Succession Planning for Leadership Transitions – It’s Not Just About the Executive Director

Frank Abdale has worked on numerous succession planning and strategic planning projects for the Support Center, including the succession plan that led to our new Executive Director.   Frank is a proven strategist and facilitator, and the writer and editor of numerous publications, articles, and manuals. He is the co-author of “Practical Abundance: A Comprehensive Guide to Fundraising and Development for Nonprofits” and has taught strategic planning, fundraising and advocacy at the Support Center since 2009.

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Written by Frank Abdale

Succession planning can be challenging and emotional; it can also be inspiring and uplifting.  It begins with a look at the things board, staff and supporters love and admire about the current leadership, and the values the organization wants to perpetuate.  Succession planning builds on the past and present and looks ahead to where the fresh energy and vision of a new leader might take your organization.

Hopefully every organization has some kind of emergency succession plan.  This is basically an inventory of all the important file locations, passwords, contacts, contracts, policy numbers and other critical data.  It includes who will step in, or up, in the case of a sudden, unplanned loss of leadership. 

In the case of a planned executive transition, a thoughtful and thorough succession plan looks at the leadership qualities, management skills and values the organization wants in its next generation of leadership.  The process of identifying those attributes represents a rare opportunity to engage with all stakeholders and results in cataloguing the experience, background and traits to look for in candidates.  Even when there is a strong internal candidate, the process can identify where she or he might need additional support and training in order to succeed.  It also gives departing leaders an opportunity to think about their legacy and plan some next steps.

Consider too, that it is not just the ED at the center of succession planning.  The process of succession planning asks many critical questions:

  • Will the board remain stable during an executive transition?
  • How do term limits for officers and others align with the projected date of the ED’s departure?
  • Are there any senior staff or board members who are likely to leave around the same time?
  • If so, who will take on their roles?
  • Do we have a culture of developing board and staff leaders from within our ranks?
  • Who will take on short-term stewardship of the key relationships held by the current ED?
  • How will stewardship of key relationship be transferred to the new ED?
  • What fundraising and communications opportunities are to be found in honoring a departing ED and celebrating the arrival of a new one?
  • Is this an opportunity to rethink our structure, maybe explore a merger?
  • Should we plan on hiring an Interim ED who can give an unbiased assessment of the state of the organization before deciding on a new permanent ED?

The list goes on. 

It is often helpful to have an outside, consultant facilitate the process.  The Support Center can field a skilled and experienced transition expert who can keep discussion of these highly charged topics and related issues on neutral ground, have confidential conversations with all involved and keep the succession planning process on time and on track.  In the case of one client, the data collected by the transition consultant became the basis for a new round of strategic planning once the new executive director was on board. 


Additional Resources

The Support Center

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York

Succession Planning Toolkit –

Highlights from the Ahead of the Curve Symposium Report on Risk Management: Defining, Assessing and Managing Risks at Nonprofits

Written by Keith Timko and Wendy Seligson

In 2016, the Support Center joined with other capacity building organizations under the banner, “Ahead of the Curve,” to host a symposium on risk management.  The goal of the symposium was to “advance the collective knowledge of the discipline of risk management within the nonprofit sector” by learning from leaders in the sector.


On September 28, 2016, about 200 executives, board members, capacity building representatives, consultants and academics convened in a packed, interactive day to share their knowledge and experience.  The full report, “Ahead of the Curve Symposium: Defining, Assessing and Managing Risks at Nonprofits” can be found here.    The report was co-sponsored by the Support Center and SeaChange Capital.


In planning the symposium, John MacIntosh, partner at SeaChange, expressed the goal that, before long:

“nonprofit leaders would develop a knowledge and practice for risk management similar to the depth of knowledge and practice which exists for strategic planning.”


Speakers and participants alike emphasized the importance of embracing risk and proactively managing it, linking this approach to creating healthy sustainable organizations.


On Friday, January 27, 2017 the Support Center is sponsoring a workshop on risk management “Putting Risk Management to Work at Your Nonprofit” presented by Wendy Seligson, author of the symposium report.  To register, click here.


A snapshot of the key insights and action steps from the Symposium follows:

Key insights from Symposium

  • Risk is not all about the “negatives.” Positive risks provide opportunities for growth and change and risk management provides a path for achieving a healthy, sustainable organization.

