Succession Planning Strategy for NGOs

Feb 06, 2024 | 3 Min Read

Table of Contents

The sustainability and success of NGOs hinge on effective leadership – both in the short-term and for the future. Succession planning, which involves providing career support to a select number of employees to eventually move into leadership roles,, is a critical aspect of organisational strategy. But how can NGOs, with their unique challenges, tackle the challenges of succession planning strategy and prepare for a successful future?
For NGOs, where securing top talent can sometimes be challenging, the sudden departure of key leaders can create significant gaps. Leadership buy-in to succession planning ensures a seamless transition, minimising disruptions to ongoing projects and relationships.
Succession planning strategy extends beyond replacing outgoing leaders; it involves identifying and nurturing the next generation of talent. NGOs should actively cultivate a pipeline of skilled individuals ready to step into leadership roles when the time comes.
NGO processes often rely on a deep understanding of industry nuances and dynamics. Leadership succession planning helps to preserve this niche institutional knowledge by transferring the insights and expertise from outgoing leaders to successors who already have good experience in the organisation.
For NGOs, a robust and trustworthy image is everything  – it can impact funding and collaboration opportunities, which are crucial. Transparent succession planning can instill confidence in an NGO’s partners and stakeholders, demonstrating the organisation's commitment to its future.
Companies across all kinds of industries use succession planning to their advantage. Just one high-profile case of succession planning in action could be seen at Apple, where current CEO Tim Cook took over from co-founder Steve Jobs when he became ill. Cook had worked under and been mentored by Jobs for many years, showing the power of building close relationships with staff to seamlessly move them into leadership roles later on.
  1. Identify key positions: Start by identifying the critical leadership positions that are a priority for the organisation to run. These may include roles responsible for partnerships, fundraising, and program management, but it all depends on the NGO. 
  2. Assess and develop talent: Conduct regular talent assessments to identify individuals with leadership potential. Your HR team can then enroll them in leadership development initiatives to prepare them for future responsibilities.
  3. Mentorship and knowledge transfer: Mentorship programs can help to transfer knowledge from seasoned leaders to emerging talent. Encourage leaders to allow candidates to shadow them and ask questions about the challenges of being in a leadership role – this will prepare them for taking on more responsibility, and can get them excited about the prospect of moving up the ladder.
  4. Remember that succession planning is a continuous process: Succession planning is not a one-time event. Regularly revisit and update your NGO’s plan to align with organisational changes, industry developments and new skill requirements that might be relevant to your candidates. It’s also important to keep in mind that succession plans can change, and different candidates may become more or less suited to roles over time. 
  5. Always maintain transparent communication: Communicate the succession plan clearly to all stakeholders, including partners, as soon as possible. Transparency, especially when established early on, builds trust and assures partners of the NGO's commitment to a seamless transition that won't compromise ongoing collaborations.
For NGOs who are concerned about retaining top talent, succession planning is a must to future-proof their organisation. By identifying great candidates early on, and nurturing their career path over time, NGO leadership teams can relax knowing that the future of their mission will be well taken care of. 
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