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The unexpected departure of a nonprofit’s leader can cause organizational chaos. A nonprofit may establish policies and procedures to guide leadership transitions—unplanned and planned—to prevent damage to the organization and its work.
Succession planning—putting in place policies and procedures to ensure smooth and orderly leadership transitions—helps nonprofits prevent organizational chaos and harm to programs and projects if crucial staff or officers depart unexpectedly. Succession plans may also detail the procedures for handling routine or expected leadership changes (e.g., a plan might call for the formation of a search committee to find a new executive director and specify the composition of the committee) and shape efforts to develop staff so that they are ready to step into leadership roles within an organization.
This guide provides links to guides, articles, and model succession plans to help organizations optimize their succession planning. See the Succession Planning library topic at ConservationTools.org for these and other resources.
These guides provide an in-depth look at the need for and strategies to implement effective succession planning in an organization.
Nonprofit Executive Succession-Planning Toolkit
Building Leaderful Organizations: Succession Planning for Nonprofit
Staying Engaged, Stepping Up: Succession Planning and Executive Transition Management for Nonprofit Boards of Directors
These shorter articles outline key elements of succession planning and offer concise tips to establish or improve a succession plan.
“Succession Planning for Nonprofits—Managing Leadership Transitions”
“The Importance of Linking Leadership Succession, Strategy, and Governance”
“Blending Nonprofit Succession Planning and Executive Transition: A Successful Case”
“A Practical (and Possibly Proactive) Approach to Leadership Transitions”
“Nonprofit Succession Planning: It’s Not Just for the CEO”
“Avoid Transition Trauma with a CEO Succession Plan”
“The Board’s Role in Nonprofit Succession Planning”
Organizations can use these model plans to craft or inform their succession plans and policies.
Model Succession Plan (CompassPoint Nonprofit Services)
Model Emergency Succession Plan (Third Sector New England)
Model Succession Plan Policy (Texas Council for the Arts)
Nate Lotze compiled this guide.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association produced this guide with support from the William Penn Foundation, the Colcom Foundation, and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
Nothing contained in this or any other document available at ConservationTools.org is intended to be relied upon as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. The material presented is generally provided in the context of Pennsylvania law and, depending on the subject, may have more or less applicability elsewhere. There is no guarantee that it is up to date or error free.
© 2019 Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
Text may be excerpted and reproduced with acknowledgement of ConservationTools.org and the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.