  • Nonprofits want support to expand and operationalize risk management. They don’t need to be convinced about its value. They want best practices, tools, networks, facilitation and consultants.


  • The discipline of risk management needs to be built around collaboration and communication within the nonprofit organization and integrated into the nonprofit’s planning and operations.


  • Financial and associated contract risks are a top issue, but not the only issue. Participants also identified other areas of major risk: governance/leadership, reputation, operational, compliance, quality of services, safety, growth, innovation and external risks.


Next Steps: Moving to Action 

  • Community Resource Exchange (CRE) is creating a risk assessment tool, with the goal of making it available to the nonprofit sector at no cost. It is known as the CREFT (Community Resource Exchange Fitness Tool). 


  • New York City capacity building organizations working together under the Ahead of the Curve banner have agreed to use the CREFT risk categories as the framework for risk management. These are: Leadership, Governance & Strategy; Personnel & Administration; Finance; Compliance & Legal; Programs & Services; and External Environment.


  • A new Ahead of the Curve website is being created to make information, materials and resources about risk management accessible to the nonprofit sector in New York City.


  • The Support Center and the other capacity building agencies in the Ahead of the Curve consortium are working collaboratively to raise awareness about risk management and connect nonprofits to resources and tools to integrate risk management into their operations.


For more information on the Support Center’s training and consulting services that support risk management and other change consulting practice areas, contact Carolyn Champ, Associate Executive Director, via email at [email protected] or 917-522-8302.

Outcomes Measurement: Don’t Let Fear & Confusion Keep You from the Journey!

Laurel Molloy began teaching public workshops at the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy back in 2001. Since then, she has expanded her involvement to include a wide variety of customized on-site trainings and ongoing consulting engagements. She is Founder and CEO of Innovations Quantified (IQ), a consulting firm that has been helping organizations increase their impact since 1999. To learn more, please click,

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Written by Laurel Molloy 

Picture this: you’re a passenger in a car humming down the highway. The driver turns to you and says, “I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re making great time!”

Kind of hard to imagine the circumstances that would prompt this kind of statement, isn’t it? And yet, nonprofits that focus solely on the achievement of their own tasks, without a concrete idea of how they are making a difference in the lives of those they serve are essentially doing just that – heading down a path without a clear sense of where their efforts should be taking them.

This illustrative quote comes from Leap of Reason, an outcome measurement call to action that makes the case for clearly defining your organization’s intended outcomes (the changes and benefits you’re seeking to achieve), and then determining whether those changes have actually happened.

For almost 20 years, I’ve been helping organizations figure out how to do just that. And one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s not a lack of desire that keeps most from tackling this important issue. It’s a lack of understanding of where to start, and/or fear that missteps will result in wasted time and resources.

To address those very real concerns, I emphasize in both my training and consulting engagements that “M.M.O.M. is always right” – as in “Meaningful and Manageable Outcome Measurement.”

Many organizations believe more data is better, when in reality less is often more – especially at the outset. So I encourage organizations to ensure their process is both meaningful and manageable (and therefore sustainable) by: (1) prioritizing and collecting only a few key pieces of outcome data first, (2) leaving time to actually review and learn from those results, and (3) adding more data only as needed from there.

In my experience, using this approach is often the difference between success and frustration. So as you embark on your outcome measurement journey, remember: “M.M.O.M.’s always right.” And ask yourself, “Is this really something we can feasibly and consistently track and learn from?” If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” then find a way to pare it down. Because in the end, if you don’t actually review, discuss, use and share your outcomes data, you’re missing the whole point!

For more information on training and consulting services to support your organization’s outmode measurement efforts, contact Carolyn Champ, Associate Executive Director, via email at [email protected] or 917-522-8302.

