How to Keep Nonprofit Turnover from Undermining Your Mission

Andrew VaethNonprofit Collaboration

Sometimes, nonprofit turnover in just one position can be very draining on what is usually an already-understaffed team. Even more daunting is the rotation of your board and committee members. While common in all organizations, these changes create a painful distraction from the overall mission.

Let’s look at one example of how challenging it can be for a new person to get acquainted in your system:

New Executive Director (Exec) Just Hired: The new exec builds relationships, drums up funding, drives strategy, and sets the overall pace for the organization. In his case, time is money. The new exec must quickly get up-to-speed on all key contacts, recent and upcoming meetings, committed action-items pending by other team and board members, and key files such as financials, board documents, employee policies, critical projects, and timelines. This usually involves having staffers assemble information, sending many emails, holding ad-hoc meetings, and creating general confusion that fails to move the mission forward.

It often takes far too long for the new exec to get up to speed and begin creating value. The situation is very frustrating for all stakeholders.

The reality for most nonprofits is that they have different apps and systems for everything. Some of these apps are duplicative in nature. For example, our new Exec may share a DropBox file one minute and get a shared Google Doc the next. Maybe he sends a general group email for one announcement and a ConstantContact for another. Perhaps he has a board portal but uses BaseCamp for shared projects. He likely suffers from app overload and lives in email purgatory where context, continuity, and relevance are fuzzy pipe dreams.

Stay Mission-Focused by Planning Ahead

How can nonprofits avoid this disorganized scenario? They must create an environment where continuity of information is available and stakeholders are not overwhelmed with irrelevant missives. This system should be easily discoverable and searchable, and most importantly, so easy to use that everyone can participate. If this system existed in our new exec’s scenario, just think what headaches could be avoided!

Plan for the change and turnover, and it will be less disruptive. Look to tools that will provide continuity and context of real-time and historical information across the organization. You will be rotating board leadership, internal staff, and even the executive director, but implementing such tools ensure the focus on your mission isn’t in constant jeopardy.


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