related question: should it continue in its current form?

These questions are seldom asked because we’re usually operating in business-as-usual mode. Our work is a continuum of opportunities and challenges. And leadership succession is just another problem to solve. Thus, we don’t recognize succession for what it is — a critical punctuation point in the organization’s history.

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Three Executive Succession Plans Your Nonprofit Should Have

The term “succession planning” can mean different things to different people. Some think it results in an “insurance policy” that ensures continuity when a leader is unexpectedly unavailable. Others, especially corporate board members, think it’s about leadership development — a plan to groom a single leader or a program to create a pipeline of leaders. Still others believe it’s an exit strategy for a soon-to-retire executive. All three of these interpretations are correct.

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The Six Biggest Nonprofit Executive Succession Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Executive director succession–planning for and managing the change from one chief executive to the next–is one of the nonprofit board’s most important responsibilities and possibly their least understood job. This isn’t surprising. Executive transitions happen infrequently, and managing them requires skills that fall far outside routine governance roles. Plus, succession projects are complicated and time-consuming. On top of that, succession planning is still a touchy topic in far too many organizations.

This article outlines some of the frequent executive director succession mistakes, what drives those mistakes, and how good preparation helps you avoid them.

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What You’re Not Doing About Employee Retention May Be Costing You

Nonprofits need to get serious about employee retention. That’s the takeaway message from an important recent study by Nonprofit HR.

The 2019 Talent Retention Practices Survey chronicles staff retention strategies and practices in over 350 organizations from across the US (and some from Canada). Respondents were evenly distributed across the spectrum from small employers (fewer than 10 employees) to large (more than 500 employees), and across budget sizes, from less than $1 million to more than $40 million.

The report is one of the first (if not the first) to identify and quantify the challenges around employee retention in nonprofits.

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The time to start planning for leadership succession… is NOW!

It’s unavoidable. Your nonprofit’s executive leader will leave sooner or later, maybe even sooner than you think. And yet, if your nonprofit is like most, a succession plan has not been discussed.

Fewer than 20% of nonprofits have a succession plan in place for their chief executive position, even though there’s a 100% chance the executive will leave the role eventually.

Too often considered an awkward or uncomfortable conversation, many choose to avoid the topic. While ignoring the subject leaves the organization ill-prepared when the inevitable happens, preparing for succession opens up a whole range of dialogues that lead to a stronger, more resilient organization.

This article addresses how to prepare for a smooth transition regardless of how or when your executive leaves.

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Leadership Transitions: How to Avoid the Mess

Don Tebbe is Joan Garry’s guest for Episode 29 of her podcast, Nonprofits are Messy. Here’s the link: Leadership Transitions: How to Avoid the Mess. Join Don and Joan for a lively discussion that covers:

  • Recent trends in leadership transitions in the nonprofit sector
  • How to create a WRITTEN succession plan (and why it’s critical)
  • The single biggest mistake boards make in succession planning
  • The three things a board needs to do when confronted with a transition
  • Pros and cons of hiring internal candidates
  • What to do if you think you made the wrong hire

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Developing Leaders, Developing Successors

There are two pervasive myths – false assumptions – that are holding back the development of leaders in the nonprofit sector.

The first myth is that leader development is too complicated and too expensive, which makes it the exclusive domain of the “big guys.” In other words, it’s for those mythic “other” nonprofits. You know, the ones with unlimited resources, lots of staff and plenty of time to do things… Just, not us.

The second myth is that organizations develop leaders. Behind this myth is the idea that leader development is something that the organization provides or does to its people. Unfortunately, this myth is causing many people to postpone leadership development actions that they could be taking today because they’ve bought into the false belief that it’s up to their organization to provide some sort of program or send them to a course that will magically turn them into a leader.

This case study interview dispels both of those myths. We will be talking with Allison Bogdanovic, who is executive director of Virginia Supportive Housing ( in Richmond, Virginia.

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