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Succession Planning for Your Nonprofit Board

"One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it's almost a non-event when it happens."
Anne M. Mulcahy

Leadership transitions within organizations can be anticipated or be quite sudden. Transitions may be due to a personal change for a board member or staff, or they may be the result of a thoughtful and long-term decision to make a change. A report from BoardSource in 2021 found that only 29% (n = 820) of a surveyed group of nonprofits had a written succession plan. If you are looking to keep your nonprofit sustainable, you will want to be sure that you have a written succession plan ready to go.

A board’s succession plan plan is the organization’s long-term strategy that describes the process of replacing a board member or an executive director. This is meant to help leadership identify the next candidates for a board’s leadership. This is an essential step for sustainability because it maintains the stability of the organization. It can be an excellent way to bring in new ideas for an organization and thereby promote resilience. Succession planning is also an opportunity to increase board diversity – however that may be defined (, 2024).

There are generally three types of succession planning. These include;

  • Emergency Succession Planning, which can be very stressful for everyone involved.
  • Departure-Defined Succession Planning, which gives more space to address a longer timeline, and
  • Strategic Leader Development, which allows for professional development for staff (BoardSource, 2016).

Each of these kinds of succession plans has its own caveats and steps to ensure a positive outcome. The key to a successful outcome for any of these is to be transparent with both internal and external stakeholders.

Change is sometimes hard, but always inevitable. Participating on a board has its own share of responsibilities. These include a multitude of things such as finances, strategy and even succession plans. Proactive preparation for this kind of change is important, and can provide organizations with a number of strengths for ongoing sustainability.

Woodland Strategies is a professional consulting organization in Minneapolis that is dedicated to empowering clients for long term success and positive outcomes. Leadership is relationships. Woodland Strategies can assist you as you create succession plans for the Leadership within your nonprofit organization. Contact us today to learn more about our consulting services! Click here to get in touch! A Comprehensive Guide for Board of Directors Succession Planning. Retrieved online December 4, 2023. 2024. BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2021. Moody, M. Proactive Planning: Succeeding with Succession. BoardSourceBlog. Retrieved online December 4, 2023. September 28, 2016.

This article or any other promotional material(s) from Woodland Strategies, Inc. is in no way intended to be a comprehensive plan.

Please note all markets, circumstances, and results vary. Any strategic plan or marketing initiatives must follow all State and Federal laws and regulations, accordingly.

Please contact us directly for a complete assessment and plan for your individual organizational needs.

Establish a Risk Management Framework as You Advance Your Mission

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Ten Steps to a Successful Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is a significant undertaking. It requires energy, creativity, time and money. Your resources are important and limited. Get what you want! This is what we do at Woodland Strategies. Here are a few tips as you consider your upcoming planning project.

Choosing the Right Consultant

Consultants can provide valuable service and offer an objective perspective to assist organizations and team members in a variety of areas. Woodland Strategies, a business consulting firm in Minneapolis, MN, offers an assortment of consultancy services including Strategic Planning, Marketing Strategy, Development and Fundraising Strategy, and also Leadership Coaching.

How long does a typical strategic planning process take?

This is a question we are regularly asked at Woodland Strategies. Typically, a full strategic planning process can take up to six to eight months, depending on how in-depth the organizational planning team wants to take things.Your messaging – your values, mission and vision statements – can, and should, last between eight and twelve weeks. This is really the most fundamental part of your plan. It should never be rushed.