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Facing an Executive Transition? Start Here.

by Molly O'Connell

The Executive Director has just announced that she’s leaving. What’s next?

past and futureFirst, breathe.

An executive transition is an organizational development opportunity rather than a crisis to be overcome as quickly as possible. Rushing to fill the void without thinking through the organization’s leadership needs for the future not only misses this strategic opportunity, but can lead to more costly leadership turnovers.

Next, form a Transition Committee.

The Board President should identify a group of board members and stakeholders to shepherd the organization through the executive transition process. This committee should be a small team of 4-6 past, current, and prospective board leaders. It’s also beneficial to includes a senior member of the staff (who is not a prospective candidate for the position).

Seek support!

The Transition Committee has a big job, and most boards will need some guidance along the way. So where can you turn? MANP!

  • We’re thrilled to have just released a comprehensive (and extremely affordable!) Mission-Driven Executive Transition Toolkit. This guide is specifically designed to help organizations with limited resources create a successful process. Easy to follow, packed with templates and samples, this toolkit will walk you through the process and keep you from reinventing the wheel.
  • For organizations with the resources to do so, investing in a search consultant to advise the process can be very helpful. You can find several in MANP’s Yellow Pages.
  • Note that identifying an interim executive director may also be appropriate, especially if there are challenging circumstances surrounding the departure.
  • We have compiled many other resources as part of MANP’s Mission Driven Leadershift initiative. This effort is all about supporting nonprofits to see (and seize!) the opportunities in leadership transition. It’s time to bring succession planning out of the shadows and treat it as part of broader sustainability planning so our missions can survive and thrive beyond us.

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