Sustainability and Succession Planning

Sustainability planning is a critical component of nonprofit health, mission effectiveness, and transition readiness.

The lack of organizations with a succession plan or an emergency succession plan combined with the large percentage of nonprofit leaders reporting frail, operationally and financially challenged organizations suggests not only that they are unprepared for transitions, but that it is time to shift our focus to a more holistic planning framework focused on sustainability.

A key challenge of succession planning is that it often leads organizations to focus solely on the executive director role and “who” is next rather than the sustainability and impact of the organization. The topic of succession is often taboo because talking about a leader’s departure is not easy, and usually avoided—but at a high cost. Shifting the framework to organizational sustainability supports boards, leaders and staff at all levels to engage in strengthening the organization and its impact.

Sustainability 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.” The process touches on everything from framing choices for the future to building a more diverse staff and board leadership. In essence, it’s about all the core activities needed to support the success of the organization’s mission and its leaders over time.

TSNE guides your organization through the essential phases of sustainability planning including:

  • Purpose and culture. Validate a shared understanding of mission, vision, values and strategy.
  • Strategic leadership development. Identifies opportunities for shared leadership among staff, engages the board in strengthening their governance role, and develops plans for professional development and training.
  • Operations assessment. Review operations to identify weaknesses or gaps and prioritize processes and procedures for development.
  • Strengthening partnerships. Map your external stakeholder environment and identify key relationships to optimize.
  • Determine revenue strategies for current and projected capacity that support the mission and vision of the organization.
  • Identifying future leadership needs. 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.