Developing a Succession Policy Part 1

Most Board Members don’t like to think about it but the day always comes when it is time to  select a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Unfortunately, Sometimes the incumbent isn’t getting the job done and the board chooses to let the person go.  It is more often the case that the incumbent gets an offer from another organization. In some  cases he or she will give the board ample notice of her anticipated departure, but in many cases, she  will give a standard notice (often thirty days) and immediately begin her transition. Tragically, I have also seen cases where the incumbent unexpectedly died or incurred a debilitating disease  while in office.

Our experience has been that, all too often, nonprofit organizations wait until there is a  vacancy in the CEO position to discuss how they should proceed in their quest  for a successor. This often causes a delay of several weeks or months and results in uncertainty  on the part of staff, donors, and other constituents. It is much better to plan ahead when there is  ample time to consider the best options.

The next few blog posts will feature a number of questions that members of a nonprofit Board  should ask themselves as they develop a Board Policy that deals with Succession Planning.

The Acting CEO

• If the CEO vacancy occurs immediately, perhaps caused by a crisis or unforeseen
emergency, who should be named acting CEO the next day? Is there a Board
Member, staff member or other executive who seems like a “natural” to be Acting CEO?

• Should this person be paid the same as the CEO was paid?

The Interim Chief Executive

• If the Board decides to have an Interim CEO, how is the interim chief
executive officer to be selected?

• How long should s/he expect to serve?

• Will the interim CEO be eligible as a candidate for the permanent

• How will the interim chief executive officer be compensated?

Has your Board developed a Succession Policy? What are some specifics that you found important to underscore? If you’re in the process of developing one and need some starting points, I hope you’ll find this series helpful.

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Dr. Tommy Thomas Tommy Thomas is Lead Partner of JobFitMatters® as well as Board Member and Managing Director of parent entity SIMA® International. He specializes in cabinet-level retained executive search for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.