Chuck ReCorr’s Bullet Points on The Importance of Succession Planning
- Donors identify with an organization’s mission, but significant donors are more inclined to support an organization with a succession plan versus one without a plan. Plans should be pro-offered as an element of an organization’s sustainability planning.
- Succession planning is a board responsibility, it should not be delegated.
- It is not “If” you lose your Executive Director, it’s “When?” Leaders retire, quit, get replaced, move, take ill, or get hired away. Usually, the loss of a leader happens at the most inopportune times.
- Do you have someone in your organization who can “Step-Up” and successfully run the organization in an emergency? If not, you need to recruit someone for your board who would be willing to step Down, and run the organization until a replacement can be found.
- If you have an internal candidate to replace your Executive Director, do they know of your expectations and are they willing to “Step-Up?” Have you assessed their strengths and weaknesses and created a talent development plan for them using external and internal education resources, and board members as mentors?
- Succession Plan assessment should be a standing item on your board meeting agendas. Ask the question, “Has anything changed since our last meeting that would negatively impact our succession plan?” If “No,” move on, if “Yes,” as soon as practical, discuss what has changed, and the potential impact, then amend your succession plan.
- Succession planning may be assigned to the Nominating Committee. The committee should develop and maintain a copy of the board-approved succession plan and a file on internal as well as external candidates.
- Your Succession Plan should be detailed. For example, “Where does the Executive Director keep the keys for their files? What documents does the ED have away from the office?”
- The criteria for change of control should be outlined in the succession plan. For example, “What has to happen for the plan to be activated?” Additionally, there should be a checklist for legal document authorization changes such as bank accounts, contract agreements, etc.
- The procedure for replacing an Executive Director should be referenced in the organizational By-Laws.
- The Succession Plan should include the identification of who in the organization will be the spokesperson responding to any media, or stakeholder inquiries.
- Proactive communication about succession events and succession planning should be outlined.
- Ask your major donors and major donor candidates to review your Succession Plan. It is a document that allows them to see the quality of work your board does and can inspire confidence in donors that their gifts will be overseen by a responsible board of directors. Also, they may have some helpful suggestions.
Now, go forth and succeed by completing a Succession Plan for your organization. Your staff, volunteers, donors, board and community are counting on you.