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Transition Planning - Introduction by Levone

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									                                                                     PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

Change is not always easy, but it is inevitable. When your
Executive Director leaves your agency you will experience a        A change in executive leader-
loss. You cannot afford to overlook the emotional impact of        ship is one of the most impor-
that decision—for board, for staff, for customers, for the         tant, challenging and powerful
community, and for the director.                                   opportunities a nonprofit or-
     What you must do as members of the Board of Directors,        ganization will face.
is proceed in such a way as to preserve the legacy of the per-          On average, more than
son leaving, and the integrity of the agency itself.               one in ten executive director
     To do that you must have tools. You need to be familiar       jobs turns over each year. That
with your own Personnel Policies and Procedures. They will         number is projected to climb
guide your process. You must know how your Board By-laws           by 15 percent or more as the
affect the process. Both will provide you with guidelines for      baby-boomer generation—
who will help choose the next director and how that person         many of whom founded core
will be selected. They may not give you all the answers, but       organizations in their com-
they are a starting point, and you must consult them for any       munities 20 to 30 years ago—
directives.                                                        begin to reach retirement age.
     In addition, you should review with your board attorney            Under the best circums-
the rules of confidentiality. These are critical to maintaining    tances, replacing an executive
the integrity of the hiring process. Your attorney can advise      director is a time-consuming
you on what you can discuss and what must remain confiden-         and risky endeavor. The top
tial. This is not something to take lightly. You can be sued for   leadership role in an organiza-
a breach of privacy, and no board member should place the          tion in today’s environment is
agency in harm’s way to leak information to anyone outside         exceedingly complex. Too of-
the board process.                                                 ten these transitions happen
     Once you know what your existing personnel policies and       unexpectedly, leaving the or-
procedures require of you, a process for transition can be de-     ganization and Board scram-
veloped. This manual provides you with background informa-         bling.
tion on how to plan for transition. It gives you ideas to               Properly managed, a lea-
consider, tools to use, and examples of how to conduct a tran-     dership transition provides a
sition process that will strengthen your agency. Ultimately, it    pivotal moment, enabling an
is just a guide. You must make your process your own. You          organization to change direc-
know your agency and community better than any outsider.           tion, maintain momentum, and
That is not to say that an outside consultant isn’t valuable.      strengthen its capacity.
They may be if they help make the process more efficient, and
keep the board on task.
     We hope you find this manual useful. But please remem-
ber, your own history and experience as an agency will guide
you. Your commitment to Community Action will ground
your process. A good process will lead to a good outcome for
your organization. You must trust the process and each other.
     Thank you for reading. Good luck.



Introduction—What Is At Stake? ................................................. 3

Replacing a Long Term Director ................................................. 4
Getting Ready .............................................................................. 5
Step-By-Step ................................................................................ 8
Sample Evaluation Form............................................................ 12
Executive Search and Selection ................................................. 16
Sample Interview Questions & Evaluation ................................ 20
Transition Success Factors ......................................................... 23
Preparing the Organization ........................................................ 25
Transitions—Renewing Linkages .............................................. 28
Five Developmental Tasks for the Interim Period ..................... 29
Transition Tips ........................................................................... 30

SAMPLE Documents:
Transition Announcement to Board Members ........................... 31
Board Agenda ............................................................................ 32
Screening, Interviewing and Hiring Process .............................. 33
Draft Job Description ................................................................. 34
Job Ad ........................................................................................ 36
Interview Process Model............................................................ 37
Draft Press Releases................................................................... 41
Letters to All Applicants & Selected Candidates....................... 42
Applicant Data Survey ............................................................... 44
Screening Evaluation Form........................................................ 45
Personnel Policies and Procedures ............................................. 46
Fiduciary Responsibilities .......................................................... 47

