Do you have a succession plan? A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article highlighted the number of presidential turnovers that will occur relatively soon at major institutions. It is not just the president’s departure that causes issues for fundraising across the non-profit community, but board member and development professional departures as well. This is exacerbated when there is the confluence of continually high development turnover and a best practice of board term limits is a real threat to the relationships with our best prospects and donors.

Years ago, a vice president I worked with saw his retirement and some transition coming, he ensured that the relationships with those prospects and donors would be secure.  This gentleman looked at his staff and wisely thought about who would be there in five years.  The next step involved his engaging stable staff in those relationships that could be an important bridge to the future. Did he just hand those relationships over?  Of course not, but when he retired, not a single donor was lost. He ensured that existing relationships could be built upon to serve the organization for the future..

Do a check up on your organization?

1)      How secure are your top donors or prospects? How many relationships with your organization do they have?

2)      What would happen if you had turnover – the CEO, Chief Development Officer, or a key volunteer?

3)      Five years from now, are we positioned to have stronger relationships than we do today?

Think about the following:

1)      Include members of your team in key relationships that will bridge your best donors to the future.

2)      Ensure each important prospect or donor has multiple contact points with your organization.

3)      When there is transition in your organization, make a priority of maintaining those relationships (including gift officers, boards, and presidential transition teams).

Good luck!

Mark J. Marshall

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