The succession planning process should be an intentional conversation with a specific plan for the leadership of any business.

Nonprofit leadership, be it an Executive Director or Board Chair, should receive the same consideration. Do you have a succession planning process for your leadership?

Have you considered the following items if your Executive Director transitions out of their role with little or no warning?

Key Contacts and their history with the organization:
  • Donors
  • Vendors
  • Community partners
  • Volunteers


Critical Administration
  • When contracts need to be renewed
  • When scheduled maintenance needs to be initiated
  • Filing systems
  • Day-to-day tasks your ED does, but no one else knows or understands
Upcoming Meeting/Events
  • Key regularly scheduled meetings: with whom, where, what is the ED’s role
  • Upcoming meetings/events on their schedule
Grant Management
  • What grants have been requested
  • What grants have been funded and when are final reports due
  • Who are grant contacts that are being cultivated
  • What grants are in-progress or pending
  • Where is grant research filed
  • What data should be collected for upcoming reports 
Donor Cultivation
  • Who has the ED met with recently
  • Are there current conversations in-progress
  • What business/corporate partnerships are in the works

These are some, but not all items to consider when focused on your Executive Director and the succession planning process. How can you minimize the impact of an unexpected transition and help your organization keep running business as usual?

One of the ways we recommend is to create an online database for file and document sharing. You could use a program like Dropbox or Google Drive, but there are numerous free and paid options.

When setting up an online file sharing system, be sure to consider the following:
  • Who should have access and to which files?
  • How will you share the documents and inform staff, volunteers and board on how to access/use those file?
  • How to remove users, especially when there is a hostile staff transition?
  • Who will be responsible for updating file and when?
Some of the folders you may want to begin populating with key information to streamline communication and accessibility are:
  1. Program Documents – Blank documents/templates used for programs or outreach to ensure all staff and volunteers are using the most recent materials and can easily print those in a pinch when key staff may be unavailable or they are offsite.
  2. Board and Governance Documents – Board toolkit documents such as: key policies, procedures, bylaws, board handbook, previous minutes, current board contacts, etc.
  3. Volunteer Management – current list of volunteers and contact information, volunteer application form, volunteer job descriptions, screening and training processes, etc.
  4. Grants Management – tracking sheet of current, past, upcoming grants and reporting requirements.

This is not a comprehensive list, but should be a great place to get started as you work toward creating or updating an online document sharing system. Check back soon for more information on key tips for a succession planning process.

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