Planning to Succeed

| by Staci Barfield

Every few years the nonprofit community collectively keys in on a few concepts or focus areas. One of the themes that seems to be emerging in 2020 is increased emphasis on succession planning.

While succession in this sense means to follow or take the place of, the word is closely aligned with another: success. All too often, nonprofits are caught with their proverbial “pants down” when key staff and board members decide to leave an organization. Surprisingly, relatively few organizations take the time to develop an actionable plan that can be implemented during transition. And transition WILL happen.

“The only constant in life is change.” Heraclitus

Staff and board changes happen for a variety of reasons including retirement, burnout, termination, pursuit of other opportunities, and (in the case of board members) term limits. We KNOW that, at some point, people will leave. So why do so many nonprofits bury their head in the sand when the topic of succession planning arises? If we know change will occur, why don’t we manage risk to the organization by preparing for it?

In its most basic form, a succession plan identifies actions to be taken in the event of a planned or unplanned departure. This may include bringing in interim leadership, recruiting new staff or board members, or developing talent to fill the void. Succession planning discussions often offer an outlet for leadership to discuss their personal and professional goals, thereby providing vital information needed to plan the future of the organization.

To learn more about the importance of succession planning, check out this series of videos produced by the Harvard 100 and featuring Eric Guckian (United Way of the Greater Triangle), Jeanne Tedrow (NC Center for Nonprofits), Dana Lange (Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC), and Ryan Ray (Jobs for Life).

Harvard 100 Succession Planning Series

 Do you have a plan in place to succeed?

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