#CAIA2018 June 4-6, 2018


Succession planning for the long term health of your organization

My name is Shannon Meyer and I joined Response in Aspen as Executive Director this past November after 18 years working with nonprofits in the field of land conservation. For the past 7 years, I advised staff and boards of around 150 land trusts across 7 states.  During that time I saw many transition in leadership – a few that went really smoothly and many that did not. In almost all of the cases of smooth transitions, the common thread was planning… and specifically, a type of planning that is unfortunately overlooked by many non-profits —  succession planning.

A recent study by Board Source found that 50% of nonprofits will face a transition in the next 5 years but only 34% of them have a succession plan in place to manage the transition.  Transitions are inevitable in any organization but if they are not planned for and are poorly managed, they can lead to crisis, decreased effectiveness and sometimes even organizational failure.  If well planned and managed a leadership transition can make an organization stronger, more vibrant and more sustainable… and who doesn’t want that for their organization?!

Succession planning is a crucial risk management strategy that ensures the sustainability of your organization.  How many nonprofits can honestly say that things would progress without a hitch if their executive director won the lottery and never came to work again!  All of the long hard work of an organization can be placed in jeopardy if a sudden departure or even anticipated retirement is not planned for adequately.

In my session at CAIA I will talk about two important types succession planning that every organization should engage in.  The first is emergency succession planning which captures all of the crucial organizational details – from little to big –  that may now just be housed in your executive director’s brain. The second is strategic succession planning which looks at the long-term plan for leadership transitions and focuses on building leadership within your organization (both on the staff and board level). In this workshop you will learn more about why both types of plans are crucial for the sustainability of your organization, how to go about creating these plans and who should be involved in the processes. We will also explore case studies of transitions that went well and others that did not.  You will leave with a concrete action plan and template for creating your own emergency succession plan and ideas on how a strategic succession plan could work for you.



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