Guide to Leadership Transitions

Guide to Leadership Transitions

How can nonprofit organizations best support healthy, successful executive transitions? In the Guide to Leadership Transitions, rising leaders and veteran nonprofit board members share stories, strategies, and wisdom to support incoming or outgoing executives, boards of directors and nonprofit leaders during times of change.

  • Look to your community and communicate with transparency throughout the search
  • Embrace the moment of growth and change
  • Build a network of support for new leaders
  • Commit to a transition that reflects your organizational values
  • Invest in great people

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Leadership Transition Resources

Leadership Transitions Resources Cover

Download the Resources

Full CNE Report: Supporting Healthy Leadership Transitions Report

Alternative leadership structures 

Adams, Tom. “The Evolution of Executive Transition and Allied Practices” Compass Point, Mar. 2017. 

Bell, Jeanne, et al. “Five Insights from Directors Sharing Power” Nonprofit Quarterly, 28 Mar. 2017. 

Chandler, Jennifer. “From Enterprise Risk Management to Shared Leadership: A Different Look at Succession Planning” Nonprofit Quarterly, 10 May 2017. 

Forbes, Miecha. “Succession Planning Is Outdated: A New Approach to Managing Leadership Transition” Nonprofit Quarterly. 

Leung, Vanessa, et al. “Embracing Alternative Leadership Structures in Nonprofit Executive Transitions” Philanthropy New York, 18 Mar. 2021. 

Valenzuela, Ananda, “The Executive Director Job Is Impossible” Rooted in Vibrant Communities, Seattle, 21 Feb. 2018. 


Boards of Directors 

BoardSource. “Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices” June 2021. 

BoardSource. “Leading with Intent: Reviewing the State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Nonprofit Boards” Jun. 2021. 

Garry, Joan. “10 Ways Boards Screw Up Leadership Transitions” Joan Garry Consulting. 



Coaching for Everyone 


Economic Impact 

Hammad, Ashraf, et al. “Monterey County Nonprofit Socio-Economic Impact Report 2020.” Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County, 21 Aug. 2020. 



Le, Vu. “10 ways to make executive leadership searches and transitions better and more equitable.” Nonprofit AF, 3 Apr. 2022. 

Suarez, Cindy. “Leaders of Color at the Forefront of the Nonprofit Sector’s Challenges.” Nonprofit Quarterly, 3 Feb. 2022. 

Suarez, Cindy. “What Does an Equitable Executive Leadership Transition Look Like?” Nonprofit Quarterly, 6 Aug. 2020. 


Founding directors and succession 

Tuomala, Jari, et al. “Making Founder Successions Work.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2018. 


Interim leadership 

BoardSource. “Acting and Interim Chief Executives.” 

Eder-Van Hook, Jackie. “Interim Executive Management: Seven Benefits to Consider.”  Bridgespan. 

Fenske Bahat, Sara, and Kher, Renuka. “The Case for a Year of Care: Shifting the Leadership Transition Narrative.” Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, 31 Mar. 2022.  


Internal vs. external hires 

Ciampa, Dan. “After the Handshake.” Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2016. 

Krell, Eric. “Weighing Internal vs. External Hires.” SHRM,7 Jan. 2015. 

Landles-Cobb, Libbie, et al. “The Nonprofit Leadership Development Deficit.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 22 Oct. 2015.  

Larcker, David F., and Tayan, Brian. “Internal Vs. External CEOs Research Spotlight.” Stanford Corporate Governance Research Initiative. 


Leadership Development 

LEAD Institute 

Impact Monterey County: Radical Transformational Leadership for Social Impact 



Adams, Tom, and Moore, Kim. “Philanthropy’s Role in Succession Planning: How Funders Can Assist Grantee Organizations in Preparing for Leadership Change” Candid, 2 Nov. 2007. 


Peer support opportunities 

Center for Nonprofit Excellence: Tune in To Your Leadership Voice 



Boushey, Heather, and Glyn, Sarah Jane. “There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees.” Center for American Progress, 16 Nov. 2012. 

Building Movement Project. “Making (Or Taking) Space: Initial Themes on Nonprofit Transitions from White to BIPOC Leaders” Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Sept. 2021. 

Casselman, Ben. “As Workers Gain Pay Leverage, Nonprofits Can’t Keep Up.” New York Times, 23 Dec. 2021. 

Ebert, Sara. “What factors contribute to successful nonprofit executive compensation strategies?”  ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, 27 Jan. 2021. 

Le, Vu. “It’s time funders take nonprofit leadership turnover seriously.” Nonprofit AF, 10 Nov. 2019.  

Work Institute, “2020 Retention Report.” 



Citrin, James, et al. “The CEO Life Cycle” Harvard Business Review, Nov.-Dec. 2019. 

Haddad, Duke, Ed.D. “Dealing With the Nonprofit Sector’s Biggest Challenge in 2019” Nonprofit Pro, 8 Nov. 2019. 

Welling, Curtis R., and Vogel Jr., John H. “A Practical (and Possibly Provocative) Approach to Leadership Transitions.” Nonprofit Quarterly, 21 May 2015. 

Roadmap Consulting. “New Executive Director 90-Day Entry Plan.” Strategies for Social Change, 2016. 



Greene, Siobhan. “Transition Tips for Chief Executives and Boards of Directors.” Blue Avocado, 12 Apr. 2022. 

Izmailova, Sayana. “Nonprofit Succession Planning: 50 Practical Tips.” Wild Apricot, 12 Apr. 2021. 

Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “Nonprofit Executive Succession-Planning Toolkit.” 9 Jul. 2018. 

National Council of Nonprofits. “Succession Planning for Nonprofits – Managing Leadership Transitions.”  

Nonprofit Sustainability Technical Assistance. “Succession Planning Toolkit for Nonprofit Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations.”  

Price, Nick. “Nonprofit CEO Onboarding Checklist.” BoardEffect, 15 Oct. 2018. 

Wallace Foundation. “Strong Nonprofits Toolkit: Resources to strengthen your nonprofit financial management.”  

Stamm, Sonia J. “A Timeless Toolkit for Executive Succession.” BoardEffect, 31 May 2019. 



The Editors. “Reframing Nonprofit Leadership Succession: The Ultimate Strategic Hedge Against a ‘Bad CEO Hire.’” Nonprofit Quarterly, 3 Oct. 2017. 

Nonprofit Quarterly. “Webinar Series on Executive Transitions: Critical Guidance for Boards and Executives.”