1. Sustainability, Succession, and
Options for Actions for
Executives, Boards, and Managers
June 24, 2014
2. ABOUT TOM ADAMS
Former President of TransitionGuides
Former senior executive of NeighborWorks America
Led research projects supported by the W. K. Kellogg
Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on
nonprofit leadership transition and succession
Author of articles, monographs
and recent book The Nonprofit
Leadership Transition and
Development Guide: Proven
Paths for Leaders and
3. ABOUT RAFFA, P.C.
Focuses on making the world a better place
Contributes to client’s abilities to achieve their
missions and deliver their promises to the world.
Keeps organizations compliant, effective, and
efficient with practical back office support and deeper
strategies that create sustainability
Provides expertise in consulting, accounting,
nonprofit search, and technology services that help
advance client’s organizational missions.
1899 L Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20036
4. LEARNING OBJECTIVES
•Learn how leadership, strategy, resources, and
culture come together to influence organizational
•Discover the three types of succession planning
and the benefits of each type
•Explore the executive transition process and
considerations relative to internal succession for a
5. WHY DO THIS WORK?
6. COMING TO TERMS WITH CHANGE
7. THE THREE BIG IDEAS
Executive Transition Management
8. How is it
WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?
9. STABILITY, SUSTAINABILITY & VITALITY
10. FOUR CORE ELEMENTS OF
11. FOUR CORE ELEMENTS OF SUSTAINABILITY:
Business Model: How the organization creates and delivers
value, and finances the value-creation process.
• Has at least 5-7 years of life in front of it.
• Built on quality services. Needed by clients. Valued by
Business Strategy: A coordinated set of actions aimed at
creating and sustaining a market position in order to carry out
your nonprofit’s mission. (Competitive advantage.)
• Is there a strategy in place? Is it written?
• Does it position the organization to meet future needs and
• Are the board and staff aligned with it and about it?
12. FOUR CORE ELEMENTS OF SUSTAINABILITY:
Leadership in place to meet current and future needs
Succession plans for top leadership
The Board is a high-value asset to the organization
The Board’s work adequately covers its three core roles:
• Shaping mission and direction
• Ensuring leadership and resources
• Monitoring and improving performance, including its own
Strong, positive relationship between Board and executive
Diversity plus cultural and intergenerational competence
13. FOUR CORE ELEMENTS OF SUSTAINABILITY:
RESOURCES - TRENDS
Sufficient financial resources to meet short to midterm commitments
(6 to 24 months)
Revenue streams are properly diverse and have longevity
Favorable trends: revenue, expense and margin; good ratios
Proactive resource development strategy in place
Good stewardship of hard assets and building soft assets
14. FOUR CORE ELEMENTS OF SUSTAINABILITY:
Flexible in a dynamic environment
Bounces back quickly from setbacks
• Future focused, results-oriented, and action-based
• Organization’s value and impact is widely understood
WHAT IS SUCCESSION PLANNING?
17. WHY PLAN FOR SUCCESSION?
Ensures Organizational Sustainability
Increases Transition Success
Gets us beyond an ugly
truth that we avoid:
All careers eventually
lead to a transition…
It’s just a matter of when
and how well managed
19. SUCCESSION PLANNING:
Emergency Backup Plans
Board Adopted Succession Policy
20. SUCCESSION ESSENTIALS:
EMERGENCY BACKUP PLANNING
Key Functions &
Plan & Policy
21. SUCCESSION ESSENTIALS:
Outlines how to handle a planned executive departure
Statement of commitment:
• Prepares for inevitable leadership change
• Assesses leadership needs before beginning a search
Plan to appoint interim leadership
23. SUCCESSION PLANNING:
Increase organization’s capacity to deliver its mission
under new leadership, whenever the transition occurs
• Capacity-building plan strengthens the four critical
elements of organizational sustainability
• Succession policy outlines the board’s policies &
roles for a chief executive transition
• Backup plans and cross-training for continuity
25. WHY DO SUSTAINABILITY AND
Builds bench depth and internal capacity
Key responsibility of top leadership; can’t be delegated
Best if involvement is broad-based and connected to
ongoing succession planning
• Minimizes crisis of an unplanned absence
• Identifies “organizational gaps” in coverage
• Backup Plans
• Succession Policy
• Executive Leader
• Sharpen Strategy
• Change Culture
SUSTAINABILITY – SUCCESSION – TRANSITION
28. PROCESS OVERVIEW:
EXECUTIVE TRANSITION MANAGEMENT
mission under new
29. THE NEXT STEPS WORKSHOP
Sustainability, succession, and transition planning
for founders and long-tenured executives
Dates & Locations
• July 9-10, 2014 – Baltimore, MD
• October 22-23, 2014 – Washington, DC
• January 26-27, 2015 – Washington, DC
More information: Melody Thomas
30. THE NEXT STEPS WORKSHOP
SUSTAINABILITY, SUCCESSION, AND TRANSITION PLANNING
