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BOARDS AND COMMITTEES

They are volunteers, too!
Look here for information and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~September 2013~

committee meeting

SUCCESSION PLANNING: BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE


Succession planning is one of the major issues for the board of directors in the coming decade. The demographic reality is that organizations will have a shrinking pool of labor from which to draw on. That will impact nonprofit operations at all levels, from the receptionist to the executive and definitely the volunteer corps.
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It is this reality that has pushed succession planning – an important issue in normal times – to the forefront. Given looming demographic data, it is not surprising that this issue has already garnered a significant amount of press and even research attention. Despite this attention, study after study shows that executive directors and boards are not spending the necessary time or effort on succession planning. For a board of directors, the importance of succession planning is clear, but an area that is not receiving adequate attention. sign succession planning

The question of how organizations can best implement an effective succession planning program, however, remains far less straightforward.
As knowledge around the issue grows, best practices emerge regarding the
characteristics of an effective succession planning program. Of particular interest are five specific characteristics that both CEOs and Boards may find helpful in developing a successful and effective program.

Be proactive, not reactive.

Those who volunteer for boards are often between ages of 30 to 50.  This is especially true in grassroots organization.  This means that the market for board members, a new executive director, paid staff, or leadership volunteers will be tight.  Too many openings and not enough people. Given this statistical reality organizations need to establish an active plan to find new people to fill a variety of roles. Identifying talent within and outside the organization is essential.

Make succession planning a priority at all levels of the organization.
Suppose the treasurer of the board who has served six years announces she is leaving.  The board likely will set up a rigorous plan to find a new treasurer, likely to take a few weeks.  That is not succession planning.  The organization should know who is qualified to replace this key leadership person and is prepared to step in to the position.  The entire organization, not just the board, needs to commit to planning ahead.  An executive director or CEO needs to motivate staff and work with the board president to devote the time and effort to make succession planning a reality.
Leverage a systematic approach.
Programs in a nonprofit are measured, usually by results.  Funds raised are measured and compared year to year.  Employee turnover is measured.  So too succession.  Whether it is planning for staff turnover or board turnover, there needs to be a clear process that is working all the time…just like risk management.
Be clear and flexible about what you need.
Organizations need to be clear, yet flexible in planning for the future.  A nonprofit may have had a long term executive director whose leadership style is steady and reliable.  The board knows (from strategic planning) that the future leader needs to be someone who is tech savvy.  Board members may be looking for the next leader and the staff to support someone with those specific skills.  This is in order to take the organization to its next level of effectiveness.
Give potential successors a broad education.

Whether paid staff, board or volunteer create a broad education.  Staff can shadow people from other areas of work in the nonprofit. Board members can visit with staff in all areas of service and administration.  Sometimes it pays off to have a board member work for one day in the organization to see the efforts of volunteers and staff.  This type of familiarity with operations can help individuals, staff or volunteer, bring there A game to the work of the organization.  It is also a way of preparing people to move into new positions. 

 

The looming demographic change will impact the recruitment and retention of board volunteers and paid staff. Organizations with effective leadership are more successful than those without.


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