Recap: November 4th’s New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering

The Support Center recently held the second New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering at the Livingston Campus of Rutgers Business School, building off the inaugural gathering held in May.  At that first gathering, five social enterprises presented to the audience.  At this November gathering, nine social enterprises (listed below) presented in three different categories – early stage nonprofits, scaling nonprofits, and early stage for-profits.  The leaders of these organizations pitched their impact and business models, demonstrating how they can achieve social impact and financial sustainability or profitability at the same time.  They appealed to the large audience of funders, investors, and lender for a range of investments – both in money (grants, equity, loans) and time (pro bono services, advisory support, networking).  Participants gave feedback to the presenters and offered a great deal of advice and suggestions to help the social enterprises grow and get access to capital.  The event was particularly successful in connecting like-minded people and fusing disparate networks together in support of the New Jersey impact economy.  

Please check out these social enterprises and contact us if you’d like more information!

Build with Purpose
Talino EV Management Systems, Inc.
Forward Ever Sustainable Business Alliance
Just Peachy Salsa Program (Food Bank of South Jersey)
Bricks 4 Kidz 
Grades 4 Life
Revolution Outboards
Soups & Sweets Culinary Training Program (Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern NJ)
Camden Dream Center

We look forward to holding more gatherings in 2017 and continuing to grow this community and help social enterprises thrive! 

Since 2014, the Support Center and Rutgers Business School joined the Office of Faith Based Initiatives in a collaborative effort to build a pipeline of capital for New Jersey social entrepreneurs. For more background on the initiative, please click here.

Weren’t able to make the New Jersey Impact Investment Gathering? We’ve got you covered! Check out this exclusive video and photo gallery from the event down below! 


Subscribe to our Youtube channel, Support Center Media!

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The Balance of Power Between Boards and Executive Directors: How to Share Authority

Katherine is a Partner at Growth for Good and has worked as a fundraising professional for more than 20 years. She has been involved with every aspect of fundraising and has developed special expertise in government appropriations and public competitive grant sources. She has led clients successfully through board development, strategic planning processes, capital campaigns and annual campaigns, and has vast experience in developing and managing public/private partnerships. To learn more, please click here.

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Written by Katherine DeFoyd

What constitutes a healthy relationship between an executive director and a board of directors? How can organizations strike a healthy balance of power?

These are the questions Growth for Good helps nonprofits with every day.  
Most successful executive directors are entrepreneurial self-starters. They are mavericks. These characteristics inspire them to provide services to the world that the free market cannot provide, e.g., arts education, youth development, senior services, affordable healthcare. They lead lean organizations with fewer resources than their for-profit counterparts. And, while their “get it done” attitude is what makes them successful, unchecked, it can be a barrier to healthy board relations and organizational growth. 
Executive directors often feel they do not have time to seek input from board members, thus making decisions in a vacuum. Board members are left asking themselves “Why are we here?” When board members have minimal opportunity for meaningful input beyond basic legal and fiduciary oversight and fundraising, they lose interest, pull away, and stop contributing energy, ideas, and money. This disinterest further drives the executive director to act alone.  We call this downward spiral the “Lone Ranger Syndrome.”
Growth for Good believes that healthy board and executive director relations come down to thoughtful and inclusive planning processes and honest and ongoing communication of progress toward goals.
As one executive director said, “You can’t build an airplane while you are flying.” Good planning must include an organization’s executive director/staff and board leadership. This includes all planning categories: strategic planning, fundraising planning, and event planning. Plans should not be expressed in a few PowerPoint slides with broad sweeping statements and visions of grandeur. Instead, plans should include:
  • agreed upon and clearly defined goals;
  • time-bound and measurable objectives;
  • realistic budgets;
  • specific tasks; and
  • well-defined roles and responsibilities. 
An inclusive planning process is time-consuming and less efficient than some executives would like. But it is essential that it include board and staff members so there is real buy-in with their responsibilities. By helping to set the vision, board and staff members are eager to do their best work.  
Another executive director said, “Too many nonprofits only present a rosy picture to their board and sweep challenges under the rug.”
Both formal and informal communication is essential to board/executive director cooperation. Board meetings are the forum to report on program progress, budgets, and to make governance decisions. Informal communication between board meetings among staff and board members is also critical. This builds trust. Staff members feel safe and can be frank about progress (or lack thereof) toward an objective. It also allows board members to become advocates and help offer solutions, find extra resources, and use their executive intellectual skills to move the agenda.  
The Support Center provides a series of workshops on planning and board development here in the greater New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. To find out more about the Support Center’s services, visit our website:

