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Succession Planning in Nonprofit Organizations

Written by Adrian Montgomery on 18 Nov, 2020

Succession planning in nonprofit organizations: Failing to plan for the back-office team means planning to fail.

Recently, when we started researching succession planning in nonprofit organizations and how that impacts the faith-based back-office, we found a shocking number of organizations are not prepared. Being in the finance and accounting world, we've seen some great examples and some not so great examples of nonprofit succession planning for finance and accounting leadership.

This led to months of research that turned into many conversations with succession planning experts and members of our own team who have lived it. It became a passion project for many of us. What became clear was, in order to be successful, you need to plan for success for your back-office as well. Here's what we found common among successful nonprofits:

Don't Forget the Back-Office

"If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail" is the first chapter of the Nonprofit Succession Planning eBook we wrote to capture and share our learnings. In this chapter, we cite a succession planning nightmare: Imagine being on the leadership team and the Chief Financial Officer of your organization abruptly leaves. There’s no transition time. There’s no transfer of information. You are just left behind to pick up the pieces. How many months does that set you behind? How many months does that set the organization behind? It’s a mess and causes undue stress on you, your department, and the health of your organization. A proper succession plan could not have predicted this situation, but it would have given your organization a roadmap on where to go next.

nonprofit succession planningPreventable Chaos

To give a real-world example, in 2018, a church lost one of its finance leaders unexpectedly. Their interim replacement stepped in but, was very unprepared for the change and was not a good fit for the role. The organization quickly began to decline – managers lost motivation, finances were not well-controlled, programs lost steam, and the organization was in danger of losing funds for programs that helped employ, clothe, feed, and pray over those who benefit from their services.

Fast forward two years and the organization has made a complete turnaround and is not just getting by, but thriving. The lack of planning and time spent developing other staff to manage without their leader caused some deep pains and significant gaps in being able to serve their community for too long.

The organization healed, but not until an expensive and extensive search was completed to find the right person to lead the organization through the turnaround. The organization’s failure to plan almost ended in total failure – not just for that position, but for the entire organization.

Without a succession plan in place to help mitigate the chaos, the organization suffered greatly. To say that a succession plan would have remedied the situation is unfair, but it would have helped provide clarity during a crucial time. The organization failed to plan, and thus planned to fail.

Worried about how to be prepared for rapid recovery from the recent pandemic? Get the roadmap to recovery you need in our eBook: "Post-COVID-19 Business Model: How We Can Emerge Stronger and More Resilient." 

In our eBook, we dig into the importance of succession planning and discuss why it is so important. We provide stories and statistical data to help you clearly understand the necessity of succession planning as we cover the following topics:

  • The Purpose of Succession Planning
  • The Importance of Good Leadership
  • Culture Really Matters
  • What You Need to Know About Hiring Millennials
  • Hiring from Within
  • Succession Planning for the Back-Office
  • Red Flags to Watch Out For
  • What’s Next?

Hear From a Happy Client

“Finance and Accounting roles are often overlooked for succession planning. However, they are mission critical to running the organization. At Concord Church, we are working hard to make sure that every role has a backup. I know it isn’t possible for every organization to employ or train a backup for every person, in those cases build a relationship with a third-party organization, such as an accounting resource, legal firm, IT provider, etc. If something happened to me, I know that our accounting partner, AcctTwo, could easily step in and keep the show running,” said Tammy Bunting, CFO at Concord Church. 

Download the Nonprofit Succession Planning eBook here >

The nonprofit and church finance experts at AcctTwo are ready to help you graduate to a cloud-based, real-time, single source of truth and insights. AcctTwo is the reigning 7-time Sage Intacct Partner of the Year, and 4-time Inc. 5000 List winner, and is top-rated by their customers on G2. Contact AcctTwo today to prepare for tomorrow.

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