What is Your NFP Board’s Succession Plan?

Al Harsar, CPA

A not-for-profit organization needs to have a succession plan in place to ensure the continued existence of the organization during transitions of the trustees, in the same way that a for-profit business puts these plans into place.  Many not-for-profit organizations have a board of volunteer trustees that interact with the staff and make governing decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. Staff is usually comprised of an Executive Director (or President and CEO), a marketing and development person, a bookkeeper, and an administrative assistant.

One of the best ways to keep proper succession is to have enough board members so that a new slate of officers can be elected every 2-3 years, in addition to the non-elected board members.   A President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer are needed, and 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 3 years in length with an additional 3 year term if renewed by a vote of the board. These terms should be staggered so that there is always some form of continuity, which is a key factor when governing an organization.

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 set 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 organizations history and its current agenda. Smooth transition will help keep the organization strong and fulfill its mission for many years to come.