Board Succession Planning: A Critical – and Often Missed – Aspect of Good Governance

photo of pamela leland
by Pamela Leland, DANA Chief Learning Officer

In my service to nonprofit organizations over the years, one of the saddest things I ever witnessed was a founding board president stand up in a large public gathering and ask for a volunteer to take over her role as President of the organization.

In hearing this plea – and it was a plea – I had so many reactions and questions:

Sadness – She had spent so many years giving her time, talent and treasure to this organization and no one else in the organization was willing to step up?

Curiosity – What was going on in the organization that no one else was willing to step up? Confusion – Did they really think that standing up in a public gathering was the best method to identify qualified and competent board leadership?

Again sadness – Was this organization – that had existed for decades – still this fragile?

Disbelief – I still shake my head as I recall this situation. It was – and remains – almost unbelievable. That this was their succession planning strategy? [More likely it was the consequence of a lack of planning.] This may be an extreme example, but it does demonstrate the lack of planning for board succession that occurs too often in nonprofit organizations – especially in small organizations.

As organizational leaders, we make a lot of assumptions about people’s continuing availability and commitment. We focus our time and attention on other issues and don’t spend time thinking about building and developing leadership for the future.

Planning for board succession is a critical element of a board’s fiduciary duty.  If you would like to explore these issues in more detail, please join us for a virtual workshop on Tuesday, March 15th at 4 p.m. For more information and registration, click here.