A Tsunami is on the Way

March 3, 2017



Written By: Jan

By Jan Brogdon

On multiple occasions recently, I have heard nonprofit leaders discussing the upcoming tsunami heading across North America: the changing leadership guard in the C-level suites in large and small organizations in communities of all sizes, demographics and genres of service. If we all sense its approach, what can those of us who are passionately serving today do to help diminish the risk and increase the opportunity to make these transitions beneficial and not catastrophic for the future of the sector?

First, we have to be sure our organizations have clarity of vision. Are the board and significant stakeholder funders and greater community engaged in the development of that plan and does it truly address community and unmet need and not simply the ongoing operation of the organization itself?

Are key donors engaged in the impact of the mission and in support of the organization itself rather than simply the leaders? While relationships are paramount in this type of work and passionate leaders are integral in the engagement process, we all must assure that those relationships aren’t just personal and that they will last beyond a change in the people who sit in those leadership seats.

Have we established a legacy of commitment to those donor relationships by our time and attention to documentation? We do a massive disservice to our future colleagues when we leave our seats with all kinds of great information in our own heads and not in files, either paper or electronic, that helps to bridge the relationship-transition that is so critical for all parties.

Are we positioning the benefits of succession planning as a key attribute of successful organizational management to be led by the board of directors? While it may be good for the collective egos of all parties who function in the CEO, CDO, CFO and other key leadership jobs to avoid discussion about their future departures, the need to adequately plan for the organizations’ future should be a topic revisited annually by a board committee.

Is leadership development just a buzzword or fully implemented as part of the training of other staff? While every seat in a leadership transition may not be available to members of the existing team, if we are truly committed to our “cause” then we have a responsibility larger than to our own organization to lift up and train the next generation of leaders.


Change is sure to happen, but by preparing today, it doesn’t have to be a destructive force. Let’s commit to our future!

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2 responses to “A Tsunami is on the Way”

  1. Lee Heyward says:

    Jan, thank you for this excellent article. I’m sure you have seen numerous “transition train wrecks” and your principles are spot on! Thanks for tackling a subject we often don’t like to touch. Very helpful counsel!

    • Jan Jan Brogdon says:

      Thanks Lee! Some may not have been qualified as “train wrecks” but even “less than ideal” can offer us all a challenge us to improve before the next transition.