Succession Planning

Organizations have a plan for almost every contingency, except for the inevitable change in leadership


Successful leaders anticipate change. But when it comes to the most foreseeable changes, like an executive departure, only 17 percent of nonprofits report having a succession plan. Third Sector New England has developed workshops and a training series for boards, executives and staff that focuses on the necessary, but often neglected work of succession planning.

Emergency leadership transitions can leave your organization at risk.

An emergency succession plan is a risk management best practice and helps to ensure the ongoing operations and stability of the organization in the event of an unexpected departure. Central to the plan is the identification of core executive functions and cross-training for staff to share knowledge and access to key operations, financial data and legal documents.

When a departure date is identified, we offers a process that provides support to the departing executive related to priority setting and legacy planning, an assessment that identifies the organization’s key vulnerabilities and opportunities, an action plan related to the assessment, and support to the board before the transition process begins.

TSNE stays with you at every step of your planning and departure. We guide your organization through the essential phases of succession planning including: 

  • Strategic leadership development. A core component of succession planning that identifies opportunities for shared leadership among staff, develops plans for professional development and cross-training. 
  • Advancing agency sustainability. The structure of the organization should be reviewed and strengthened, from identifying and addressing operational weaknesses to preparing systems for the handoff. 
  • Preparing the stakeholders. More people are anxious than you think: board members and staff at every level want to know, “What’s going to change for me?” 
  • Identifying future leadership needs. However difficult it may be or seem at the time, leadership transitions are also the best opportunity to ensure alignment about where the organization is going, what type of skills are needed for an executive to succeed and what type of person will best lead it.
  • Ensuring the appropriate departure of the current executive director. From legacy planning and unfinished business, to setting a date and having a party.
  • Recruiting, hiring and successfully orienting the new executive director. Yes, there are some nitty-gritty rules and best practices for choosing the best leadership and making sure they are assisted in adjusting into the new environment well.  Our nonprofit professionals can get your organization ready.

Succession planning helps you understand your key vulnerabilities and strengths, build leadership capacity of staff, align staff development with strategic vision, strengthen board leadership and become “transition ready.” Download the fact sheet on succession planning in English or en Español.

Learn how Executive Transitions can help your nonprofit. Contact us.