PRO TIPS | Succession Planning: Ensuring Continuity of Leadership

publication date: Jun 5, 2024
author/source: Daniel H. Lanteigne and Marie Harou

Succession planning is a crucial step for any organization or foundation, regardless of its field of activity. It is undoubtedly a sound risk management practice that should always be considered. By anticipating the departure of the leader and developing a pool of talented individuals ready to take over, organizations can ensure a smooth leadership transition and maintain their effectiveness in achieving their mission.

Plan better, faster

While identifying and supporting successors could previously be done over a long period or in anticipation of a retirement, the rules of the game have now changed. High turnover rates and talent mobility between organizations create vulnerability when departures are unplanned or poorly planned. Therefore, regardless of the field, boards of directors and management must consider this sooner rather than later!
However, beyond promoting thoughtful consideration, it is also important to consider the challenges that may arise in the context of succession planning:

• Difficulty in finding qualified successors
• Managing stakeholder expectations
• Preserving the mission
• Maintaining the continuity of relationships with donors
• Remaining loyal to the cause
• Evolution of the organizational culture

4 steps for philanthropic succession planning

  1. Leadership needs assessment: Identify the skills and qualities required to effectively lead an organization or foundation based on its industry.
  2. Identification and development of talent: Implement talent identification and development programs to prepare future leaders to meet the unique challenges of the sector. Prepare for the possibility of a lack of potential internal talent!
  3. Developing a philanthropic succession plan: Create a comprehensive plan to ensure a smooth leadership transition, considering the unique characteristics of the philanthropic sector, including the continuation of the mission and management of donor relationships.
  4. Communication and stakeholder engagement: Communicate transparently with stakeholders, including donors, beneficiaries, and staff members, to gain their support and involvement throughout the transition process.

Preparing for difficult conversations

Transparent and open communication is essential when planning for succession, especially during difficult conversations such as the retirement of the current leader. Employee career aspirations should also be considered to fully include them in the transition process while respecting their perspectives on organizational growth. Preparing for and approaching these discussions with tact and sensitivity can ensure a smooth transition and maintain the trust of stakeholders.

Succession planning is a strategic investment in the future of any organization. By anticipating leadership needs, developing talent, and fostering open communication, organizations and foundations can ensure a successful leadership transition and effectively continue their mission.


Daniel H. Lanteigne, ASC, C.Dir., CFRE, CHRP, is the Vice President, Talent, Strategy & Impact at BNP Philanthropic Performance. Known for his holistic approach to governance, talent management, and fundraising, he is the Vice Chair of Membership Engagement on the AFP Global Board. He actively teaches and speaks widely on philanthropy, chairs Canada’s Volunteer Awards Advisory Committee, and supports diversity and accessibility initiatives.

Marie Harou is the founder of Agence Reflet, which specializes in communications and marketing strategy, and whose approach is both informative and educational, contributing above all to the well-being of society. With a master’s degree in Digital Communication from the European Communication School, in Paris, she has worked for advertising agencies and private companies for close to 10 years. She also teaches digital strategic planning at Collège Bart.

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