An effective succession plan makes the transition from one Executive Director to the next smoother for everyone involved.

Board members must be ready to act when an executive director leaves—whether it is planned or sudden. All Board members should have a copy of the Succession Plan and be cognizant of their roles and responsibilities in the event of a vacancy in staff leadership.

Staff and volunteers should know the plan, what will happen and when, and who is responsible for transition tasks. Staff and volunteers should be made aware of who will fulfill the role of the executive director, in terms of their supervision and reporting, if there’s going to be a gap between the former and incoming director.

Incoming (or Interim) Executive Directors will benefit from a strong succession plan as it prevents surprises, particularly after and unexpected vacancy. An effective succession plan will include interaction between boards and new directors and between staff and new directors—one-on-one and in groups.

Constituents will benefit from a good succession plan because it will ensure services and activities continue seamlessly.

Donors should be engaged in the transition of leadership in a variety of ways, depending upon the situation. For major donors it may be beneficial for the outgoing and incoming leadership to meet with these donors together to pass along the relationship in a very personal manner. All donors should receive information about the change in leadership in a timely manner.

The IRS is informed of leadership changes through a nonprofit’s 990 tax return. If an organization uses an independent accounting firm to prepare the 990, that firm should be notified of leadership changes. All other financial entities (banks, credit cards, investment accounts, etc.).