The statistic that more than half of current nonprofit CEOs plan to leave their jobs in the next 5 years is sobering. But what's even more sobering is the companion statistic that only 34% of nonprofit organizations have a succession or transition plan in place. If one of the primary responsibilities of a nonprofit board is to ensure the sustainability of the organization, then lack of planning for the departure of the CEO is a serious problem. Leaders may leave because they are asked to, but there are many other reasons, some of them occurring suddenly and without notice. In those cases, an organization without a succession plan may be in a very bad way.
Thinking in advance about leadership transition can have a positive impact on organizations. Creating a plan while current leadership is still in place is essential to long-term protection, and should be part of strategic planning for every nonprofit. During the process, board members can have more insight into the actual job the CEO does, and how that role might be reimagined or reconfigured. There is also an opportunity for board members to reconnect with their own roles and become a more effective governing force.
When accomplished effectively, a succession plan creates a comfort zone for the board and CEO, and allows the organization to focus on achieving its mission.
Does your board need to talk about succession? Please be in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.