Managing FEAR! 10 Tips To Help Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Laurie Krauz has helped men and women from all over the world and all walks of life achieve their own personal and professional styles while developing their ability to offer dynamic, compelling presentations. Her seminars and lectures have been presented at law firms, corporations, financial institutions and universities. Krauz has been featured internationally on BBC Television, and in numerous publications throughout the U.S. To learn more, please visit:

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fear public speaking

Written by Laurie Krauz

There are many techniques that I use in my work with clients to help manage the fear experienced when giving presentations, speeches or interviews.  Following is a list of what I like to call “Miscellaneous Factoids” – a short, random list of some of the helpful hints and facts I’ve accumulated over time that clients have found useful:

  • Put pictures of your children, grandchildren, dog, etc., in your notes to help relax and ground you.
  • Find the friendliest face in the audience early on and focus there whenever you need to feel more comfortable (this one is my personal favorite).
  • Remember that nervousness doesn’t show nearly as much as one would think.
  • Remember that the audience is filled with people more concerned with their own internal drama than yours!
  • Know what you’re talking about!  Practice, practice, practice.  The positive impact on emotion of feeling prepared is enormous.
  • You do not need to be perfect.  In fact, that would be a turnoff.  The audience will stay right with you if you joke and say something like, “hmm, senior moment, let me check my notes.”  That could even be funny for a 25 year old.  Studies show that audiences care much more that a speaker is genuine rather than perfect (or even funny!).
  • The ability to retain the information you are providing is very limited.  Years ago I was told that if I knew 2% more than my audience on the topic, it was all I needed because that was all they could retain.  Just remind yourself that you know at least a teeny bit more than the audience and that’s all you need.
  • Start your presentation in a way that makes you feel at ease.  It could be with a question, a story, a joke (appropriate!).  Whatever tricks you into thinking that they love you and therefore helps you relax.  This is one of those things that you’ll have to experiment with over time.
  • For some, it helps to dissipate anxiety if you meet and mingle somewhat before you begin (for others, this increases anxiety – experiment and find what works best for you).

And, always remember, practice, practice, practice!

The Support Center provides workshops and customized training in Communication and Staff Development in the greater New York area. To find out more about the Support Center’s services visit our web site at

Onboarding for Exceptional Transition Management

Claudia Zeldin is a partner at Growth for Good and an accomplished professional consultant with 30 years
of marketing and management experience. Claudia completed the Support Center/Partnership in Philanthropy’s Interim Executive Leadership Training Course in 2009 and has served in various temporary management positions. To learn more, please visit:


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Written by Claudia Zeldin

Every phase of the onboarding process with a new employee is important, from before they begin their job, through their first week, to the successful completion of their first year. In the first month, it is essential that new leaders have a strong understanding of his/her performance relative to the position and realistic expectations. Very often with new executive staff, it is assumed that they are experienced and will assume their responsibilities quickly, but success and retention will be strengthened with a first-year plan that enables new leaders to feel supported and able to take ownership.  For new Executive Directors, it will be essential that a board member carefully lead this management transition process, so a strong partnership is formed – engaged and energized by a shared mission.

Click here to view and download a PDF checklist to onboard a new member of your nonprofit leadership team:  Executive Director/CEO, Development Director, CFO, etc.

To find out more about the Support Center’s services visit our website at: or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected]

6 Tips for Better Strategic Planning

Pat Richter has been affiliated with the Support Center since 2002 in many capacities, including as a volunteer facilitator of workshops, affiliated consultant, C.O.O. interim, and most recently the Interim Director of Consulting. She consults (PRQuickhelp) nonprofits & foundations both large and small. To Learn more, please visit

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Strategic Planning

Written by Pat Richter

Very few nonprofit leaders and Board members enjoy strategic planning, but thank goodness there are a few brave and creative people that are energized and excited by the process!

Strategic planning can be like going to the dentist; no one wants to go, in spite of feeling so much better afterwards.

Two or three year plans are the trend now because the environment in which nonprofits operate is changing so quickly. The Support Center for Nonprofit Management/Partnership in Philanthropy helps many nonprofits with strategic planning, with some investing months in the process and others dedicating a one day staff/Board retreat to banging out a plan.  Either approach can work depending on the size and complexity of the organization.

