Key Points

  • ‘What if’ scenario planning, and succession planning for inevitable vacancies, helps the continuity of an organisation’s operations in the face of change
  • This type of planning helps both individuals and the organisation – it leaves legacy value from the departing member, helps the new member come up to speed with the role quicker, and helps the organisation maintain its momentum.

Sometimes circumstances change and the time comes to hand the baton to someone else.  Succession planning is the planning in advance for the transition of key organisational leaders including board members. This type of future planning has benefits for you, the new governance member and the organisation.

Succession planning helps keep the organisation moving forward during changes.  Succession planning anticipates the loss of key governance members and plans ahead to set out how skills and knowledge will be passed on … and ideally … to who.   Leaving documentation that shows how things are done and having plans in place is a great way of ensuring there is a lasting value from your time in governance.  It helps show supporters, funders and other members that the organisation has a secure future and that there will be steady leadership and continuity in the organisation’s operations.

Some Boards and Committees have term limits that enforce a renewal of personnel around the table.  Others don’t but there is an inevitable turnover of faces as life carries people in different directions.  Regardless, the discipline of thinking ahead to who’s next in line to take on key roles and exposing them early to the processes and issues they will have to deal with when they step up is the key to good succession planning.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a good teacher when it comes to succession and contingency planning.  It showed us the importance of sharing and passing on knowledge so that others can take on roles even with little notice or preparation.

Top Tip

Have regular discussions with key office bearers about their future plans to serve on your Committee of Board.

Identify people next in line to take over those duties and begin to involve them early.

Consider taking on a mentoring role to help transition new governance members

Want more? ... check out these resources

Factsheet – – 10 minute read


really good short but meaty overview of succession, transition and induction of new members.

Online article and toolkit – National Council of Nonprofits (USA) – 6 minute browse


Here are 10 tips for a sound leadership transition in this helpful article.   It also has links to an Emergency Succession Planning template that outlines a staged process and lists questions the Board can ask to develop a plan in the event of an unexpected departure of the organisation’s executive, as well as a similar process tools for a planned departure.

Online toolkit – Federal Reserve Bank (USA) – 40 page guide


Here’s an interesting resource prepared by the Kansas regional office of the US Federal Reserve.  It’s written in an American context, but has some really great content on how to plan ahead to make sure you have a pipeline of talent and a strong transition of skills and knowledge in key positions.

Online article – Communities in Control – 6 minute read


Either you no longer need your Board or your Board no longer needs you – a thoughtful online factsheet about moving on and making the transition a great one for you and your organisations.

Online article – Get on Board Australia – 5 minute read


They say timing is everything in life and knowing when to go is the focus of this article by Get On Board Australia.

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