Good Board Governance. Succession Planning for Your Board of Directors

 In Smith & Dale Blog


We talk a lot about succession planning for EDs and CEOs, but not necessarily for our board members.  Let’s start talking!

This year Angie is terming off a board where she serves as Board Chair.  The past president is also terming off.  In recent years, the board and CEO together have done a fabulous job building the board.  They created a strategy, identified gaps in skill areas, geographic and demographic representation ~ they have their finger on diversity and have patted themselves on the back. Boxes checked!  Gold stars!

BUT… lest we celebrate too early… at the last board meeting it all fell apart. 

The Board Secretary, who also serves as the Development Chair, is suddenly moving to a different city.  (Great for her, bad for the organization.)  The treasurer has retired and is leaving the board to spend time traveling with his wife.  Gold Star Team that they are, they have another finance whiz on the board, a CPA.  They assumed she would take on the treasurer position – big assumption.  Turns out she’s simply too busy to chair a committee, which you have to respect. 

So, the best laid plans?  Not so much.

When performing board recruitment, we think it’s important to look ahead four years.  Stagger recruitment and board terms if you can, and work at it constantly: because while it is cyclical, it is also unpredictable. 

If you have rock stars – congratulations! – but remember: if you’re following best practices they WILL term off, or they may need to leave earlier due to any number of reasons.  Find people early to come on to the board with the intention of replacing them. Put the new recruits and the seasoned members on committees together so they can be mentored, because it is difficult to recruit a board member and ask them to chair a committee immediately.  Most folks will have a difficult time agreeing to that responsibility.

Just a reminder, never rest with board recruitment – like development it needs to be tended like a garden, constantly.

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