Standard A6 Explained

Definition: Succession Plan1
A succession plan sets out how potential departures of key personnel would be dealt with in the short-term and long-term through internal or external candidates. It could define key competencies, identify pools of talent and outline how current staff members are being developed to fill positions.

What is succession planning and why is it important? A succession plan describes how an organization will respond to the expected or unexpected departure of their most senior staff person. Organizations may find it helpful to create two succession plans: one that reflects long-term planning and one for emergencies. Having an effective succession plan in place for the most senior staff person improves organizational resilience by:2 

  • Avoiding disaster should an Executive Director leave unexpectedly
  • Strengthening operations and building capacity within the organization by training staff, board members, and volunteers to perform aspects of the most senior staff person’s role
  • Building leadership competencies within staff and volunteers throughout the organization, strengthening the nonprofit sector as a whole and enabling organizations to achieve greater positive impact in the communities they serve

From "Accreditation Preparation Workbook Section A: Board Governance,"  Katharine Zywert, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo at the University of Waterloo, 2013.

  1. “Standards Program Definitions,” Imagine Canada, May 2011.
  2. Building Leaderful Organizations: Succession Planning for Nonprofits,” Tim Wolfred, 2008. Baltimore, Maryland: The Annie E. Casey Foundation


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