                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

INTRODUCTION:                                            recruitment-installation process in a holistic
WHAT IS AT STAKE?                                        fashion. Executive transition is not just about
                                                         finding an executive who fits the current and
                                                         future demands of the job (although it does
Preliminary research estimates that 10% of
                                                         that, too), but also focuses on minimizing the
nonprofit CEO jobs turnover each year.
                                                         risk and capturing all of the opportunities that
Though they happen infrequently to individual
                                                         a change in leadership offers.
organizations, leadership transitions are be-
                                                              The executive transition management
coming increasingly common in the nonprofit
                                                         process includes:
sector. In a survey of 130 of their community-
based grantees, a recent study by the Annie E.
                                                         • Helping the organization better understand its
Casey Foundation found that 85% of execu-
                                                             history, present situation and future pros-
tives will likely leave their positions during the
                                                             pects as it relates to the selection of a new
next seven years.
     Effective leadership is a crucial ingredient
for successful organizations. It’s not surprising
                                                         • Identifying and addressing any legacy issues
then that executive leadership transitions are
                                                             that might hinder the success of the incom-
fraught with risk. It is a particularly challeng-
                                                             ing leader;
ing time for small- and medium-sized nonprof-
it organizations where the executive director
                                                         • Planning for a solid orientation for the new
wears multiple hats, playing several hands-on
                                                             executive and a great launch;
roles in the daily operations and/or service de-
livery. Sorting out and prioritizing those roles
                                                         • Ensuring that the governance team (the board
(and addressing them during the interim) can
                                                             and executive team) has a clear and effec-
be especially challenging.
                                                             tive social contract that includes consensus
     The costs of a failed leadership transi-
                                                             on overall direction and key initial priori-
tion—or one that results in a poor or strained
                                                             ties as well as a clear understanding of
fit between an executive and his/her board—
                                                             their respective roles and their contribu-
occur on multiple levels. There are the direct
                                                             tions toward the achievement of the organ-
costs of conducting a search for a new leader,
                                                             ization objectives; and
which can range up to tens of thousands of
dollars, including advertising, executive
                                                         • Establishing a performance monitoring and
search, relocation and other expenses. There
                                                             evaluation process.
are also hundreds of volunteer hours spent by
the board of directors (estimates range from
500 to 1,000 volunteer hours). Then there are
the indirect costs, which can include increased
staff and Board turnover, missed opportunities
for program growth, or loss of hundreds of
thousands of dollars of client services due to
program shrinkage or closure.

Executive Transition vs. Executive
Search, What’s the Difference?
Executive transition is the period that begins
with the executive’s decision to depart (or the
Board’s decision to terminate) and extends
through the hiring and successful completion
of the six-month evaluation of the new execu-
tive. Executive transition management is the
management of the entire departure-


LONG TERM DIRECTOR                                      5. When the new chief executive begins em-
                                                        ployment (or before if possible), introduce
                                                        them in a staff meeting dedicated to introduc-
A great deal of struggle and stress may be alle-
                                                        ing the new chief executive. If the organization
viated for the new chief executive if the Board
                                                        is small enough, have all staff attend and intro-
effectively handles the transition to the new
                                                        duce themselves. If the organization is larger,
chief executive. The following key Board ac-
                                                        invite all managers to the meeting and, along
tivities will particularly help the new chief ex-
                                                        with the new chief executive, and have the
ecutive to get started in an effective fashion.
                                                        managers introduce themselves.
1. Ensure the Board has a strong idea of what it
                                                        6. Invite the new chief executive to a social
wants in a new chief executive. Be wary of the
                                                        event with Board members. This can greatly
strong tendency to define the new chief execu-
                                                        help to establish a comfortable rapport for the
tive in terms of what the founder was or
                                                        new chief executive.
wasn’t. Instead, hire a new chief executive
based on the organization’s current needs, e.g.,
                                                        7. Ensure the new chief executive receives ne-
financial skills, personnel/supervisory skills,
                                                        cessary materials and is familiar with the fa-
(and in the case of nonprofits, fundraising
                                                        cilities. Ensure an assistant gives them keys,
skills), planning skills, program skills, etc.
                                                        gets them to sign any needed benefit and tax
Rank the skills in priority order and update the
                                                        forms. Review the layout of offices, bath-
chief executive job description accordingly.
                                                        rooms, storage areas, kitchen use, copy and fax
Design the job ad from the job description and
                                                        systems, computer configuration and proce-
reference the description when developing in-
                                                        dures, telephone usage and any special billing
terview questions as well.
                                                        procedures for use of office systems.
2. Before the new chief executive begins em-
                                                        8. Schedule any needed training, e.g., comput-
ployment, send them a letter welcoming them
                                                        er training, including use of passwords, over-
to the organization; verifying their starting
                                                        view of software and documentation, location
date, salary and benefits, and length of con-
                                                        and use of peripherals, and where to go to get
tract; providing them a copy of the employee
                                                        technical questions answered.
policies and procedures manual; and providing
a copy of the strategic plan and financials.
                                                        9. Review any policies and/or procedures
(This can be included in the offer letter.)
                                                        about use of facilities.
3. The Board should send a letter to key stake-
                                                        10. Assign a Board member to them as their
holders. The letter would announce the new
                                                        “buddy” who remains available to answer any
chief executive, when he or she is starting,
                                                        questions over the next four weeks.
something about their background and why it’s
useful, etc., and asking them to call the Board
                                                        11. Have someone take them to lunch on their
chair if they have any questions or concerns.
                                                        first day of work and invite other staff mem-
                                                        bers along.
4. Meet with the chief executive to get them up
to speed on strategic information. Review the
                                                        12. During the first six weeks, have one-on-
organization chart, last year’s annual report,
                                                        one meetings (face-to-face or over the tele-
the strategic plan, this year’s budget, and the
                                                        phone) with the new chief executive, to discuss
employee’s policies and procedure manual if
                                                        the new employee’s transition into the organi-
they did not get one already. In the same meet-
                                                        zation, hear any pending issues or needs, and
ing, explain the performance review procedure
                                                        establish a working relationship with the new
and provide them a copy of the performance
                                                        chief executive.
review document.

