Executive Director Succession Plan Checklist

As the executive director, you believe in your nonprofit’s cause, and you want it to continue on no matter what happens to you. You want to be sure the right person takes your place afterward. When it comes down to it, you need an effective succession plan. And you need it now. But how do you get this plan together? Here are a few items to put on your Executive Director succession plan checklist:

  • Get a job description together: You want to make sure you have a job description ready before the position becomes vacant. If you wait until it is needed, it will be too late, and you’ll end up putting the organization through an unnecessarily long period of transition. A search committee or headhunter should be able to use this description long before it becomes necessary.
  • Outline the type of person you’ll need: In addition to a job description, you need to be able to inform a search committee about what kind of person you are looking for. What kind of skills do they need to be successful? What qualities will allow them to carry your nonprofit forward? Outline these on a document that search committees can use in the future.
  • Plan your search strategy: What methods will you use to find potential candidates? Will you put together a search committee? Utilize a search firm? Are there potential candidates within the organization? Plan this out, and plan it early, especially if you have candidates within who could be successful. You’ll need a lot of time to prepare them for the position.
  • Build relationships: These are not just your own. You want clients, donors, and other stakeholders to form relationships with people throughout your organization, not the executive director alone. That way, when the time comes for someone else to take your place, your nonprofit doesn’t collapse as various stakeholders abandon it just because you’re gone. They should be committed to your organization, not just to you.

Remember, the purpose for having a succession plan is not only for if you get in a wreck tomorrow afternoon or even get some terminal disease a few years down the road. You need to plan for any eventuality. There may come a day when you retire or move on to build up another organization. In these situations, you need to make sure that you have your plan in place. Plan as early as possible so that your nonprofit is able to continue on as smoothly as possible. Following the steps above, you can make that happen.

Y Scouts is an executive search firm that helps nonprofits and social enterprises find exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader. To be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.