Dear Board Chair,
You play a significant role in assuring the health and well-being of your organization. Your knowledge, expertise and experience in board governance help you know what needs to be done, by whom, how, when and with what resources. As leader of the board and working with your CEO (if you have one), you set the agenda, you provide information and context and you guide decision-making. Your leadership instills confidence for people to invest in your organization. These skills and attributes are critical to the success of your nonprofit.
So, it is important to be thinking about what you can do to assure that the person who follows you is prepared to lead. Does the Governance (or Nominating) Committee understand its very important role of identifying the next chairman? Are they working with the long view of building bench strength and future leadership for the organization so that there are good quality candidates from which to choose to chair the organization? Do they understand what kind of leader is needed at this time? Unfortunately, too often, these matters do not get the time and attention they deserve, and nonprofits are woefully unprepared for board leadership transitions.
When a new chair is elected, it is incumbent on you to help onboard this person to be most effective. She will need all the information that you can provide about the current state of your nonprofit and how you’ve pursued your roles and responsibilities. Ideally, you’ll share a current, detailed job description and discuss what’s going well, what needs attention and what’s coming up. Even if the person has been on the board, it doesn’t hurt to review minutes, financials and progress on the strategic plan. Introductions to key staff and stakeholders should be made in appropriate ways, from one-on-one meetings to staff gatherings to community receptions.
It is very important through this whole process to be thoughtful and thorough, not making assumptions and providing opportunities for lots of questions and clarification.
Managed well and smoothly, this board chair transition should prepare your organization to continue to grow and thrive. This will ultimately be a great legacy to you and your leadership!