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

GETTING READY                                             Similarly, what’s the internal emotional cli-
                                                          mate? Is there turmoil over the circumstances
When faced with a change in executive direc-              of the executive’s departure? If the leadership
tors, the first impulse of most boards is to dust         team is too distracted by doubts about stability
off the job description and start running ads as          or infighting, or if they are still in “reaction
quickly as possible. Starting a transition that           mode” due to past events, they can’t be ex-
way is a bit like planning a cross-country drive          pected to approach the planning process with
with an outdated atlas. You might arrive at               the appropriate frame of mind. In these turbu-
your desired destination eventually, but there            lent cases, the board needs to attend to the or-
will be more than a few unanticipated detours             ganization’s stability needs first. If the
and dead ends along the way. Certainly the                incumbent executive’s departure is imminent
journey will be much more confusing than if               or he/she has already departed, the organiza-
you had invested in an up-to-date map and tak-            tion should consider hiring a skilled interim
en the time to consult with AAA about road                director to help “settle things down.” An inte-
construction.                                             rim director will also take the urgent pressures
     Many boards are under the mistaken im-               off the board leadership so that they will have
pression that the best transition is one that is          the time and attention to address the transition
over with as quickly as possible. This is entire-         in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Most
ly understandable. The prospect of a potential            communities have a large pool of nonprofit
leadership vacuum is scary. Moreover, an ex-              consultants-many of whom are former execu-
ecutive transition, if not painful, is certainly a        tive directors-that is a rich source of potential
challenging, out-of-the-ordinary experience for           interim leaders. (We will have more on interim
a board. Having a sense of urgency about the              executives later in this series.) In extremely
transition is a good impulse, but rushing                 unstable situations, depending on the severity
through the process is not. Properly managed,             and prognosis of the crisis, financial or other-
a leadership transition provides a pivotal mo-            wise, it might be wise to forgo the hiring
ment, enabling an organization to change di-              process altogether and consider a merger or
rection, maintain momentum, and strengthen                consolidation with another nonprofit as a
its capacity.                                             means to ensure the viability of the programs.
     Typically, boards focus on the executive             Stability questions are not limited to organiza-
search as the all-important activity. In reality,         tions in crisis. All organizations need to con-
the “opportunity window” opens with the ex-               sider the executive’s workload and address the
ecutive’s decision to depart (or the board’s              need for interim management. Key deadlines
decision to terminate), and it remains open               and other obligations that might come due dur-
throughout the search and hiring process until            ing the interim period also need to be identi-
at least the completion of the new executive’s            fied.
initial performance evaluation.
                                                          Step 2 - Assemble the team
Step 1 - Ensure that the organization is                       A transition committee should be ap-
stable and ready to hire                                  pointed early in the process. Usually this is a
     Before launching the search, the first thing         small team of board members (about four) and
to consider is the organization’s stability and           may include one or two staff members. Larger,
its readiness to hire. You want to ensure that            more complex organizations may have larger
the organization is financially, politically and          transition committees. In these cases, six to ten
emotionally ready to approach the hiring                  members, or more, is not uncommon. Typical-
process in a proactive, future-oriented way.              ly, these larger committees have one or more
Key questions include: Are there immediate                subcommittees that focus on key areas of the
concerns about the organization’s viability? Is           transition, for example, a search subcommittee,
it facing a financial crisis? Is it politically un-       a transition issues subcommittee, etc.
der fire? Is it facing some other sort of threat?              The transition committee has the following


