19 Jul

Board Chairs, Do You Want to Find Your Successor?

Today I am at a conference with 16 schools. I met this afternoon with the board chairs who are present to facilitate a break out session. While the discussion had guiding questions, the one topic everyone wanted to talk about was succession. How are they ever going to find someone to take over their job?

In the ideal scenario, you have a first vice president ready to assume the role and a second vice president in line after them. Just in case this is not how things work in your organization, here are my recommended 10 steps:

  1. Let the nominating committee or leadership development committee that asks you to be president know that you are only serving one term as president. Ask for their help with succession planning.
  2. Conduct individual board surveys each year and ask specifically if board members are interested in a leadership position on the board in the future.
  3. Schedule meetings with board members who indicate interest or those the nominating committee recommends to discuss how they might want to use their skills and leadership to benefit the organization, what position the might be interested in and what they would need to feel ready to assume a leadership position.
  4. Once you have potential successor, bring his/her name to the nominating/leadership development committee. If they agree, think about moving them to your executive committee at the next opportunity if they are not currently a member. Ideally, they would become vice president.
  5. Provide your successor with the training and skill building they need whether through conference attendance, online training and/or coaching.
  6. Include your successor in regular planning meetings with your executive.
  7. Make your successor visible at board meetings and organizational events.
  8. Introduce your successor to key stakeholders and donors.
  9. Discuss with your successor what role he or she would like you to play after your term.
  10. Be a mentor to you new successor.

Letting board members know your plan for helping to prepare them and transitioning can be just the assurance someone needs to take on the presidency. Planning for succession starts before your first day as president. It will relieve your own stress, help your successor prepare for their role and ensure a healthy hand-off for the organization.

Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is President of Fridman Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for mission driven organizations. She is a frequent speaker, trainer, workshop presenter and facilitator. Nanette is the author of “On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service.”  She is also a board president. Nanette can be reached at

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