FOR FOUNDERS AND LONG-TENURED EXECUTIVES
DATES & LOCATIONS
JULY 9-10, 2014 – BALTIMORE, MD
OCTOBER 22-23, 2014 – WASHINGTON, DC
JANUARY 26-27, 2015 – WASHINGTON, DC
MORE INFORMATION: CONTACT MELODY THOMAS
THE NONPROFIT LEADERSHIP
TRANSITION AND DEVELOPMENT GUIDE
– Covers Leadership Transition and Leadership
AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON.COM
ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION MONOGRAPH SERIES
• Building Leaderful Organizations
• Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out
• Capturing the Power of Leadership Change
• Founder Transitions: Creating Good Endings and New Beginnings
• Interim Executives: The Power in the Middle
• Up Next: Generation Change and Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations
• Stepping Up, Staying Engaged (Boards During Transitions)
AVAILABLE ONLINE AT:
34. [Organization Name]
EMERGENCY BACKUP SUCCESSION PLAN
Guideline for the Appointment of an Acting [Executive Title]
in the Event of an Unplanned Absence of the Incumbent
The [Executive Title] position in a nonprofit organization is a central element in the organization’s
success. Therefore, ensuring that the functions of the [Executive Title] are well-understood and
shared among the [Senior Management Team] is important to ensure organizational stability and
leadership continuity in the event of unplanned and unexpected change. This kind of risk
management is equally helpful in facilitating a smooth leadership transition even when it is
predictable and planned.
The purpose of this plan is to ensure the continuous coverage of duties critical to the ongoing
successful operations of [Organization Name]. The Board of Directors is adopting policies and
procedures for the temporary appointment of an Acting [Executive Title] in the event of an
unplanned and extended absence of the [Executive Title]. The [Board President/Board Chair], or
[Board Vice-President/Board Vice-Chair] in the absence of the [Board President/Board Chair], may
determine the appropriate time to initiate the implementation of this plan.
While the Board of Directors acknowledges that such an absence is highly improbable and certainly
undesirable, they believe that due diligence in exercising executive-level management functions
requires that it have an Emergency Backup Succession Plan in place. The intent of this plan is to
ensure continuity in the administration of the organization's day-to-day operations, programs,
management of external relationships, and supervision of staff and finances.
2. Key Functions of the [Executive Title]
Of the duties listed in the job description (see Attachment 2), the key functions of the [Executive Title]
have a corresponding temporary staffing strategy for an Acting [Executive Title] in the attached
Emergency Backup Succession Plan Detail (See Attachment 1).
The [Senior Management Team] members assigned in the Short-Term Staffing of Key Functions are
relevant based on the organizational structure in place at this time (See Attachment 2). In the event
that those assigned are no longer available or positions are vacant, the [Board President/Board Chair]
may select other staff to support each of the key [Executive Title] functions. It is the responsibility of
the [Executive Title] to ensure that staff receive appropriate cross-training to successfully implement
the temporary staffing strategy.
3. Business as Usual
This Emergency Backup Succession Plan and the temporary staffing structure will minimize
disruption in quality service and maintain business as usual to the extent possible. In the absence of
the [Executive Title], unless otherwise determined by the Board of Directors, business as usual
includes maintenance of matters such as fiscal oversight, leadership, and serving as a liaison to the
board of directors. (See Attachment 1.)
35. 4. Emergency Backup Succession Plan Implementation
The Board of Directors authorizes the [Board President/Board Chair] to implement the terms of this
Emergency Backup Succession Plan in the event of a planned or unplanned temporary, short-term
absence of the [Executive Title]. The [Board Vice-President/Board Vice-Chair] has authorization to
implement this plan in the event that the [Board President/Board Chair] is unavailable or cannot be
reached. Phone calls and conference calls are an acceptable substitute for any meetings designated in
As soon as feasible, following notification of an unplanned temporary or short-term absence, the
[Board President/Board Chair] will convene an Executive Committee meeting to affirm the
procedures prescribed in this plan, or modify them if needed. The Executive Committee may choose
to amend and/or not to implement this plan
Consider: What ,if any, checks and balances are desired to guide actions by the [Board
President/Board Chair]. If you do not have an active Executive Committee, you will need to decide if
the full Board needs to be convened or another named Committee. Another option is to change “will
convene” to “may convene” and let the circumstances guide the Board President/Board Chair] in
deciding whom to consult and when.
