Home > Executive Search & Transition Management > Succession Planning – What we are hearing from Grantmakers

Succession Planning – What we are hearing from Grantmakers

Written by Don Crocker, CEO/Executive Director, Support Center for Nonprofit Management

My four year old granddaughter enjoys our visits and is never happy when “suddenly” we are on our way.

We’ve learned that it is better to plan our departure and to give her a “heads-up” on the timing of when we will be headed out.

Don Crocker with granddaughter Haley

While she might still ask for us to stay (and play) a little while longer, the transition out toward home is always less dramatic and better accepted when it is planned.

Transitions are also challenging for CEOs in the nonprofit sector.  Sudden transition can lead to funder anxiety, board upheaval, and a drop in staff morlale.  Even a healthy organization can experience a significant loss of momentum when the CEO leaves.

Grantmakers want to know when a leadership transition is happening at one of their funded nonprofits.  A surprise – such as hearing such news “through the grapevine” – never lands well on a funder.

Successful nonprofit leadership transitions are hard work, requiring self-scrutiny, planning for the short and longer-term, and getting input from key partners.

Succession planning is helpful and an effective transition takes time – usually 6 – 9 months (the Support Center way) and additional financial resources to support the change.

Grantmakers are often willing to stay with thier favorite nonprofits during a transition and make this investment for nonprofits when they know the organization is being thoughtful and doing the hard planning necessary for future success.

Not all CEO transitions can be planned to the letter – life happens.

But pre-planning (succession planning and emergency succession planning) and transiton management can create a safety net for your organization.

Letting your funders know in a timely manner and asking for their advice and support when change is in the air, can soften what might otherwise turn out to be a rocky road ahead.

>>> Executive Transition Management

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