• Ensure healthy closure with the departing             • Arrange for professional development and
    executive and a plan for the interim period.            mentoring for the new executive, if
• Provide for appropriate acknowledgement of                needed. Plan the initial performance evalu-
    the departing executive’s legacy.                       ation.
• Arrange a farewell ceremony that provides
    acknowledgement and allows the staff and            Step 3 - Conduct an assessment to en-
    board to come to terms with the loss of this        sure that you understand the organiza-
    leader.                                             tion’s situation
• Recruit an interim executive, if needed.                   After the question of organizational stabili-
• Provide for the transfer of duties to the inte-       ty has been addressed and the transition team
    rim and the successor executive director.           is in place, the next activity should be an orga-
• Clarify the departing executive’s role in the         nizational review or an assessment. The goal
    transition and beyond, if any. Plan the de-         of the review is to ensure that the transition
    parture communications.                             team and board truly understand (and agree on)
• Plan the transition and search activities. As-        the organization’s situation, strengths and as-
    sess the board’s and staff’s time and skills        sets, transition type, challenges, and opportuni-
    to manage the transition. Identify and con-         ties.
    tract with outside consultants that may be          Transition type has to do with the organiza-
    needed in the transition.                           tion’s status and trajectory. The four classic
• Ensure that the transition involves an appro-         types are:
    priate level of assessment and planning.            Start-up—A new project that needs help get-
    Assess the organization’s current status: its       ting launched or established.
    strengths, challenges and opportunities.            Turnaround—An organization facing some
    Ensure that the transition issues are identi-       degree of trouble and in need of a major shift
    fied and that a plan is in place to address         in its situation and/or direction.
    them. Clarify the organization’s present            Realignment—An organization, typically with
    and future leadership needs and articulate          a track record of success, which may appear to
    those in a profile of skills and characteris-       be on a solid footing, but the assessment re-
    tics needed in the next executive.                  veals that it has peaked or may even be slip-
• Execute the transition and search plans. En-          ping into decline. Its mission, programs,
    sure that the transition issues are ad-             services and/or business model are out of date.
    dressed.                                            It is in need of a strategic makeover or signifi-
• Place the advertising and conduct outreach            cant restructuring.
    that yields a diverse candidate pool.               Sustain success—An organization with a track
• Screen resumes. Arrange and conduct the               record of success that’s on a solid footing and
    interviews. Screen candidates, check refer-         moving forward in a positive direction.
    ences and forward finalists to the board for        Whether the departing executive is the founder
    final consideration.                                or a long-term executive is another major fac-
• Negotiate the terms of employment with the            tor to consider.
    selected executive. Provide a healthy start              Founder transitions typically involve more
    for the new executive. Ensure clear articu-         complicated separation issues. Long-term and
    lation of agreed-on priorities for the new          founder transitions usually involve more com-
    executive’s initial tenure—the first 12 to          plex organizational development activities dur-
    18 months.                                          ing the transition. Often, these executives’ jobs
• Announce the appointment to key external              have become an eclectic mix of duties. When
    and internal stakeholders.                          you begin to unpack the job, you often find
• Provide the executive with an orientation to          elements of two, three or more jobs. Segregat-
    the programs, systems, people and stake-            ing and delegating these extraneous duties and
    holders. Encourage the new executive to             getting down to the executive’s core responsi-
    build key relationships early.

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

bilities can be a complicated developmental               at a more fundamental level. One potential
exercise in itself.                                       planning tool is a board-staff mini-retreat that
                                                          uses a capsule version of strategic planning to
Step 4 - Identify the transition issues                   develop a shared sense of the organization’s
and develop a transition plan that maps                   current and future leadership needs as well as
out corrective actions                                    identify the transition issues. You might want
     The success of new executives has as                 to include outside content experts in part of the
much to do with the circumstances that they               mini-retreat to help broaden the points of view
step into as it has with the talent that they bring       and deepen the information base.
with them. For this reason you’ll want to make                 The products flowing from the leadership
sure that the platform for your new executive             planning discussion include:
is as solid as you can make it.                           • A narrative statement (3-5 paragraphs) that
     The assessment will typically surface a                   lays out the leadership opportunity for the
number of legacy issues, which might hinder                    next executive.
the new executive’s performance, if left unat-            • A list of key characteristics, skills and other
tended. At a minimum, they can provide a ma-                   attributes that you are seeking in the can-
jor distraction during his/her entry phase.                    didates.
Some of these issues might be better addressed            • An initial list of priority items that the board
before the new executive is hired. At least con-               would like to see accomplished early in the
sider beginning some corrective action if the                  new executive’s tenure.
issue(s) is/are too big, too complex, or too en-          • A list of the board’s insights about how its
tangled to tackle and finish during the interim                own role might evolve.
period before the new executive starts. Exam-             (Some of these observations might become
ples that we have encountered include small               transition issues to be addressed in the interim
system changes, such as financial information             period before the new executive starts.)
that was too limited, which was easily resolved
with an update of the accounting software and             Step 6 - Plan the hiring process
a redesign of existing management reports.                      The leadership planning work should have
Others have been larger issues with corrective            resulted in clear impressions of the current and
actions that carry over to the new executive’s            future leadership needs of the organization and
tenure, such as restructuring a board whose               offered some insights about the mix of skills,
composition did not fit with the expanded fund            experience and leadership attributes that might
development role they needed to play. Some                fill those needs. The next step is to translate
large-scale changes may require outside con-              these impressions and insights into a position
sultation or expertise.                                   profile and other search collaterals.

Step 5 - Conduct a leadership planning                    Position profile. This three-to-five page doc-
session to ensure that the board is clear                 ument captures the essence of the organization,
                                                          lays out the leadership opportunity and out-
about the organization’s current and
                                                          lines the essential characteristics sought in the
future leadership needs                                   next executive. It begins with a brief organiza-
    Depending on how recently (and deeply)
                                                          tional history followed by a summary descrip-
the board has been engaged in strategic or
                                                          tion of the programs, staffing, governance and
long-range planning, the leadership planning
                                                          finances. It typically also includes a descrip-
discussion with the board might be a matter of
                                                          tion of the leadership opportunity or provides
revisiting key elements of the strategic plan
                                                          an outline of the expectations being set out for
and moving directly into a discussion about the
                                                          the new director. It concludes with information
implications for the next executive’s leadership
                                                          about how to apply. The position profile is
                                                          usually posted on the organization’s web site
    If a strategic plan is non-existent or it’s out
                                                          and serves as the basis for a condensed version
of date, the planning work may need to begin
                                                          (a position announcement) that is used in re-


cruitment outreach e-mails. It also serves as            STEP-BY-STEP
the “source” document for recruitment ad
copy.                                                    Step 1: Determine future needs of agency and
Compensation research. Before launching the              develop profile of ideal candidate.
search the transition team should have an un-            • List demands of job-issues facing agency
derstanding of how the organization’s pro-               • List assets (knowledge, skills, and abilities)
posed compensation package compares to its                   of ideal director
peers. There are a number of salary and benefit          • Agree on salary range.
surveys available, both local and national.              • Complete candidate profile.
Sources might include your organization’s na-
tional office or association, your statewide as-         Step 2: Plan hiring strategy and recruit appli-
sociation of nonprofits and the local United             cants.
Way.                                                     • Agree on tasks and schedules.
Search plan and budget. A search plan is                 • Make interim arrangements for agency’s
usually a short (two-to-four page) document                  management.
that outlines the strategies for developing the          • Agree on process and schedule.
candidate pool and summarizes the key search             • Decide how to involve staff and others.
and selection activities. It also should include a       • Advertise.
projected timetable. It concludes with a budget
that outlines the costs related to the search:           Step 3: Screen applicants.
advertising and outreach, consultation fees,             • Receive applications.
candidate travel reimbursements and relocation           • Screen applications
stipend, if any.                                         • Choose whom to interview.

Conclusion and Next Steps                                Step 4: Assess candidates.
At this point, the organization should be on its         • Plan assessment process.
way to addressing the transition issues and              • Design interview (or assessment center)
ready to launch the search. Selecting and                • Conduct interviews (or assessment center)
launching a new executive is among the most
influential and risky activities that a board can        Step 5: Hire director.
face. The risks of a bad hire can be greatly re-         • Agree on choice.
duced by good assessment and planning work               • Negotiate details.
that enables the board not only to attract the           • Draft employment agreement.
right talent, but helps them to weigh that po-
tential talent against their rich understanding of       Final Steps: Establish and maintain good rela-
the organization’s current and future leadership         tionship.
needs.                                                   • Set clear expectations.
                                                         • Plan for formal evaluation.

