7 Things To Do When Your Nonprofit’s Executive Director Gives Notice

Your Executive Director (or Development Director, COO, CFO, etc) just gave notice. What do you do?

Executive Director Gives Notice
  1. Panic! Or don’t. It may be scary to lose a valuable senior executive. But, you can use this opportunity to strengthen your nonprofit.
  2. Assess your situation. Whether you do this on your own or use a firm like MJA, take the time to understand your entire organization and the skills of those who remain. Was your Executive Director amazing at operations but, then, trained other people to do operations management? That would make hiring someone with the same skill set redundant. Unless that skill set is fundraising. You can never have too many fundraisers.
  3. Create your process. Steps may include interviewing current staff, developing a job description, posting it, reviewing candidates resumes, pre-screening candidates for in-person interviews, interviewing candidates, checking references, and negotiating with your top choice.
  4. Consider who should be involved in the planning and implementation of the hiring process. Who should be writing, reviewing and/or posting the job description? Who will go through the 100s of resumes?  (Job sites encourage people to post far outside their roles because from their perspective – you never know.) Does that person know how to narrow down the list to appropriate candidates? What skills are transferable? Who should be in the room with each candidate at every step?
  5. Decide if you want to hire us (or another executive search team). Nothing is free. Doing executive search in-house may seem low cost, but your staff and board will be consumed with this instead of raising money, understanding your data, improving program initiatives, etc.,…
  6. Question whether you need a fractional/interim person. It may take you months to find the best executive director to help your nonprofit succeed. Sometimes you are better off hiring an interim ED (DD/COO/CFO, etc.) to keep the trains moving while you assess your situation. That person may be a candidate, it may be someone who is not looking for long-term, full-time work but supports your mission, or it may be a nonprofit consultant – get in touch if you would like to talk about how MJA can help you in the short term.
  7. Feel good. If you know how you will replace this valuable staff member, you can look forward to a new chapter for your organization. Stop thinking that when an executive director gives notice it is a tragedy. Your nonprofit will get over this hiccup and move forward stronger than ever.

*** If you really want to decrease stress, create this “emergency” transition plan even before anyone gives notice.

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