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Topical Resource Lists

Succession Planning for Nonprofit Organizations:
A Resource List

Nonprofit organizations rely on strong leadership to pursue their missions. This resource list contains citations to selected articles and books from the Foundation Center's bibliographic database, the Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, on the subject of succession planning. For a complete bibliography on this topic, search the catalog by entering "succession" or "generation" in the Keyword field.

Presidents/Executive Directors

Adams, Tom. "Founder Transitions: Creating Good Endings and New Beginnings." Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2005. Subject File: 610
The author lays out some of the issues that may arise as a founder retires, and provides suggestions for this necessary transition. Several case examples are given.
View report»
Axelrod, Nancy R. Chief Executive Succession Planning: The Board's Role in Securing Your Organization's Future. Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2002. Call Number: 610 AXE CHI
Explains the process of executive succession planning, noting the steps that precede others. Also delves into evaluation tools for both the chief executive and the institution itself, which will be helpful to the process. Fundamental to the effort is a transition plan, to be enacted once the executive is selected.
Brinckerhoff, Peter C. Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit. Saint Paul, MN: Fieldstone Alliance, 2007. Call Number: 630 BRI
This guide addresses how the upcoming retirement of baby boomers will affect nonprofit organizations in terms of leadership and service populations. Gives steps to deal with generational differences in human resources, marketing, programming, technology, and management. Each chapter ends with a summary and discussion questions. With bibliographical references and index.
Capturing the Power of Leadership Change: Using Executive Transition Management to Strengthen Organizational Capacity. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2004. Subject File: 602
This paper provides background on the challenges and opportunities associated with executive transitions, and describes a three-step model that has emerged from research on the topic over the past decade.
View report»
Dickey, Marilyn. "More Than a Temporary Fix." Chronicle of Philanthropy, vol. 19 (22 March 2007): p. 37-9.
Hiring interim executive directors to run an organization for short periods of time is a growing trend. Nonprofit organizations with internal troubles, those undergoing change, and those that have lost leaders unexpectedly all benefit from this practice. An interim director can provide valuable time to conduct a proper executive search and smooth transitions from one type of leadership to the next.
Ernest, Elaine H., Barr, Michael P. "Next In Line." Association Management, vol. 55 (October 2003): p. 42-8. Subject File: 690
A case study in the selection of a new CEO and the succession planning process.
Goler, Robert I. "Making the Most of the Internal Interim Directorship." Journal for Nonprofit Management, vol. 7 (2003): p. 56-66. Subject File: 602
Based on a survey of 52 interim directors in museums (of all types), the article presents information about the impacts of an interim directorship on both the organization and the individual. Recommendations for making a successful executive transition are included. With bibliographical references.
Hall, Holly. "Planning Successful Successions: Preparing for a Leader's Departure Can Prevent Problems." Chronicle of Philanthropy, vol. 18 (12 January 2006): p. 6, 8, 10-1, 13.
Nonprofit leaders may pay little attention to the issues of succession planning for a variety of reasons, but the article makes the case for the need to anticipate and embrace change. A new report commissioned by the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation surveyed almost 2,000 executives to ascertain the status of their organization's preparedness.
Jones, Karen Gaskins. "Preparing an Organization to Sustain Capable Leadership." Nonprofit Quarterly, vol. 14 (Spring 2007): p. 69-71.
The author puts forth a succession planning model in which organizations cultivate several leaders who fill varying roles. With this model, leadership becomes more sustainable than the practice of picking out a single leader to replace an exiting executive.
Kunreuther, Frances. Up Next: Generation Change and the Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2005. Subject File: 602
A survey conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2004 showed that there will be sizeable change in leadership among nonprofits as managers of the baby boom generation will retire.
View report»
Liteman, Merianne. Planning for Succession: A Toolkit for Board Members and Staff of Nonprofit Arts Organizations. Chicago, IL: Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation, 2003. Subject File: 630
This primer on succession planning guides the board through the stages of the transition, including the special situation of the departure of the founder.
Look Here! Attracting and Developing the Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders. Pittsburg, PA: Forbes Funds, 2004. Subject File: 633
Mayer, Daniel Y. Filling the Gap: The Interim Executive Director Solution—a Manual for Staff, Board, and Consultants Dealing with Leadership Transition in Arts Organizations. Chicago, IL: Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation, 2005. Subject File: 630
Describes the particular challenges of the interim executive director in managing relations with staff, board and the community. The author provides advice for someone considering taking on the job, as well as information for board members who are charged with filling the position. Sample letters of agreement between organization and interim executive director are included. Though the pamphlet is written with arts organizations in mind, the substance would prove useful in many situations. With bibliographical references.
Nobles, Marla E. "Executive Turnover Continues at Charities Large and Small." NonProfit Times, vol. 20 (1 February 2006): p. 1, 4, 6. Subject File: 602
Surveys by NonProfit Times and others are continuing to show high levels of turnover among executives at nonprofits, and the next few years will only increase the pace as the baby boom generation leaders are poised to retire.
Soloman, Josh and Yarrow Sandahl. Stepping Up or Stepping Out: A Report on the Readiness of Next Generation Nonprofit Leaders. Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, 2007. Subject File: 602
Based on a survey of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network members, the report explores why young professionals are leaving the sector and recommends steps to address the sector's leadership challenges.
View full text (PDF)»
Succession: Arts Leadership for the 21st Century. Chicago, IL: Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation, 2003. Call Number: 202 ILL
Section A, written by Siu Yuin Pang and Christopher Perrius is "States of the Arts: Career Conditions of Nonprofit Arts Professionals in Chicago." It presents results of a survey of workers in arts organizations related to their employment. Section B is written by Dona J. Vitale and entitled "Exploration of Leadership Transition Issues in Arts Organizations." Section C is a collection of papers by various specialists. Includes resource list.
Teegarden, Paige Hull. Nonprofit Executive Leadership and Transitions Survey, 2004. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2004. Subject File: 633
View report»
Tierney, Thomas J. "The Leadership Deficit." Stanford Social Innovation Review, vol. 4 (Summer 2006): p. 26-35.
Tierney explains why the shortage of nonprofit executives may worsen as the baby boom generation begins to retire and the number of nonprofits continues to grow. To address this problem, he believes the sector needs to invest in capacity building and leadership development, examine nonprofit compensation, and search for new talent pools.
Webb, Ted Ford. "Living the Soaps: Recognizing the Subjective Factor in Executive Succession." Nonprofit Quarterly, vol. 9 (Winter 2002): p. 12, 14-6.
Suggests that executive searches are more successful when internal politics and conflicts are openly discussed with potential candidates.
Williams, Ken. Mentoring the Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders: A Practical Guide for Managers. Washington, DC: Academy for Educational Development, 2005. Subject File: 636
Explores the importance of structured mentoring within the nonprofit sector as a means to improve organizational flexibility and resourcefulness. Discusses mentoring for large and small organizations, best practices, and case studies. Sample documents and worksheets included. With bibliographical references.
Wolfred, Tim. Interim Executive Directors: The Power in the Middle. San Francisco, CA: Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, 2005. Subject File: 602
Explains the benefits of having an interim executive director in place during a period of leadership transition. Based on research conducted by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, the author claims that nonprofits that utilize a temporary executive director for 4-8 months emerge stronger when the permanent executive comes on board. View report»

