Succession Planning for Nonprofits

The transition to a new executive director at a nonprofit organization is a critical time in an organization’s life.  While potentially leaving the organization vulnerable, it also allows for the opportunity for significant growth.  Planning for a new executive director is called succession planning.  The following summary outlines three ways of thinking about succession planning.

  1. The first type of planning is referred to as strategic leader development.  This is an ongoing practice based on defining an organization’s strategic vision, identifying the leadership and managerial skills necessary to carry out that vision, and recruiting and maintaining talented individuals who can develop those skills.  It also creates a culture within the organization to promote leadership internally.  If talent is developed internally, this can help to ensure the continuity of operational and administrative responsibilities when a new executive director is chosen.
  2. The second type of planning is called emergency succession planning.  This becomes necessary when there is an unplanned, temporary absence of a key administrator and ensures that leadership and administrative functions can continue without major difficulties.  With this type of plan, the organization also has a unique opportunity to examine the current leadership structure and determine appropriate job responsibilities for those in management positions within the organization.  It also serves as a good time to outline the organization’s communication plan with funding sources.
  3. The third type of planning is departure-defined succession planning.  This is recommended when a long-term executive director has announced their intention to leave the organization two or more years in advance.  With this type of planning, the organization identifies its goals going forward and allocates time to identify a potential successor.  The current executive director may help mentor the future executive director, thereby helping to ensure a smooth transition of leadership and administrative duties.

Davis & Hodgdon has been assisting nonprofit organizations with their success planning efforts in the Burlington Vermont Metro area for more than 20 years. We are committed to helping our clients achieve their goals as they strive for financial sustainability.  Other specific nonprofit services include: tax planning and compliance, accounting and auditing, internal controls, board member services, fundraising, grant compliance and much more.  For more information please call 802.878.1963 or email [email protected].

Jessica Taylor, Associate Accountant

Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs





Trisha Howard, Associate Accountant

Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs

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