Preserving Your Mission with Succession Planning

[vc_row full_width=”false” img_animate=”false” animation_dir=”horizontal” animation_speed=”35000″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” background_attachment=”scroll” padding_top=”60″ padding_bottom=”20″ parallax=”false” video=”false”][vc_column animate=”false” effect=”fade” margin_b=”true” text_align=”left” pl=”0″ pr=”0″ pt=”0″ pb=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text pl=”0″ pr=”0″ pt=”0″ pb=”0″]While it’s hard to debate the utility of succession planning, we learned that 47% of Central Texas nonprofit organizations did not have a succession plan in 2012. At that same time, 49% of executive directors said they were likely to leave their organization in 4 years or less, and 73% estimated their remaining tenure as 8 years or less.

However, succession planning is often an after-thought, if it’s thought of at all. But at Mission Capital, we would argue that it should be at the top of your to do list, whether you are the Executive Director, another staff member or a board member, whether your leadership has been in place for 10 years, 30 years or 2 years

Succession planning is the process that your organization uses to identify and develop internal talent to fill key leadership roles and ensure organizational continuity. On a deeper level, it’s about preserving your mission by building a sustainable organization and even your legacy.

Good succession planning is not a one-time event or activity that you can check off a list. It is about developing a culture of leadership development and preparedness and investing in your team’s learning and leadership growth.

There are 3 general approaches to succession planning, and they’re defined by when the planning takes place.

Strategic succession planning is a long-term approach where by working in advance to build a roadmap for what’s next, you can ease your board and staff members’ minds as you together build a responsible, accountable organization. Often incorporated into strategic planning efforts, this proactive approach broadens leadership capacity through attention to cross-training, career development, and the professional development of staff and board leaders. This holistic approach usually incorporates organization-wide succession plans for all senior staff and identifies learning and career goals for all staff.

Departure-defined succession planning takes a more limited approach, as it is driven by the planned departure of the ED, usually a retirement or other situation where the executive may make his/her departure plan known (at least internally) long before the planned departure date. This type of planning should focus on identifying the organization’s goals at the likely departure point and determining which tools a successor will need to have in his or her skillset to achieve those goals. With the deadline in mind, the organization can devote significant attention to building the capacity of the board, managers, and systems to sustain funding and programs beyond the current executive’s tenure. With either of these approaches, you should include a contingency plan for an unexpected transition.

And of course, without either of these in place, your only option is emergency succession planning. Whether it is through resignation or termination, the organization must shift its attention to placing an acting or interim director, map out lines of authority within the organization, and identify a communications plan to speak to the transition.

Ensuring leadership continuity involves a plan, people who are prepared, and information. Those are relatively basic elements for most nonprofits to address, so there is no excuse for not adding succession planning to your organization’s to do list for the new year. You can incorporate it naturally into strategic planning, budgeting, planning for professional development, or your evaluation and goal-setting cycle.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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