Board Members

Cohen, Todd. "Nonprofits Face Generation Gaps for Boards, Donors." NonProfit Times, vol. 19 (1 August 2005): p. 1, 8, 11. Subject File: 610
With nonprofit boards mostly comprised of members from the Baby Boom generation, organizations need to do a better job diversifying their board compositions.
Furry, Deb. "Building Organizational Capacity." Association Management, vol. 56 (January 2004): p. 64-8. Subject File: 610
The article relates to the topic of board succession and training the new leaders who will shepherd the organization.
Lakey, Berit M. The Board Building Cycle: Nine Steps to Finding, Recruiting, and Engaging Nonprofit Board Members (2nd ed). Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2007. Call Number: 610 LAK BOA
In this second edition, Lakey breaks the nine steps down into two major purposes: replenishing the board by bringing in new members, and strengthening the board's performance. Includes a CD-ROM with sample worksheets, evaluation surveys, and other items for prospective and current board members.

Family Foundations

Esposito, Virginia. "Successful Succession: Inspiring and Preparing New Generations of Charitable Leaders." Passages, vol. 5.3 (2003): p. 1-8. Subject File: 514
Generational Succession. Family Advisor: A Resource Series by and for Family Foundations. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations. Subject File: 514
Includes various articles and reprints on the topic.
Gersick, Kelin E. Generations of Giving: Leadership and Continuity in Family Foundations. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004. Call Number: 514 GER GEN
Published in collaboration with the National Center for Family Philanthropy, the volume provides a research study of 30 family foundations. The case histories look especially at the formative years, and how family members became involved in leadership--and transitions--over the life of the philanthropy. With bibliographical references and index.
Gersick, Kelin E., et al. The Succession Workbook: Continuity Planning for Family Foundations. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2000. Call Number: 514 GER
A comprehensive treatment of the practicalities of succession planning, including definitions, descriptions of different approaches, case studies, survey, meeting and retreat planning, and exercises.
Goldberg, Alison, Pittelman, Karen. Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy: The Next Generation. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2006. Call Number: 514 GOL
The authors conducted interviews with young people across the U.S. on the topic of their families' philanthropy. The resulting book is a primer explaining how the younger generation can participate in personal philanthropy with their families. The book explains how a foundation works and how young people can get involved with decision-making. Throughout, it is presumed that the next generation will seek to improve the management of the foundation, so many worksheets and checklists are provided. With resource lists and bibliographical references.
Hamilton, Charles H. (ed.). Living the Legacy: The Values of a Family's Philanthropy Across Generations. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2001. Call Number: 514 NAT Vol. 3
Published as volume 3 of "National Center Journal." Includes essays contributed by various authors; chapters include "Family Values"; "Communicating a Donor's Legacy"; "It Begins with Donors"; "On Finding and Adapting a Legacy"; and "Stories from Family Foundations". The individual foundation histories that are recounted include the Heisley Family Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund, the McKnight Foundation, the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation, and the Hattie M. Strong Foundation. With bibliographical references.
Hamilton, Charles H., Born, Jason. "Legacy: The Helping Hand of Family Philanthropy." Foundation News & Commentary, vol. 43 (January-February 2002): p. 40-44.
Strategies for ensuring that the philanthropic vision of the founder is carried on and renewed by succeeding generations.
National Center for Family Philanthropy. Connecting to Your Family's Foundation: A Primer for the Next Generation. Washington, DC: Association of Small Foundations, 2005. Call Number: 510 ASF CON
The brief guide discusses why younger generations in family foundations should be involved with succession planning and explains how to get started.
National Center for Family Philanthropy. Making Plans for Succession: What Founders Need to Know. Washington, DC: Association of Small Foundations, 2005. Call Number: 510 ASF MAK
Discusses why foundation founders should plan for succession and explains how to get started.

Links to Internet Resources

Emergency Succession Plan Template from the Center for Nonprofit Advancement
The Center has developed a succession plan template that is available for download (registration required).
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Leadership Development Resources
An annotated list of publications from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Leadership Development portfolio.
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