Succession Planning: A Vital Component of Fundraising Preparation

Funding Insights Blog: Succession Planning

Succession Planning: A Vital Component of Fundraising Preparation

When nonprofits start preparing for a large funding campaign or strategic initiative, there is a check list of to-dos that readily come to mind. Brand awareness, board engagement, and a strong plan that investors will get behind. Strong executive leadership is also essential to launching a campaign. What many fail to think about is that the stronger and more well known a CEO or Executive Director is, the more likely funders are to ask, “What happens if they leave?” In your planning, you have to prepare for more than simply answering that question. You also need to prepare for that eventuality.

Just as you would have a plan in place to continue the funding for support of the plan you are proposing to investors such as a strong annual fund or earned revenue, succession planning is sustainability planning.

Many boards think that succession planning means finding the right replacement and that is certainly critical, especially when an executive had made a significant impact on the agency and community. But there are other critical things you should consider when developing a succession plan beyond the job posting.

Here are some key areas to consider including in your next succession plan:

  • A brand and culture that attracts top talent
  • Plan to create a culture of career growth into leadership
  • A complete job description that shows all of the elements of the job and interim resources for immediate help such as CFO, IT, or Management
  • A listing of key vendors and contacts
  • Passwords, accounts, key documents, and contracts
  • Legal and political contacts and issues
  • A board pipeline including cultivation status

The campaign process is a great opportunity to examine the overall strengths and weaknesses of your nonprofit. Use this time to review that succession plan for each key leader in your organization. Not only will your agency be healthier for it, your investors will demand it.

About the author

Carol Wick

For more than 25 years, Carol Wick has made a career of working in the nonprofit sector. She is an innovative leader with a proven track record in the development of system-wide collaborative partnerships, strategic development of programs practices, evidence-based programs, and successful fundraising.