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Tell me more about an ED/CEO Succession Plan

WhAT Are The Basics?

When you think about succession planning do you immediately worry about how your organization will fair if the executive director is suddenly and unexpectedly unable to serve?

It's a legitimate concern. Executive directors are human. They get injured. Some quit. Every so often one wins the lottery. And executive transitions, which always present some challenges, can quickly lead to chaos if the change is unexpected and the organization is unprepared. But putting a plan in place that outlines how the organization will respond to an emergency absence is just one of two components of a good executive director succession plan. To sustain a healthy functioning organization during and after a transition, you should also outline the steps you will take to strengthen your organization before an absence even occurs so it is less dependent on any one person.


What Should I InClude In the Policy?

  • The plan should identify the people in specific job positions who will serve as acting director. The plan can also specify how the organization will compensate the acting director.
  • Succession plans should outline how the board will notify employees and key community partners about the executive director's absence.
  • Succession plans can outline the steps the organization will take to enlist the help of an interim director in cases of extended absence or permanent departure. 
  • Succession plans often include account numbers, passwords, information about where documents are stored, and emails and phone numbers for key contacts.
  • The plans should include goals for strengthening the organization's capacity to support an effective transition. Depending on an organization's circumstances those goals could include ensuring the following:
    • The organization has adequate financial reserves,
    • Operations manuals, job descriptions, and strategic plans are in place, 
    • The board understands and is doing a good job performing its governance role,
    • Current staff are highly qualified for their jobs,
    • Board members, community members, and funding partners have relationships with employees other than the executive director.

What Else Should I consider?

  • The executive director and any staff members who are expected to serve as acting director and all board members should be familiar with the plan. Some organization require signatures from all staff members who would be expected to step into the acting director role.  

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