In a survey of Central Texas Executive Directors, Greenlights learned that 66% of these leaders envisioned leaving their posts in 5 years or less. This fact can scare nonprofit boards and staff, but Greenlights is focused on helping nonprofits turn the transition time of risk, fear, and concern into one of opportunity and progress.
Here are 5 ways that your nonprofit can capitalize on leadership changes when they happen:
1) Hire an Interim Executive Director. A trained, independent, objective professional can not only fill the leadership gap, they can lead essential changes without having a personal stake in the job search. If you are transitioning from a long-term or founder ED, an Interim ED also gives the staff and organization time to take a deep breath and acclimate to the loss of that leader before a new ED arrives.
2) Conduct an organizational assessment. Before crafting a new ED’s job description or looking for someone based on what you think of the prior ED, take time to assess the health, needs, and risks your organization is facing. This will allow you to make a check list of things to take care of before the new ED arrives and will enable you to craft a job description and hire for the jobs that need to get done at your nonprofit.
3) Get caught up. Work on your neglected to-do list so that when your new ED arrives you can focus on moving forward instead of catching up.
4) Eliminate things you know don’t work. If there is an out-of-date filing system or other dead weight at your nonprofit, take care of problems before the new ED arrives. When your new ED is in place, their first few months are key to setting the tone of their tenure. Help ensure they are working on positive things that move the organization forward during those months by taking care of obvious problems during the interim period.
5) Communicate regularly with your stakeholders. By communicating regularly with your funders, clients, and other supporters you make sure they know that things are being handled responsibly and thoughtfully during the transition. Depending on an individual’s history and involvement with your organization, you can even involve them in steps during the transition to reinforce their commitment to the nonprofit and have them experience the informed decisions of the transition first-hand.
And in the meantime, it’s also a good practice to proactively prepare for transitions (aka “succession planning”) before your Executive Director’s departure is looming. But that is a topic for another article….
Tara Levy is a Senior Consultant with Greenlights for NonProfit Success. She runs the organization’s Interim Executive Director program, helps nonprofit clients prepare for and manage transitions in leadership, and provides assistance to new ED’s in getting started in their new roles. To learn more contact Greenlights.