Giving Compass' Take:

• Anne Marie Burgoyne discusses the significance of nonprofit founder transitions and lessons learned in governance, management, and how funders can pave the way for opportunities. 

• How are you supporting nonprofit founder transitions? 

• Read about how to make founder successions work. 

The unknowns that come with having someone new at the helm of an organization can generate anxiety and complexity during any leadership transition. Staff members wonder whether the new leader will change strategy, tactics, or the organizational chart. Board members ask themselves and one another what stewardship and governance might feel like with a new leader. Funders re-examine their commitment, and how much the organization’s mission and model—versus the founder’s thought leadership, social network, and/or social capital—drives their investment energy.

Founder transitions can seem particularly risky. Founders typically bring a high level of raw energy to their work, as well as distinct, personal resources like people, money, and community access. All of this draws in supporters and energizes the organization. And because founders helped place every brick in the building, they know its weak and strong spots, and often have an intuition about the organization or its work that helps guide effective decision making.

Yet, though successors may often lack these advantages, they can bring enormously powerful change—change that likely can’t happen without a succession. Transitions allow organizations to recalibrate their work through the lens of a new leader’s skills and networks. New leaders often re-examine and bring a new eye to the mission, model, and impact, as well as to who does what, where, and how. They bring different experiences and competencies that can strengthen organizational systems and programs, and often lead the organization toward new or different areas of potential and innovation. They also bring needed energy in cases where founders have burned out.

Read the full article about nonprofit founder transitions by Anne Marie Burgoyne at Stanford Social Innovation Review.