Technology’s Role in Board Succession Planning

The following post on technology’s role in board succession planning was initially posted on

No matter how stable a nonprofit organization is today, eventually things change. Leaders retire or resign, board tenures end, business processes, and funding needs evolve. Though change is inevitable, many nonprofits fail to develop a well-defined plan for executive transition, or for sustaining the organization over time.

In the first major study on nonprofit leadership, led by Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Harriet Day of the University of Plymouth in England, it is reported that more than three-fourths of nonprofit organizations do not have a formal board succession plan in place, yet approximately 70% of nonprofit leaders responding to the survey were planning to exit their position in the next 5 years.

more than three-fourths of nonprofit organizations do not have a formal succession plan in place

As reported in “The Wake-Up Call” report on the findings from the first ever research study on nonprofit leadership by the University of Plymouth, UK: Over 77% of the repondees said no formal board succession plan exists at their nonprofit organization.

Board Succession Planning as Part of Responsible Governance

Succession planning is core to the talent management cycle and an organization’s growth strategy. Companies are required to continuously evaluate and shift their strategic thinking in response to the speed of technology, globalization, industry disruptors, and management turnover. An effective strategy considers the composition and diversity of the team that leads and performs the organization’s day-to-day operations, and how that team must change in response to a constantly shifting environment.

For the nonprofit board, succession planning falls under the fiduciary “duty of care.” Board directors are responsible to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization, including recruiting and maintaining effective leadership.

Beyond responsible governance, a three- to five-year plan helps:

  • engage employees;
  • streamline processes; and
  • maintain consistent workflow during transitions

… And it does not have to be the intimidating chore it is often characterized as.

More than 60% of surveyed employees reported feeling significantly more engaged in a workplace with a solid succession plan. Leaders with a vision of the path their career is on while simultaneously having a stake in its direction work harder to achieve goals and hit deadlines.

Board members and team leaders design shortcuts and customize processes to save time. Unfortunately, many keep the details regarding these customized processes in their heads. There are other challenges to transference of data and procedure, such as digital files without accurate naming systems or multiple versions of files. The use of technology in board succession planning can streamline processes while ensuring they are properly recorded and followed. With concrete processes, planning is easier, reporting and evaluation is possible, and workflow remains consistent during succession.

More Benefits of Incorporating Technology in Board Succession Planning

Accurate information is the cornerstone for effective board and leadership engagement. Platforms like Boardable keep board members advised of changes, data, reports and documents necessary for governance, allow them to schedule meetings, and track activities and outcomes. Boardable CEO Jeb Banner advises, “High board engagement—the kind that grows your organization’s reach, impact, and financial health—is only possible when board members feel known and valued, when clarity replaces confusion, and no interaction is viewed as irrelevant or wasteful.”

The use of centralized state-of-the-art technology is invariably more cost effective than using paper bound packs and documents; greatly reducing administration time, heightening security, and promoting collaboration. Technology is also a key factor in employee satisfaction. Entrants into the workforce have a high level of technological literacy and expect to leverage technology to find, develop, and present information and creativity. Without effective and up-to-date technology, hiring managers and boards may struggle to find proficient successors internally or externally.

Ultimately, implementing the right technology assists your succession plan:

  • By transferring the value of established processes from individual members to the organization and maintaining consistent workflow during periods of change.
  • By attracting and retaining talent, ensuring an adequate pool from which a successor can be chosen.
  • By transferring the equity of established donor relationships from team members to the organization and ensuring donors and clients continue to have a positive experience during transitions.
  • By improving and accurately measuring the value of your organization.

The advantages of integrating succession planning and technology are clear: streamlined administration, improved communication and increased engagement, and enhanced governance. Beyond these benefits, it is the responsibility of the board to remove the anxiety surrounding planning for the future, to help their executives and leaders appreciate the value of planning ahead, and to govern in a manner that protects the organization from rushed and irrational reactions and decision-making.

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