In Bridgespan’s organizational surveys of nonprofits, succession planning rises to the top as both an acute need and persistent gap. That’s because too few nonprofits have a system for grooming the next generation of leadership to grow their organizations. They don’t have a deliberate game plan for each phase of transition from identifying future leadership prospects to developing them and ultimately promoting them to the C-Suite.

But there are happy exceptions: the succession-planning track record of BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) speaks to this. Here’s how BELL learned to tap its inside talent to stay the course and fulfill its mission:

  1. Build a record of success-Recognizing that nobody comes prepackaged with the perfect set of skills and experiences, Phalen and the BELL board identified skills that a potential executive director lacked—namely, management experience and external visibility—and set to work helping her to acquire them.
  2.  Get your board on board-Sperling believes the board “and especially the board chair” should play a leadership role in succession planning and leadership development.
  3. Meet the new boss... different than the old boss-Your next CEO isn’t the only one who needs to be groomed. You also need to groom your stakeholders—staff, donors, partners, and board—to accept new leadership. BELL discovered that the best way to forge this acceptance was to give the rising stars carefully structured chances to shine before they assumed the mantle of authority.

Read the full article about grooming non-profit leadership by Jari Tuomala, Donald Yeh,  and Katie Smith Milway at The Bridgespan Group.