Whether your organization is taking a long or short path to strategic planning, remember to think and discuss the following key areas to insure a well-rounded and practical plan:

  1. Check in with the mission, vision, and values of the organization.  Are they all still relevant and inspiring?
  2. Review programs to insure they support the mission, are sustainable, and have impact.
  3. Assess the Board and its embrace of its roles and responsibilities. Refer to helpful materials from BoardSource and Independent Sector.
  4. Check in with infrastructure – does the staff have the facilities, equipment, and supplies that it needs? Are the staff organized in a way that makes sense? Is program space adequate? Do IT, finance, and HR functions serve the organization adequately?
  5. Most nonprofits can’t function without partners. Sometimes the biggest partner is government, or client referral sources, or schools, or in-kind service providers. Review how your organization selects and manages its partnerships.
  6. Assess financial sustainability.  What has been the revenue history and what are the expected trends going forward?  What should the Board and leadership focus on to insure financial health in the future?

A small arts organization embarked on strategic planning and prioritized locating street level office and program space in spite of this goal seeming impossible over its previous ten years. The timing seemed right, and by working with their partners, it came to fruition!

If your organization is interested in strategic planning, contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].

Do We Really Need A Tech Committee?

Jason Hutchins, President (Managing Principle) founded Nonprofit Solutions Network
in 1998 to help nonprofits increase capacity, lower costs, and improve their overall operation through the use of technology. Learn more about them at

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Tech Icon

Written by Jason Hutchins 

In many nonprofit organizations, hardware and software is only replaced when it becomes unresponsive, a funder requires a type of report the current system can’t produce, or employees use applications they’ve discovered off the IT department’s radar (often on a personal smartphone). Meanwhile, the technology landscape has changed.  There have been major advances in cloud computing, the cost of bandwidth and data storage has fallen, nonprofit specific technology grants are on the rise, as are the availability of numerous apps for record keeping and reporting.  At the same time, requirements for nonprofits have increased and become more complex, leaving many to feel they are ‘behind the times’ even when implementing new technology.

A simple way to make IT spending strategic rather than reactive and to select technology that works well for your staff is to have an internal technology committee.  How can you possibly ask staff to participate in another meeting?  Make it a working lunch or mid-morning coffee break meeting. There is someone motivated and interested in technology in every department who will want to be part of the conversation.

Meet regularly (bi-monthly or quarterly) to share observations about what’s working well and what’s not. During the first meeting, it is a good idea to create a shared central document that details the department/function areas that are represented, contains an inventory of which databases are in use for accounting, donors, programs, marketing, etc., and for how long (how long what?). Discuss staff satisfaction and make note of known performance issues. This will help identify the need for support and staff training, as well as be  a jumping off point for brainstorming solutions and creating an action plan.

  • Properly budget and fundraise for technology
  • Find opportunities to cut expenses and receive technology grants
  • Keep an eye out for advances in technology to improve operations
  • Better define operational and capital costs
  • Help your grants department make the case to funders and agencies to pay for technology and training
  • Evaluate a potential technology’s benefits for your organization and the complexity and time to implement it?
  • Create staff buy in for implementing new technology and business process changes
  • Develop contingency plans for obstacles during implementation
  • Identify IT related organizational risks and update IT personnel policies

A working technology committee fosters collaboration and is well worth the time. For more ideas on how to implement a technology committee or other organizational changesvisit the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy website or contact Carolyn Champ at [email protected].

Tell Us About Your Earned Income Strategies!

There is growing interest in the nonprofit sector to learn about how organizations can diversify their revenue sources and generate more earned income. Recognizing this trend, the Support Center and Inspiring Capital are collaborating to conduct this survey about the current state of earned income strategies across their shared networks of nonprofits and funders. This survey will result in a landscape scan of how nonprofits are generating earned income and an understanding of what obstacles and needs exist in the sector. Whether you represent a nonprofit or a funding organization, consider this broad definition of earned income from Grantspace: “Earned income is revenue generated from the sale of goods, services rendered, or work performed.


Click here if you’re a nonprofit organization.

Click here if you’re a funding organization.

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Survey led in partnership with Inspiring Capital.