5 Tips for Emergency Succession Planning

In nonprofit management, succession planning is an absolute necessity. Executive transition—no matter how long a leader holds his or her title—is inevitable over time. In her Succession Planning workshop, ESC Consultant Sue Ogle teaches that board members must be mindful of the possibility: What would happen if our Executive Director was not available to work starting tomorrow? Here are Sue’s top 5 tips for emergency Succession Planning.

1.) Ensure continuity of leadership
In the case of emergency succession, your nonprofit board must meet to confirm or decide upon an acting executive. While it is ideal to have an interim Executive Director lined up in the emergency plan itself, many organizations may not have the ability to make such a decision until a sudden departure occurs. In this case it is absolutely necessary for the board to meet and appoint a temporary leader as soon as possible.

2.) Establish a transition team
The transition team will serve as the body in charge of guiding and carrying out necessary changes in leadership. This group will clarify the roles and responsibilities of the acting executive as well as what board members will provide supervision or support of this individual.

3.) Communicate a short-term plan and timeline for permanent replacement
As the emergency turnover process continues, the transition team must clearly communicate a strategy to bring operations back to normalcy. If there is not someone on the board or closely involved with the organization who is fit or willing to take on this leadership role, an executive search must be employed.

4.) Review security issues and signatories
Any loose legal, financial, or human resources ends must be tied up and attended to at this time. This is one example of an area smaller nonprofits may not be able to effectively navigate alone—consider a Succession Planning consulting project if your organization may struggle in this area or any other step of the way.

5.)    Reach out to external stakeholders, funders, supporters and other important connected individuals or organizations
Finally, your nonprofit must update the key individuals and organizations on the executive transition. As with any major change, this time can be used to your advantage—all it takes is some creative thinking to produce a positive angle and get your organization back on its feet.

Taking all of these steps in a timely fashion ensures that a stressful situation that can put your nonprofit in jeopardy is handled in the most efficient and thorough way possible. If your organization is a candidate for Succession Planning consulting, or facilitation assistance in the execution of a preexisting succession plan, contact ESC Director of Consulting Ulea Lago at ulago@escne.org or 617-357-5550 to learn about our process including a two-hour complimentary assessment visit.