succession planning

A Necessary Plan That’s Often Overlooked

Richard Jungman
Richard Jungman
Practice Leader, Fraternal

As I thought about how to write this blog to be impactful and meaningful, I kept coming back to the same question to pose upfront. “What would a company do if 100 percent of its leadership team members left their positions at the same time?” It’s pretty obvious, right? For any company, I can only assume there’d be hurdles and challenges the remaining employees would face. I mean, think about it for a minute. Who leads now? What do they tell their clients? What were their leaders working on that the remaining employees now need to take over? Can the company ensure its sustainability through the storm?

It’s no different in the fraternal world, believe it or not. Each fraternity/sorority has a volunteer board of directors who lead and set the direction for the organization. Think finances, fundraising, rules, recruitment…you name it…the board of directors for each fraternal organization oversees it all. Additionally, local chapters have boards that can oversee multi-million dollar properties, help guide impressionable undergraduates, and serve as the face of those local chapters to their campus communities.

So back to my main point…what would happen if all those directors left? Of course, you’d elect a new board, but 100 percent turnover at once should (and can) be avoided. How? By ensuring you have a proper succession plan.

Board of director succession planning is essential to good governance, as it sets the stage for board engagement and performance, not to mention effective leadership. Boards should understand succession planning isn’t just “making a plan.” It’s a risk management strategy to ensure the sustainability of the organization.

Creating the Plan

If your fraternal organization has a succession plan in place already, great! If you don’t, you’re not alone. Only 34 percent of nonprofits surveyed reported they had a written succession plan.

So what should you do if you’re among the remaining 66 percent?

  • Define the roles. Each board position should have a job description to make sure volunteers understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • Define a development process for future board leadership. Don’t just leave this to chance; engage every member of the board in developing future volunteers. Involving these members in the cultivation, recruitment, and selection of their successors will prove beneficial.
  • Define a process for succession and make sure that your practices reflect your bylaws. Make changes to ensure the process provides an appropriate framework reflecting organizational needs.
  • Determine the makeup of the board. The makeup of the board should reflect demographics of the entire alumni/ae base (i.e. age and geographic region) to allow the board to tap into every possible part of their base for volunteer help, donations, etc.
  • Limit board service. It’s best to limit board service to a maximum of 6 or 7 years and ensure the board terms are rolling terms. This prevents 100 percent turnover.
  • Train. Providing training and orientation to new board members is an important step.

Additionally, local chapters have ways to engage alumni/ae to help create a pipeline of future volunteer leaders. A couple ideas:

  • Distribute board meeting minutes to advisors and alumni/ae.
  • Encourage alumni/ae to attend at least one board meeting each year.
  • Offer short-term opportunities to alumni/ae to expose them to the work of the board.
  • Invite alumni/ae to chapter events by the chapter.
  • Re-engage members through fundraising appeals.

I’ve also found some resources that may be helpful as you navigate through this process:

I know this seems like an undertaking, but once you have a succession plan in place, you’ll be able to breathe easier. You never know how truly important this type of planning is until something happens. Let’s not let it get to that point. If you have any questions on how to proceed or if you want us to review your plan, reach out to us. The Holmes Murphy Fraternal Team would be more than willing to help you out!

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