There is change afoot in the nonprofit sector; in San Luis Obispo County and across the country, boards are seeking new presidents, and nonprofit executives are transitioning to new jobs. Even in our Spokes microcosm, the search for new leadership is on. CEO Lesley Santos Dierks is moving to a volunteer role as a board of director and consultant. Using Spokes’ carefully crafted succession plan, Spokes board and staff are reorganizing, facilitating great potential in this next phase of Spokes evolution.
Why does your organization need a succession plan? Succession planning is a discipline that enables organizations to reduce reliance on any one person or small group for critical functions, thereby building sustainability. Infusing an organization with new individuals is a healthy opportunity to expand viewpoints, diversify, and clarify the organizational vision. Considering that only 27% of organizations surveyed by the 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices reported that they had a written succession plan in place, it’s clearly something that needs to be added to the agenda.
Organizations experience leadership transition for a variety of reasons. At a minimum, best practices require regular turnover at the board level with term limits. Sometimes there is an unanticipated opening on the board or staff or a natural transition of a long-time leader. And, maybe your volunteer-run organization is hiring its first executive staff person. In each case, a succession plan is key to keeping stakeholders confident and preventing service recipients from experiencing delays. Here are tips to ensure your organization’s future transitions are as smooth as possible.
- Create clear job descriptions and roles for all volunteer, board of director, and staff roles; monitor and evaluate successes (and failures).
- Put policies and procedures on paper so any new volunteer and/or staff can get up and running quickly and efficiently. Start with a simple checklist, and imagine walking someone else through each step. Developing an operations manual for your processes will ensure consistency and uniformity. For details on creating these policies for your organization, click here.
- Continually train and cross-train all volunteers and/or current staff to minimize disruption from unexpected changes. Job shadow or utilize Lynda.com to help staff and volunteers learn the new skills and technologies they need to succeed one another. Spokes consulting services can also be a huge assist!
- Spread the wealth: make sure donors have relationships with more than one person in the organization. At your next event, make it a priority to introduce your donors to more members of your leadership team.
- Spokes offers classes and resources to help your board and staff learn the best practices of nonprofit management. Allow us to train them on the basics while you focus on teaching them the more nuanced functions of your operations.
- Take advantage of member benefits like Executive Director Roundtables and Board President Roundtables. At your next board or staff meeting, play Spokes Best Practices in Nonprofit Management video series.
- And, when an unexpected transition occurs despite great succession planning efforts, remember that Spokes offers Executive Search services through its consulting program. Learn more here.