One of the most important responsibilities for nonprofit boards is selecting the organization's next executive director. The search and transition can be complex, and both generally require careful planning, well before a planned - or unplanned - departure occurs.

This process, also known as succession planning, includes developing your staff's knowledge, skills, and abilities, and preparing for the many changes that come with a change in leadership. Some things to consider, for example:

  • What does the board need to do during the first five days after the initial announcement?
  • Will you need a temporary chief executive?
  • Have you developed a transition timeline?
  • What do you need to include in the new chief executive's orientation packet?

The Annie E. Casey Foundation argues that nonprofits should have a succession plan because it: Ensures the organization's viability in the event of a key manager's unplanned absence

  • Makes the organization more nimble and flexible by developing a deep talent pool
  • Makes the executive's job more "doable" because leadership is shared
  • Energizes and reassures the board by providing opportunities to develop high-level strategies for the future
  • Strengthens the local nonprofit network as staff develop their skills and ambitions

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