                                                         Hiring an executive director is one of the most
                                                         important actions that the governing board of a
                                                         nonprofit agency takes. The board depends on
                                                         its director for day-to-day operation to achieve
                                                         the agency’s purposes and objectives within
                                                         the constraints of its budget-not an easy task to
                                                         accomplish year in and year out. Also, the
                                                         working relationship between the director and
                                                         the board, the staff, volunteers, clients, funding
                                                         organizations, and other service agencies can

                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

significantly influence the agency’s effective-          the process. But board members themselves
ness and reputation in the community.                    should not—and cannot—do all the work that
A Decision-Making Process                                goes into a successful recruitment. The board
     A board can rationally select a director by         will need assistance from staff, from clients
figuring out what its agency needs, looking at           perhaps, and from other people outside the
several candidates with an eye to how well               agency. Effective timing and coordination will
each one fits the needs, and then choosing the           be important: the agency will have to complete
best candidate on that basis. Assuming that a            tasks effectively and efficiently if it wants can-
board’s goal is to hire the best director whom it        didates to see it as an agency they would be
can attract, it can do so by gathering enough            proud to represent.
information in the steps described in this ar-
ticle to answer the following questions:                 STEP 1: Determine future needs and
                                                         develop a profile of the ideal candidate.
• What knowledge, skills, abilities, and other                 List the demands of the job. Before it does
characteristics must a person have to be the             anything else, the board can smooth its path by
ideal director for our agency; what is the rela-         anticipating the future demands on the execu-
tive importance of those attributes; and what            tive director: What will be happening in the
level of salary should we expect to pay?                 community that will affect the agency’s mis-
                                                         sion and operations?
• How should we organize ourselves to find the                 What are the strengths and the weaknesses
person?                                                  of the organization as it moves into the future?
                                                         What will the staff be like, and how will it
• Who meets our essential requirements and               change? How does the board want the director
wants the job? How do those people compare               to divide his or her efforts between internal
with one another, especially with respect to the         management of the agency and external man-
most important skills?                                   agement of the board’s agenda in the commu-
                                                         nity? The answers to these questions are likely
• All things considered, who would be the best           to be different for almost every agency.
director?                                                      List the assets (knowledge, skills, and ab-
                                                         ilities) of an ideal director. Having taken time
     The transition to a new director may come           to anticipate the most important issues facing it
when the agency is in turmoil. The transition            in the future, the board of directors should
itself may cause anxiety among board mem-                identify specific assets that it seeks in candi-
bers and staff. The emotions generated by the            dates. Otherwise, it risks choosing a director
transition may distract people from the rational         on the basis of stereotypical characteristics that
process that these steps represent, especially if        might not be relevant to its particular circums-
the transition is abrupt, for whatever reason.           tances. For example, if the agency is in finan-
During the transition the board may feel pres-           cial trouble, an otherwise attractive candidate
sure from staff, clients, or other stakeholders in       who has worked only for large, financially
the community to act quickly or to place undue           flush agencies and has had no direct responsi-
emphasis on one or another interest or agenda            bility for fund-raising, budgeting, or financial
when doing so might not serve the overall                controls, is unlikely to meet the agency’s
long-term needs of the agency. Therefore it is           needs. Similarly an agency experiencing se-
important throughout the hiring process to bal-          rious problems of employee morale might
ance immediate and long-range needs, person-             want to make an effort to attract applicants
al and institutional agendas, and political and          who have demonstrated records of effective
objective standards of evaluation.                       staff management.
     It is also important to pin down specific                 Most of the applicants who respond to a
responsibilities for all the tasks that constitute       board’s advertisement will probably be quali-
an effective recruitment effort. The board and           fied in some respect; however, no two of them
its needs and constraints will necessarily drive         will be the same. Applicants will have differ-


