Managing an executive transition
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Managing an executive transition

Managing an executive transition

Turnover at the top can be a scary time for nonprofits. This is especially the case for founding directors and artistic leaders, since the personalities of the director and the organization can get intertwined. However, it’s an opportunity to re-examine structure and strategies, emerging in a better place than ever. I frequently get calls from board members, looking for guidance on how they can navigate these waters and lead the organization in a strong transition that leaves the organization revitalized for the next phase of its life.

Here’s a list of useful resources when considering succession planning:

  • Start here with this fantastic overview from Nonprofit Quarterly – it’s not new, but it’s still spot-on advice. It also includes guidance on how to lay solid groundwork before it’s time to have a transition.
  • This toolkit for the leadership transition process was prepared by the Texas Commission on the Arts. It also addresses the founder issue, and how to handle an emergency transition if necessary.
  • Another good outline of the hiring process from top to bottom, from Bridgespan.
  • Do you need an exit agreement for the outgoing leader? Nonprofit Quarterly has advice there as well.
  • Considering an interim leader? The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a big supporter of them as a way to ensure the success of the permanent leader that follows.

And if you need help with any of the steps, or want someone to manage your executive search when the time comes, drop me a note at

Good luck!

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