Succession Planning

Recently, I wrote a blog for Bloomerang on Succession Planning and the fact that it is not just for the CEO.  You can read that here .

A lot of the focus in that blog was on planning before you need to worry about succession.  But what happens when you have no plan and you need to find a 2015 ACAC Track Championshipssuccessor NOW?

For obvious reasons, this is often called the Emergency Succession Plan.  It’s the what do we do now that the CEO has packed up and left because of illness, accident, death, a better opportunity, or because the board simply had had enough?

As with many things, the larger the organization, the smaller the problems.  In an organization with sufficient staff, one person leaving may leave a vacancy, but it doesn’t mean that now you have a void.  But if you are small—and most of us are—one person, especially the top person, leaving can create a vacuum of scary magnitude.  This is particularly true if your CEO is also the CFO, the Development Director, the program manager.  And this article is mainly for you.

As if this weren’t stressful enough, if the executive did not document (or took all documentation) what he was doing, how he did it, where are those legal documents are, you may find yourselves in a world of hurt.

There is the easy stuff.  Where is, for example, your:

  • IRS Determination Letter and form 1023
    • Bylaws
    • Board minutes (remember, these are legal documents!)
    • EIN #
    • Financial statements, including audits and 990s
    • Computer passwords
    • Records: Vendor, clients, donors, all that stuff
    • Bank and investment information
    • Insurance information

And then there is the corporate memory, the relationships; all the stuff that is typically kept inside of one’s head.

Take a deep breath. You can find all this stuff.  Now what do you do?

First you must decide who (until a new CEO is on board) is speaking for the organization?  The last thing you need is competing messages in many voices.

Make hiring choices:

  • Consider the process. Will you do this on your own or hire a search firm?  If the latter, one that provides full service (at a high price) or look for someone who can guide the search committee though the steps.
  • During the hiring process you will need an interim. For how long?  Will this be an internal or external person?
    • What will the interim be responsible for?
    • Who will supervise?

Critically for succession planning is clarity at both board and staff levels of where the organization is today, where it is heading over the next several years, and what must be done to accomplish that.

Sound familiar?  It should.  It’s what your strategic plan outlines for you.  Here’s a formula for success at this trying time:
A written succession plan + a strategic plan that is updated regularly and followed = organizational success.

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