ent combinations of strengths and weaknesses.                   Providing salary information in the agen-
The challenge facing the board will be to                 cy’s advertisement can serve as a screening
choose, from many capable applicants, the per-            device. If the salary is significantly higher or
son who comes closest to having the unique set            lower than a prospective applicant’s needs or
of assets that the agency needs to deal with its          reasonable expectations, he or she might be
most important issues. Therefore it is useful             less likely to submit a fruitless application, and
for board members to review the list of issues            the board will not waste time interviewing
that they developed and then to specify the               candidates who have salary expectations that
kinds of assets that they think their director            the agency is unable to meet.
will need in order to carry out the agency’s                    Complete the candidate profile. Once the
mission effectively.                                      board has listed the demands of the job, identi-
     Board members can brainstorm or take                 fied desired characteristics, and agreed on a
turns listing issues and characteristics until            salary range, it should combine this informa-
everyone is satisfied that the group has not              tion in a profile of the ideal candidate. Having
missed anything relevant. Usually the resulting           such a profile makes almost every other step in
list of characteristics is fairly long. The board         the hiring process easier and more effective:
can focus on the most critical items by com-              • The board has a realistic basis on which to
bining any redundant or similar ones and then             decide the salary range it must offer to obtain
trying to agree on the relative importance of             the skills it needs.
the resulting characteristics.                            • The board is in a position to compose a clear,
     Now the board has a manageable list of the           specific advertisement that can save time and
most important characteristics on which it                effort by discouraging inappropriate applica-
might focus its attention in reviewing appli-             tions.
cants’ qualifications. The board also can ask             • The board has a fair and effective device—a
employees to add their points of view on an               set of objective criteria—by which to screen
ideal director.                                           applicants and to select those who appear to be
     In developing a profile, a board must focus          most qualified to interview.
on the needs of its agency. Sometimes the                 • The board can explain clearly to disappointed
strengths and the weaknesses of the outgoing              applicants why they were not selected for an
director exert undue influence on a board’s               interview, should they ask for further explana-
thinking about the kind of director the agency            tion after being notified.
needs.                                                    • The board can use the criteria to construct a
                                                          valid set of questions or tasks to use in its in-
Touchy Subjects                                           terviews or other assessment procedures.
     Agree on a salary range. Setting a salary            • The board can use the criteria to evaluate the
range when hiring has the same advantage as               qualifications and the performance of the final-
setting a ceiling when buying a car: it makes             ists.
the search realistic and limited. Like a car buy-
er, a board might later decide to deviate from            STEP 2: Plan a hiring strategy and re-
its planned limits if it wants a candidate badly          cruit applicants.
enough to do so, but setting some limits initial-              Agree on tasks and schedules. Before it
ly provides a firm foundation from which to               goes further, the board should outline the tasks
make such a decision. In setting the salary               it will have to complete, and lay out a rough
range, the board should consider factors such             timetable for hiring the new director. Doing
as the knowledge, skills, and abilities included          this accomplishes several purposes. First, it
in its profile; the size and the complexity of the        gives board members a realistic view of how
agency and its operations; the general cost and           long the hiring process will take.
standard of living in the community; and the                   Second, it requires them to decide how to
salary levels of directors of comparable agen-            provide for management of the agency in the
cies.                                                     interim if the director being replaced already

