leadership succession plan is an essential source of guidance, and a commitment to organizational stability, when foundation transitions occur. Specifically, this written document identifies a course of action for when key leaders depart, whether planned or unplanned, permanent or temporary.

What does a leadership succession plan include?

A leadership succession plan should list action steps and identify who is responsible for each step consistent with organizational capacity. Also, it’s important that a succession plan reflect the organization’s values, culture, and aspirations. Some boards build different sections of a leadership succession plan over time. Others create an extensive plan as a single project. A good succession plan might be highly detailed, or it may simply outline general principles. Nevertheless, here are several ideal elements of a succession plan:

  • Say who among the board will be involved in a leadership selection process and the associated responsibilities.
  • Express succession management generationally over time.
  • Have expectations about leadership terms for top staff, board members, and future leaders.
  • Identify a position within the organization to assume professional leadership in the event of a top staff person’s abrupt departure.
  • Include a series of questions and issues that the leadership selection team should consider in the selection/succession process.

How are values, culture, and aspirations expressed in a leadership succession plan?

By creating a succession plan, the standing board establishes its values and aspirations in a way that reaches into the future. At a minimum, the standing board makes clear that it values thoughtfulness and organizational stability. Other expressions of values and culture also become evident as the board develops its plan.

For example, when naming an interim leader, a board oriented toward growing internal capacity may designate an existing role to fill the vacancy. By contrast, a board more comfortable with outside perspectives may outline a process for seeking interim leadership either internally, or from outside the organization.

Read the full article about foundation transitions from Exponent Philanthropy.