Nonprofit Management

Emergency Succession Planning: Is your nonprofit ready to stop, drop and roll?

If your Executive Director/CEO, CFO or COO suddenly couldn’t show up to work, would your organization be prepared?

Sometimes it’s sudden, like an accident or health crisis, and other times it’s simply a short term window to prepare for a leader leaving—but it is always important to have a backup plan when it comes to a leader’s absence.

It’s called emergency succession planning, and it’s critical to your organization’s survival.

Like any good emergency plan (think of those fire drills as a kid in school) – there should be clearly laid out steps to your emergency succession plan.  Ready to stop, drop, and roll?  Here are some basic elements to any good leader succession plan:
 
  1. Identify the key responsibilities and functions of the position that would need to be taken over in an emergency loss of a leader.
  2. Who are the people/titles internally who would take over these functions in the interim? Is it one person or multiple?
  3. Create a training and orientation plan for these backups.
  4. Who will the Acting CEO be? Consider whether an Interim CEO would be best for the coming 6-18 months and how you would recruit that role. Best practice states that the Interim CEO should not be an internal employee, so they can be a voice of neutrality for other employees and provide an outside perspective to identify opportunities for improvement.
  5. Determine what the Board’s role in the process will be. How will they be involved in selecting a new CEO, and how will they support the new CEO and the onboarding process?
  6. Have the emergency succession plan reviewed and adopted by your Board.


Learn more about emergency succession planning in this report.