Nonprofit Leadership: Succession Planning Is a Must
I have worked in a number of senior-level positions in my not-for-profit career. Very rarely in my No. 2 role did the No. 1 role have an organizational plan for succession. In fact, if you ask most senior-level professionals they would admit succession planning doesn't exist or the plan sits and gathers dust.
They would say you cannot predict your own job security and future much less guarantee an opportunity for someone who could take your place. For this process to work, the culture of the organization must support employee growth and development. This organizational planning tool begins at the top. In today's world, succession planning is a must.
Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research Inc., helped direct a survey targeted toward an array of young fundraising professionals. She noted that currently in the fundraising world, the trend for future leaders rests with individuals having expertise in major gifts and planned gifts. Due to dynamic changes in the ways funds are secured, younger fundraising professionals need experience in these areas of expertise earlier in their careers. The literature suggests that gathering this experience can prepare you for a senior-level positions at an earlier career juncture than in the past.
In the Cygnus Applied Research survey, 43 percent of the development professionals noted they plan to stay in fundraising for the balance of their careers. Among them, one in two will retire within the next five to 10 years. Burk notes that to meet upcoming retirement demands for senior leaders, current senior practitioners need to encourage succession planning and promotion of younger professionals at a faster pace than ever in the history of the organization.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, because nonprofits have a social-welfare mandate opposed to the profit mandate, most of their resources go to providing services rather than supporting administrative and management functions. This focus can leave nonprofits particularly vulnerable in turbulent times of leadership change. The limited management structure also means that nonprofits rely even more on a single individuals to do multiple functions of fundraising and management. Handling dual roles is extremely difficult, and few professionals can effectively balance these responsibilities.
As you begin the process of creating a succession-planning model in your organization, Dan Keller, owner and editor of Career CoPilot, provides seven tips for best practices in this evolving area:
- Provide multiple routes within an organization for career advancement, and be innovative and open to new and modified job descriptions.
- Reward managers for developing talent, and praise managers for thinking outside of the box.
- Use enterprise learning as a performance lever, and have development plans for each employee.
- Understand that senior management isn't the only designation for every employee. See what each employee can do best, and maximize employees' skills and reward them accordingly.
- Train managers to be coaches, and provide them with the right tools. Take the time to cultivate the skills of the people who will give a direct impact on the development of your employees. Make sure your HR people also have the ability to train employees.
- Allow employees to move horizontally as well as vertically in the organization. If possible, challenge your employees, and consistently cross-train them.
- Make transparency a priority. Provide access to information. Provide measurement criteria and career opportunities. Technology can help, and always seek best-of-class practices.
According to the Center for Association Leadership, leaders should assist with succession planning with the end of their tenure in mind. Knowing the time line for a possible change in leadership begins the process for succession planning. Once that is known, identify gaps between the leadership requirements and existing talent pool. Also understand the current and future organizational needs and what is required for the next leader to be successful in a changing not-for-profit fundraising environment. This activity involves many stakeholders and is certainly not easy.
In the article "Succession Planning for Nonprofits of All Sizes," in Board Café, Tim Wolfred and Jan Masaoka note that more nonprofits are realizing that leadership transition is a crucial moment in an organization's life. Thinking should always take place about how to set the next stage for a strong transition.
Putting a good succession plan in place reflects a commitment to an organization that goes beyond its strong leaders to serve its community long into the future.
What is your succession plan?
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy.