As a governance consultant, I’ve come to realize that most non-profits don’t have a written board succession plan in place. Many also often don’t have term limits or limits on the number of terms that board members can serve.
Creating a vibrant and sustainable board of directors is an essential part of effective governance. Succession planning for directors will enable the organization to freshen its leadership in order to continue meeting the challenges of a constantly changing business environment. The desired outcome is to have the right person available to fill a vacancy at the right time.
Here are 7 musts for effective board succession planning:
1. Get the board’s commitment
The board’s effectiveness is dependent upon on strong leadership. In order to be successful, any board succession plan must be fully supported by the board.
2. Ensure board term limits and put limits on the number terms that can be served
Turnover provides the opportunity to bring in fresh perspectives and new ideas that can grow the organization. No turnover results in stagnation.
3. Map out your board and their terms in a spreadsheet
Obtain a list of all your directors, where they are in their current term and which term they are in. Map this out in a document and slot in individuals as upcoming vacancies are confirmed.
4. Create a transparent process for confirming reappointments and selecting officers
Determine how you will have conversations about renewing directors and who will become an officer in the future. Make sure there is a transparent process in place so that everyone has the opportunity to express interest and be considered fairly.
5. Include emergency success planning in your process
There are circumstances when a chair’s sudden departure may occur, for example, death, sickness or resignation. Since any gap in leadership may affect stakeholder confidence, boards must respond immediately and decisively and communicate a plan to minimize any negative consequences and to maintain leadership stability.
6. Decide who will lead board succession planning
Will your board lead succession planning? Or your board development or governance or nominating committee? The board needs to decide what is best for the organization.
7. Keep your board succession plan alive
Many non-profits create policies and plans which just end up sitting on a shelf. Make sure your board succession plan remains alive and vibrant. Tweak as needed to keep it current.
Without a board succession plan, your non-profit is at risk and may result in power struggles with your leadership. In addition, the board can become stagnant which could result in the organization falling behind and losing relevance.
Does your non-profit have a board succession plan? I would love to continue the conversation so feel free to contact me to talk about succession planning and how I might be able to assist you and your board.
Yours in Good Governance,
Heather Terrence, CAE
Pinpoint Governance Group