It’s inevitable. Nonprofit executives will come and go. When a beloved leader decides to retire or leave an organization, it offers both challenges and opportunities.
The shoes of a great CEO or CFO can be hard to fill. Finding someone to care for the people and believe in the mission who also has great leadership skills can be difficult. The uncertainty of new leadership can stir up all sorts of issues with the staff. They may wonder if they’ll like the new leader or if they can work with them as easily and happily as they could with the outbound executive.
Change also opens the door for great opportunity, and it is on this we’d like to focus. Opportunities include the ability to chart new directions with a new leader. New executives bring fresh ideas to an organization and may have experience from other posts that can help you grow. They bring new perspective and vision as well as energy into a nonprofit.
Tips for Finding Your Next Leader
After the initial shock wears off, when you learn that a current leader plans to leave, it’s time to get working. Here are tips and best practices to help you find your next great CEO, CFO, or other nonprofit leader.
- Create a succession plan: Nonprofit boards can do themselves and their organizations a great favor by developing a succession plan to guide the organization through leadership changes. Identify the qualities you seek in a leader and utilize groups or other resources to help you find the right candidates.
- Ease into the transition: If possible (for example, if someone plans to retire), ease into the transition by leaving plenty of time to find the new leader. It can take a year or more to find a leader for a large nonprofit organization. With more time available, you have the benefit of being quite choosy about who will lead the organization to success.
- Consider organizational culture: Take the pulse of your organization. Know its culture so you can find someone who will either continue the tradition or effect changes you seek. Without a good understanding of the corporate culture, you run the risk of putting a leader into position who will find roadblocks and create more turmoil than necessary in the first year of leadership.
- Support onboarding: Put into place an onboarding process that includes plenty of time for new leaders to meet key staff, understand the organization’s mission and principles, and broker relationships with donors and members. Don’t expect big changes right away; give the new leader time to ease into the organization.
- Hire interim help: Interim leadership, such as nonprofit accounting services or CPAs to fill CFO spots, can be a great help. They can maintain continuity and ensure that operations run smoothly until you hire a new leader.
Change is never easy, but if you can use the opportunities it brings to your advantage, you can grow through it. Nonprofit boards can do a great deal to ease the stress of a leadership transition to ensure their organizations continue to benefit others.
RBP Methods is a nonprofit software and consulting firm that helps right-brained people navigate a left-brained world. We offer a wide range of consulting services focused on helping nonprofits manage their accounting and financial needs. Our software choices include Abila, AccuFund and other nonprofit financial management tools. For more information, visit RBP Methods or call us at 503-648-9051.