What is Your Nonprofit Board’s Succession Plan?

by Megan Hiles
Photo of a baton pass.

Updated by Al Harsar in 2023.

Nonprofit Boards Need a Succession Plan

Nonprofit organizations need a succession plan in place to ensure the continued existence of the organization during transitions of the board members, in the same way that a for-profit business puts these plans into place.

Nonprofit organizations have a board of directors in addition to management staff. While attention is often focused on management succession planning, it is also important to also develop a succession plan for the board of directors/trustees. Succession planning for the board includes regularly recruiting new active members of the community that share your passion and mission, as well as implementing a plan for succession including term limits, emeritus positions, elections, etc.

What’s the Best Way to Develop a Succession Plan?

The best succession plan is to have multiple members on the board that are vested in the mission of the organization and willing to be proactive in governance so that a retiring board member has time to transition to another member designated to replace them. Open discussions should be had at the board level and decisions should always be made by a vote of the entire board so that all members are knowledgeable about the organization’s history and current agenda. Smooth transitions will help keep the organization strong and fulfill its mission for many years to come.

A president, vice president, secretary and treasurer are needed, at a minimum. In some cases, there is a need for multiple vice presidents to assist the president in governing over multiple programs or initiatives of the organization. Board members should have set terms so that the board always has new members coming into the mix. Terms can be three years in length with an additional three year term if renewed by a vote of the board, for example. These terms should be staggered so that there is always some form of continuity, which is a key factor when governing an organization. While the minimum for a board is three or four members, a larger board better allows for necessary continuity. When deciding what the magic number for your board will be, odd number is usually best as a majority vote will always be possible.

Developing a committee to recruit, interview, and discuss the opportunity with prospects is a strong way to funnel the activity and allow a focus group to report back to the larger board.  A committee can refine the processes, questions, and ensure that the board member is a great fit for the organization and that the prospect feels the same way in return. In determining the committees roles, it is wise to define the role of the board member, define the financial commitment minimums, if any, and identify any expertise gaps that need to be filled.

Ultimately, an active, well organized passionate board will work together to support the organization best.

Corrigan Krause Can Help

The Corrigan Krause Nonprofit team can help you develop a succession plan that works for your nonprofit. You can connect with any of the Nonprofit team members here or email info@corrigankrause.com.