Is your nonprofit prepared for the future? What would happen if someone were hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow on his or her way to work? If you have no idea what you would do, then you are not alone. Unfortunately, most nonprofits have no plan in place to keep the organization running and services being provided. Fortunately, by putting a succession plan into place, you can be certain that your organization can continue its work in the event a key individual leaves unexpectedly.
Three are three key groups of people that need to play a role in developing the emergency succession plan. First, the board of directors must be involved. Since one of their key roles is to ensure that the organization fulfills its mission and that the necessary resources to do so are in place, their input is essential. The Executive Director must also be included. Since he/she is most familiar with the day-to-day happenings of the organization, they can provide a lot of information about what should be in a plan to continue the work of the organization. It is also important to include other key staff who may be responsible for providing assistance and guidance to someone new.
What to do if there is no Emergency Succession Plan in Place
Perhaps your organization has found itself in a difficult spot…before you could develop a succession plan, you find yourself without an Executive Director. Begin by identifying someone who will be the key spokesperson for the organization. The board of directors will need to meet to identify the process that will be used to hire a new Executive Director (use a search firm, complete the process themselves, etc). The board will also need to determine who will run the organization on a day-to-day basis until a new person is hired. This is often called an Interim Executive Director; as part of the discussion about the interim position, compensation will also need to be discussed. Know that while an interim is in place, it will be necessary for the board to provide guidance and direction as well as support.
Putting an Emergency Succession Plan in Place
A good place to start with an Emergency Succession Plan is with the Executive Director’s job description. Ensure that the job description is current and accurately reflects the reality of the Executive Director’s work. It may be necessary to have the Executive Director do an audit of his/her work to truly capture everything that should be included in the job description.
Next, use the current strategic plan to identify key objectives of the position. In other words, what are the most important projects the Executive Director will be focusing on in the upcoming year?
In today’s world of passwords and virtual services, the Executive Director is often responsible for a number of “log-ins.” Use a system to track all log-ins and passwords to ensure continued accessibility; one such tool is Zoho Vault. This virtual system is the one that we use in our office; it allows some passwords to be shared while others can be kept personal. And, best of all it is only $1 per month.
Have the Executive Director compile a binder of the organization’s policies and procedures. Some policies that should be in the binder include financial policies, personnel policies, communication policies, etc. Additionally, the binder should include a copy of the minutes from all board meetings for the past year. It is important to review the binder once a quarter to ensure that it remains accurate and relevant.
Succession planning is an area of weakness for many nonprofits. It is too easy to get busy doing the “work of the organization” and forget to plan for future emergencies. But, not planning is really poor stewardship. Make it a goal in 2016 to develop a comprehensive succession plan for your organization.
Need help? Contact us, we will be happy to assist.