How to Facilitate Board Leadership Succession

Nonprofit board communicationIs your organization prepared to transition leadership?

Every so often, leadership roles cycle to keep a fresh perspective and approach for the organization. When this happens, having a well thought out succession plan is fundamental to a smooth transition.

Yet, the transition of board leadership and members can be a tricky and cumbersome task. As one person leaves, you must onboard and bring up to speed their successor.

To do this successfully, boards must provide the appropriate guidance, information, relationships and resources upfront and in an organized manner.

Have a Contingency Plan Documented

Don’t scramble at the last minute to develop a succession plan. Have one on the books and ready for when the time arises. Create a matrix of each board member’s expertise and competencies. Use that to identify strong potential leaders and skill gaps to fill relative to organizational requirements.

Board Leadership Succession Planning

It takes advanced planning to pick a board member with the right qualifications to advance to a leadership role. First, document the responsibilities of the position and then compare that to your skills matrix. Pinpoint those individuals that have the necessary qualifications and that are also interested in the role.

Train and develop these individuals early, so that they are well equipped to step up when the moment arrives. To maximize readiness, consider a mentoring or shadowing program, increased involvement in projects or practice in decision-making scenarios.

Board Member Succession Planning

Once a board member is appointed to a leadership position, his or her existing seat on the board will need to be filled. There are various ways for your organization to spread the word and find a qualified individual. However, word of mouth often works best.

Give greater weight to recommendations that come from individuals within the organization or who are strong supporters. These people are more likely to recommend candidates who align with your mission and goals.

Look too to your skills matrix, and be sure that candidates selected bring the necessary capabilities and attributes to the table to meet organizational need. For example, you want a variety of backgrounds represented (i.e. accounting, legal) as well as strengths (i.e. networking, fundraising). Keep necessary criteria in mind as you evaluate nominees.

Onboard and Transition Successors

Taking a leadership or new member role on a board is both exciting and daunting for many. With a succession plan in place, you can facilitate an easy transition for the team’s new additions.

Make sure to have important documents and valuable information organized and readily available. Many organizations utilize portals to consolidate information, documents and resources for easy accessibility. These software bundles enable new and existing members to:

  • Access documents.
  • Weed through archived conversations.
  • Assess ongoing and upcoming activities.
  • Review personnel responsibilities.
  • Manage documents, meetings, information and personnel.
  • Manage skills and demographic reports.

Done manually, this can be a timely and overwhelming process, both for the facilitator and the successor. Software solutions alleviate many of the tasks associated with onboarding and transitioning leadership.

What are some features of your organization’s contingency plan?

For more information on board processes, engagement and onboarding, download our ebook.

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