While this timeline may vary based on circumstances, the suggested steps for implementation are:
• The [Board President/Board Chair] appoints an Acting [Executive Title].
• The [Board President/Board Chair] informs the Board of the Acting [Executive Title]
• The [Board President/Board Chair] (and potentially other officers) consults with the Acting
[Executive Title] on the circumstances of the absence, organizational situation and related
• After the [Board President/Board Chair] and Acting [Executive Title] consult, stakeholders
will be notified following the defined Communications Plan.
• A temporary absence is one in which it is expected that the [Executive Title] will return to his/her
position once the events precipitating the absence are resolved.
• An unplanned absence is one that arises unexpectedly, in contrast to a planned leave, such as a
vacation or a sabbatical.
• A short-term absence is three months or less.
• A long-term absence is one that is expected to last more than three months.
• A permanent absence is one in which it is firmly determined that the incumbent [Executive Title] will
not be returning to the position.
Consider: In most organizations three months is defined as short-term with the assumption that the person,
assuming the duties temporarily, will have difficulty doing the key functions of two positions for more than
three months. Later in the plan, it is suggested that after three months or in a long-term backup,
consideration should be given to reducing the pressure and hand-off from Acting [Executive Title]
functions. If three months is too long for [Organization Name], you can shorten the short-term period by
redefining short-term absence to “one month or less” or “two months or less”.
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36. 6. Emergency Backup Plan: Short-term, Temporary, Unplanned Absence
Consider: It is preferred that there be one person as first backup and another for second backup. That
is not always possible. Two people can share the backup as long as the lines of authority and
communication to Board are clear and Board agrees. Where there are two equally prepared candidates
available and the executive and Board does not want to select one over the other as first backup,
alternating appointment is possible.
A. Appointing the Acting [Executive Title]
1. The Board of Directors authorizes the [Board President/Board Chair] to implement the
terms of this Emergency Backup Succession Plan in the event of the unplanned absence of
the [Executive Title].
2. In the event of an unplanned absence of the [Executive Title], a member of the [Senior
Management Team] shall immediately inform the [Board President/Board Chair] of the
3. As soon as is feasible, the [Board President/Board Chair] may convene a meeting of the
[Senior Management Team] to affirm the procedures prescribed in this plan or to make
modifications the [Board President/Board Chair] and team deems appropriate.
B. First Backup for the Acting [Executive Title]
The [Board President/Board Chair] may appoint [Designated First Backup1], [First Backup
Title1], to the position of Acting [Executive Title]. His position description will specify that he
may serve as Acting [Executive Title] in the absence of the [Executive Title] unless otherwise
decided by the Board President. He will have an Emergency Backup Succession Plan with
backup designees if he becomes Acting [Executive Title] or becomes unable to serve his daily
functions as [First Backup Title1].
Consider: Appointing two first backups on alternating years.
Optional Language: The [Board President/Board Chair] may appoint [Designated First
Backup1], [First Backup Title1], or [Designated First Backup2], [First Backup Title2], to the
position of Acting [Executive Title], depending on the year in which the absence occurs. If
the absence occurs in an even year, [Designated First Backup1] will be the first backup. If the
absence occurs in an odd year, [Designated First Backup2] will be the first backup. The
position descriptions will specify when they may serve as Acting [Executive Title] in the
absence of the [Executive Title] unless otherwise decided by the [Board President/Board
Chair]. They will have an Emergency Backup Succession Plan with backup designees if they
become Acting [Executive Title] or they become unable to serve daily functions as Deputies.
The designated backup who serves as first backup will continue his/her responsibilities as
[First Backup Title1], or [First Backup Title2].
C. Second Backup for the Acting [Executive Title]
The [Board President/Board Chair] may also consider splitting duties among designated
appointees based on the primary functions to be carried out. (See Attachment 1)
[Designated First Backup2], [First Backup Title2], may serve as second backup for the position
of Acting [Executive Title] based on the discretion of the [Board President/Board Chair]. He
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37. may serve should the first backup become unable or unwilling to serve as Acting [Executive
Title] or otherwise decided by the [Board President/Board Chair].
Consider: Appointing two second backups on alternating years.
Optional Language: [Designated First Backup2], [First Backup Title2], or [Designated First
Backup1], [First Backup Title1] will serve as second backup for the position of Acting
[Executive Title] based on the year in which the absence occurs. The designated second
backup may serve as first backup should the first backup become unable or unwilling to serve
as Acting [Executive Title] or otherwise decided by the [Board President/Board Chair].
D. Cross-Training Plan for Appointees
The [Executive Title], in collaboration with the [Board President/Board Chair], will develop a
plan for training the potential appointees in the key [Executive Title] functions mentioned in
section 2 above and in the attached Cross-Training Plan. (See Attachment 1.)
