December 04, 2018

POV: The Gift You Give...

In Nonprofit Land we often have seasons we navigate that are not at all related to Spring, Winter, Fall, and Summer. They are Fundraising, Gala, Grant, and Slow. And I am betting for everyone reading this post there will be that many more ‘seasons’ to add to the list. In Nonprofit Land we are juggling multiple projects at the same time, 12 months out the year. At present my To Do List looks a little like an unfocused puppy looking for attention at every turn. In Nonprofit Land we expect this – for better or worse it is part of the DNA of a nonprofit employee. As a leader in the field I often experience times where I am overwhelmed and stressed to the max and I can’t imagine that I am unique in this.


For the brief time I have with you now I want to explore a gift you can give your organization that may help alleviate or reduce stress. Succession Planning is that boring, trendy word in Nonprofit Land that our boards tell us about and that we remind our boards about. I wonder however, how many of you are practicing efficient succession planning 12 months out of the year? Yes, I am talking about succession planning for the Chief Executive but I am also talking about succession planning for every single staff member working in your organization. The use of UNA’s job board alone tells me that we have a decent amount of turn over at our organizations all of the time. From my perspective turnover has its own season – I like to call it the I’VE GOT THIS season.

Succession Planning at all levels of the organization matter to me because I run an organization that requires everyone to operate at a high functionality all of the time and because UNA has seen our fair share of turnover in the past 15 months. Being prepared for an employee to leave and explore amazing new opportunities begins the minute you hire them – in my opinion. Being prepared means that you are constantly having a conversation about each person’s roles and responsibilities and that you know in what direction each person is taking their program. Here at UNA we do a couple of things to assure that we are giving ourselves and the organization a year-round gift:

  • We create Leave a Legacy documents that outline the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks for each job and project/program.
  • We have an administration document that is updated regularly and explains procedures for doing things and how to access external information.
  • We have created a database user guide with step by step instructions for everyone’s use (including me) in the event they need to perform a function in our database that is outside their regular duties or scope.
  • We have One on One meetings between supervisors and direct reports every other week.
  • Budgets are managed at the program level and then I, as the CEO, monitor budgets monthly at a high level.

It is true that it takes a lot of time to create these Succession Planning systems but it has been worth the time in implementation. UNA is stronger as a result of these systems and documents and we are better poised to weather the I’VE GOT THIS season and to rebound once a successful hire has been made. Trust me, we are coming out of that season right now and I will forever be grateful to the leaders before me who started this Leave a Legacy system for me to build upon with my team. This season please give your organization the gift of beginning to plan for everyone’s succession. Next year you can thank me for it!