Knowledge and Insights

Nonprofit Succession Planning: Secure Continuity & Drive Growth

Succession planning is a critical component of organizational management and sustainability, especially for nonprofits. It involves identifying and developing individuals within an organization to take on key leadership roles when the current leaders transition out. But nonprofit succession planning isn’t just limited to key internal leadership roles. It also involves identifying and developing your governing board members.

Succession planning is typically associated with the business sector but is equally important for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits play a vital role in addressing societal challenges and driving positive change. Thus, planning and preparing for a smooth leadership transition is essential to maintain the organization’s mission, values, and impact.


Nonprofit organizations are guided by a strong sense of purpose and commitment to their missions. These missions can encompass a wide range of social, environmental, or cultural causes, and the success of these organizations often hinges on the passion, skills, and vision of their leaders. When key leaders, such as the CEO, COO or CFO decide to step down or retire, the organization faces potential obstacles if a proper succession plan is not in place.

  1. Continuity of Mission: A well-formulated succession plan will help keep your organization’s mission and goals intact, even during leadership transitions. This continuity is needed to maintain the trust and support of stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries.
  2. Stability for Staff & Volunteers: Leadership changes can generate uncertainty among staff and volunteers. A thoughtful succession plan minimizes disruptions, provides clarity, and boosts morale by demonstrating that the organization is ready and prepared for change.
  3. Preservation of Culture & Values: Nonprofits often have distinct cultures and values that contribute to their unique identities. An effective transition plan helps the incoming leadership better understand and respect these cultural elements, preventing a shift away from the organization’s core principles.
  4. Efficient Operations: Leadership transitions can be time consuming and distracting. With a thorough succession plan in place, a successor can be well-prepared, stepping in with a clear understanding of the organization’s operations, and reducing the likelihood of operational setbacks.


At Mercadien, we have helped many organizations develop a formal succession plan that aligns with their mission, values and goals. We begin our process by gaining a deep understanding of your organization and its current operations, leadership structure, strengths, weaknesses and long-term objectives. During this assessment phase we’ll also consider factors like leadership development, talent identification and recruiting strategies.

Next, we meet with your key stakeholders, including board members, senior leadership and any other relevant individuals to gather their perspectives on the organization’s leadership needs. Then, we collaborate with you to develop a comprehensive succession plan tailored to your organization that includes development plans, timelines and effective transition strategies to set you on the path for lasting success.

All in all, it’s a process that can take anywhere from 12 to 36 months, so if you don’t currently have a succession plan in place, you should consider creating one sooner rather than later.


At Mercadien, we recommend that all organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit alike, have two succession plans in place.

  1. Orderly Succession Plan: this plan is thoughtful and encompasses the strategic direction of the organization.
  2. Emergency Succession Plan: this plan is created to help carry the organization through in the event of the untimely incapacity or death of a key leader in management.

Succession planning is an essential practice for your organization.  Your commitment to  identifying and nurturing potential leaders will minimize disruptions during leadership transitions and emergencies allowing your organization to continue making a positive impact on your mission. A robust succession plan safeguards the organization’s mission, culture, and values, while also fostering a sense of stability and confidence among staff, volunteers, and stakeholders. Through careful assessment, development, and planning, nonprofits can navigate leadership changes with grace and continue their journey towards creating a better world.


Over the last 60 years Mercadien’s team of succession planning experts have served as trusted advisors to dozens of organizations going through or preparing for a leadership transition. We take a collaborative approach to every client engagement and our ultimate goal is coming up with a plan that sets your organization up for long-term success, without compromising its integrity, culture or mission. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization plan for a lasting impact.

DISCLAIMER: This advisory resource is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute business or tax advice, and may not be used and relied upon as a substitute for business or tax advice regarding a specific issue or problem. Advice should be obtained from a qualified accountant, tax practitioner or attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where that advice is sought.