The [Executive Title] will have the responsibility of handling the logistics of the plan’s
E. Authority and Restrictions of the Appointee
The Acting or Interim [Executive Title] may have the same authority for day-to-day decision-
making and independent action as the [Executive Title] except as further defined by the
[Board President/Board Chair]. Decisions requiring [Board President/Board Chair] approval,
after consultation with the Executive Committee or other appropriate committee as directed
by the Executive Committee, include retention or termination of [Senior Management Team]
members, expansion of programs, cultivation of new partnerships or collaborations with
external parties, acquisition of public policy positions on behalf of the organization, and
execution of new contracts or other financial decisions not included in the current approved
Consider: What are unique risks for your organization in terms of executive decision
making? Are there different or additional limits you want to place on the authority of the
acting or interim executive?
The [Board President/Board Chair], in consultation with the Executive Committee, may
consider and direct a salary adjustment for the Acting [Executive Title].
G. [Board President/Board Chair] Responsibility for Oversight and Support to the Acting
The [Board President/Board Chair] and Board of Directors will have the responsibility for
monitoring the work of the Acting [Executive Title]. The Acting [Executive Title] will provide
regular updates and meet with the [Board President/Board Chair] as the [Board President/Board
Chair] may determine. The [Board President/Board Chair] will also be alert to the special
support needs of the Acting [Executive Title] serving in this temporary leadership role and act
to address them.
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38. H. Communications Plan
Within eight (8) hours after an Acting [Executive Title] is appointed, the [Board
President/Board Chair] and the Acting [Executive Title] will meet to implement an external
communications plan to announce the organization’s temporary leadership structure,
including the kind of information that will be shared and with whom (e.g. major donors,
partnering agencies, etc). (See Attachment 1.)
Within 24 hours after an Acting [Executive Title] is appointed, the [Board President/Board
Chair] and Acting [Executive Title] will implement the Communications Plan to announce
the organization’s temporary leadership structure to the [Senior Management Team] and the
Board of Directors.
A staff member designated by the [Executive Title] will maintain updated key contact
information in a database, on an ongoing basis.
7. Emergency Backup Plan: Long-term Temporary, Unplanned Absence
The procedures and conditions will be the same as for a short-term absence with one addition: The
[Board President/Board Chair] will give immediate consideration, in consultation with the Acting
[Executive Title], to develop and implement a plan to carry out the duties of the Executive Director
for a more extended timeframe through temporary staffing of agreed upon functions as needed from
the various positions impacted by the backup plan.. This is in recognition of the fact that, for a term
of more than three months, it may not be feasible for an individual to carry the duties of both his/her
deputy position and the Acting [Executive Title] position. The position description of a temporary
appointment would focus on covering the priority areas in which the Acting [Executive Title] needs
8. Emergency Backup Plan: Permanent Unplanned Absence
The procedures and conditions will be the same as for a long-term temporary absence with one
addition: The [Board President/Board Chair] may appoint a Transition and Search Committee in
accordance with the terms of the [Organization Name] Succession Policy.
9. The [Organization Name] Succession Policy
The Succession Policy for the [Executive Title] is a risk management and sustainability planning
tool that complements the Emergency Backup Succession Plan. The Succession Policy provides a
proactive process for the Board of Directors to plan and execute an executive leadership transition.
The Board of Directors will be responsible for adopting and implementing the process and
procedures set forth in the Succession Policy.
10. Emergency Backup Plan Approval
This Emergency Backup Succession Plan requires approval by the Board of Directors and an
annual review at the last formal Board meeting of the fiscal year, typically held in [Month], to make
any needed changes in the designated backup appointees. The [Board President/Board Chair] may
review and amend the plan at other times if a designated backup appointee is no longer available to
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39. serve in an Acting [Executive Title] capacity. The [Board President/Board Chair] may reevaluate
the plan when new designees are appointed.
The [Board President/Board Chair], the [Executive Title], and the designated backup appointees
will sign this plan.
12. Maintenance of Record
The [Board President/Board Chair], the [Executive Title], and the designated backup appointees
will maintain copies of this plan.
[Organization Name] Board of Directors on
I acknowledge that I have reviewed this plan.
[Board Name], [Board President/Chair]
[Designated First Backup1], [First Backup Title1]
[Executive Name], [Executive Title]
[Designated First Backup2], [First Backup Title2]
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40. THANK YOU!
Tom Adams, Director
41. Nonprofit CEOs - Prepare Your
Nonprofit for Your Departure.
Explore tools for executive succession and transition,
presented in a confidential environment.
Registration is now open for the 2014 workshop, click here!
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Next Steps features:
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