Leadership Change: Here's How to Make It as Painless as Possible
Running a successful nonprofit is difficult enough under ideal circumstances, let alone when the organization embarks on a change in leadership. Yet as we all know, staff turnover, including at the CEO level, is especially high in the nonprofit sector.
The reasons vary — everything from stagnant pay grades to improper conduct, health issues, new strategic direction and the desire for something new. But no matter the reason, leadership change is an all-too-common occurrence for nonprofits in particular, and if a charity is not prepared, it could cause a lot of stress, pain and unnecessary turmoil.
To avoid the common pitfalls that often come with a leadership change and make the transition as painless as possible, nonprofits should carefully consider the following.
The succession plan
The first order of business for any organization undergoing a change in leadership is to never be caught off-guard.
“The most important thing nonprofits can do to ensure a successful change in leadership is to have a succession plan in place,” says Steve Nardizzi, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Given the turnover numbers at nonprofit organizations, you’d think having a succession plan in place for the president and/or CEO would be standard operating procedure. However, this is often not the case, says Atul Tandon, founder and CEO of the Tandon Institute.
“We find that almost two-thirds of boards [we work with] don’t have a succession plan in place for the current CEO,” Tandon says, whose institute works with nonprofits on strategy, solutions and staffing.
That’s a vital mistake, as Nardizzi can attest to. When he took over as CEO for Wounded Warrior Project, the organization did not have a succession plan in place, which made it difficult as a young, growing organization to keep things moving quickly. Thus, the decision on a new leader did not go at a swift pace, and the organization learned the hard way that it needed to be better prepared in the future.