What would your camp do if your Executive Director suddenly decided to leave? Would your board of directors be shocked and left scrambling to quickly fill the role of that person? There are so many cases of camps and other non-profit organizations falling to complete chaos when the director leaves. In worst case scenarios, this disruption can cause funders and key staff members to leave the organization and that’s the last thing you want!
Creating a succession plan.
Even if your camp director has been in their position for many years and has no plans on leaving, you should still have a succession plan in place. You never know what can happen in life or what might change at camp.
Your board should be in constant conversation with the camp director, regarding their plans for both their career and life in the future. Keep in mind your director does not have to share their plans or future goals, but keeping lines of communication open will help your organization better plan for the future.
Learn more in this great resource: "Succession Planning for Non-Profits"
Do you have a successor?
You might find it easiest to have an assistant director or a second-in-command who will have the capacity to replace the director in the future. Some camps might not have this person, but if you do, you should have them in constant collaboration with your current director so they always know what is going on in the organization. This person should also actually want to take over if the time ever came and should also have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully do so.
You might not have the luxury of having this ready-to-go successor within your organization. If this is the case, make sure you cross-train your staff so that should your executive director ever leave, there will be people on board ready to take on some of their tasks and responsibilities until the role is filled. Every job the director has should be made known to one or more staff members.
What if the director leaves and there is no plan?
If your director suddenly leaves and your camp has no succession plan, it means your board of directors and staff have lot of work ahead. The board will have to get busy finding a qualified replacement and in a lot of cases, the staff will have to work overtime to fill the gaps created by the vacant director position.
The first thing that needs to happen is that the board of directors should create an immediate plan of action and make sure all camp staff know about that plan as soon as possible. A quick departure of an executive director might leave a lot of questions unanswered. Be sure to answer them before rumours start to fly. You’ll have to discuss this plan of action with funders and supporters as well. They will need assurance that all the plans and programs they support will stay on target.
The board might choose to quickly appoint a management-level staff member, who is both skilled and qualified, into an interim-director position until the role can be filled. If that person doesn’t really exist at your camp, you could put together a group of two or three qualified staff members to share and take on the departed directors responsibilities. For this to work, you’ll have to create a list of their responsibilities, prioritize and delegate that list accordingly.
If there are no employees of the camp that are able or willing to take on the responsibilities of the executive director until the role is filled, a board member may temporarily assume these responsibilities. This should be your last choice as having a board member working as a staff of the organization could become a conflict of interest. They will also have to resign from the board if the position is a paid position.
Learn more about “Hiring an Executive Director” here.