Insights into nonprofit leadership & governance

Successful Successions: A BoardWalk Guide

December 15, 2018  

Turnover among board and senior staff members is a big issue for nonprofits, and it’s about to become even bigger. Fifty-seven percent—better than one in two—of nonprofits surveyed in five separate studies we’ve reviewed expect a change in leadership within five years of the survey date.

The projected turnover of board members is at least as great. A much cited study by Booz Allen Hamilton estimates 1.8 million new vacancies each year—on top of 1.2 million vacancies extant at the time of the study.

The real talent deficit that is looming may be even larger. Although hard data is difficult to come by, at present there are around 12-15 million individuals filling some 15-20 million nonprofit board seats across the country. The majority of these board seats are held by baby boomers; that is, trustees born between 1946 and 1964. Unfortunately, there are roughly half as many Gen X-ers3 available to take the place of retiring baby boomers. Even if older board members stay actively involved well past traditional retirement ages, the competition for successor board members is likely to be fierce.

From a review of relevant literature and our experience with nonprofit leaders and board members, we have prepared the following template to guide your efforts to develop a meaningful succession strategy for your board or leadership team.

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