When I interview directors from not for profit organizations, we discuss various risks that the organization faces. Issues related to confidentiality, reputation, fraud, cyber-attack and disaster by fire, flood or otherwise, are just a few risks that we touch on. By far the most significant risk that these organizations are faced with is risk of the Executive Director leaving.
Many boards wring their hands with worry at the prospect of losing an Executive Director permanently or even temporarily. Most don’t have a plan to deal with this potential situation, and it just doesn’t need to be this way.
My advice to the board of directors – get a plan in place! This plan should address three scenarios:
1) Short term leave. This is a temporary situation, likely due to an illness, health or other similar issue. No recruiting needed, just a temporary plan to manage the ED’s day to day duties.
2) Planned permanent departure. This is likely a situation like retirement, where the board will have some “heads up” in terms of timing and so on. You can be proactive in executing this plan because you will know (or should know) it’s coming.
3) Unplanned permanent departure. This is the scenario that most boards dread, and many are doing the least to address. This plan needs to be detailed and robust. People need to be identified and processes need to be documented.
The inherent benefit of getting these plans organized right away is that your current Executive Director can help build them. They will know all the details and issues that need to be addressed. If you wait until they are gone, either temporarily or permanently, the task will be daunting and unwieldy. Get on it!
If you wish to discuss this issue, or other issues related to not for profit board governance, please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you, and I hope you have a great day.