                                                                          PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

has left or will leave before recruitment can be        zation. A pending change in leadership always
completed.                                              creates unease. It is a major transition for an
     Third, it gives them an idea of how much           agency, even if someone already on the staff is
time they should expect to devote personally to         appointed as the new director. People’s natural
the effort. The board should agree on realistic         fear of the unknown will compound the stress
target dates for completing each task in the            commonly existing in a nonprofit staff that is
hiring process, consistent with the commit-             stretched to the limit. Keeping staff members
ments that members and others who will par-             informed about the process and, if possible,
ticipate are willing to make.                           involving them in it can mitigate anxiety over
     Make interim arrangements for the agen-            the transition. As it plans the recruitment, the
cy’s management. Nonprofit boards, staff, and           board should share with staff as much informa-
volunteers typically contribute time and energy         tion as it can about the general procedure it
to an agency and its mission in an intensely            will follow, its general timetable, and its target
personal way. This usually leaves scant re-             date for having a new director in place. It
serves to call on in the interval between direc-        might schedule each finalist to meet with staff
tors. The board should pay careful attention to         members as individuals or as a group. If the
interim management of the agency’s business.            board invites staff members to share their im-
It is generally not advisable to ask a board            pressions of candidates from these meetings, it
member to assume the entirely different role of         should determine and communicate clearly
director in the interim.                                how much weight it expects to give to their
Some boards have divided the director’s re-             observations in making a decision.
sponsibilities among staff. However, coordina-               Even though the board is responsible for
tion and decisions about priorities become              making the final decision, it might wish to in-
more difficult under those circumstances, and           volve staff actively in the interview process.
such arrangements are difficult to manage               Staff members are likely to be in the best posi-
beyond a very short period. If resources allow          tion to evaluate candidates’ capabilities in
and the hiring process looks to be very long,           areas that are critical to successful day-to-day
hiring an interim director might be more effec-         operation of the agency. As long as the staff’s
tive.                                                   role is clearly spelled out, its participation can
     Agree on a process and a schedule. It is           provide valuable data to the board in making a
unusual for a board to do a thorough job of             decision and can ease the transition to a new
recruiting outside candidates and have a new            director.
director on the job in less than three months.               Other people whom the board might add to
Four months is a more reasonable expectation            the search committee are agency volunteers,
for a straightforward recruitment with no spe-          clients, professionals who are linked to the
cial problems. More time may be necessary if            agency’s work, representatives of funding
there is substantial discord among board mem-           agencies, and representatives of other agencies
bers, a shortage of good candidates, or other           whose work is related. There are several good
complicating factors. Overall, time spent up            reasons for including these stakeholders: (1)
front on developing a clear profile of the new          they have a legitimate interest in the outcome
director and on planning carefully for recruit-         of the search; (2) through their formal and in-
ment can save time in the long run by making            formal channels of communication in the
everything else the board does more efficient           community, they can play a key role in the
and more effective. It also is important to have        new director’s assimilation; (3) stakeholders
board members discuss openly and honestly               who are dissatisfied with the agency’s perfor-
how much time each can devote to the re-                mance have an opportunity to work from the
cruitment and to organize and carry out the             inside to bring about positive change; and (4)
process in a manner consistent with the com-            candidates are assured of the opportunity to
mitments people make.                                   meet and talk with people who might play im-
     Decide how to involve staff and others.            portant roles in the agency’s future. The board
Any kind of change causes stress in an organi-          should weigh the value added to the search


process by such additions against the effect of          access to them. Applications should be kept
having a larger committee, a more complicated            confidential unless and until the applicants
process, or a longer recruitment. Also, the              formally agree to the release of any informa-
board should make clear to all the people                tion. One board member should be designated
whom it invites to join in the process, the lim-         to be responsible for the orderly processing
its of what it is asking them to do.                     and handling of applications. In some cases the
     Advertise. An advertisement that specifies          outgoing director or another staff member
the desired knowledge, skills, and abilities and         might fulfill this role, but the board should
includes a salary range serves as an initial             consider all the possible ramifications of either
screening device by deterring people who may             one’s doing so and be certain that the person
be interested in the position, but lack the skill        would under no circumstances become a can-
set necessary for success.                               didate. Whatever arrangement is devised, the
                                                         person handling the applications on behalf of
STEP 3: Screen applicants.                               the board must have the full confidence of all
    Receive applications. The board should               the members.
allow two to six weeks to complete advertise-
ment of the position and receipt of applica-
tions. It should designate one person to receive
the applications, check them for completeness,
and ensure that only board members have


Applicant: _______________________________________________________________________

                  Inadequate                        Meets Needs                 Excellent

Writes well_______________________________________________________________________

Résumé neat, complete, professional _________________________________________________

Nonprofit management experience____________________________________________________

Experience serving diverse populations ________________________________________________

Experience managing programs _____________________________________________________

Experience supervising staff or volunteers _____________________________________________

Financial management experience ___________________________________________________

Fund-raising experience ___________________________________________________________

Grant-writing experience ___________________________________________________________

Familiarity with sexual violence issues _________________________________________________

Familiarity with rape crisis work ______________________________________________________

Demonstrated interest in our work ____________________________________________________


         Interview?        Yes      No     Maybe

         Points to clarify in interview:
                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

     Screen applications. The board has many                  It is customary to send some background
options for screening applications. A staff as-          information about the agency and its work to
sistant might eliminate applications that clearly        the candidates who are invited to interview.
fail to meet basic factual qualifications in the         This might include brochures and other publi-
profile, or sort applications into several groups        cations about its services, the job description
according to apparent level of qualification. A          for the director’s position, information about
committee of board members might do an ini-              the agency’s financial status, information
tial screening for the whole board. In the inter-        about the community the agency serves, and
est of openness, most boards give all their              any publicity about the agency that would help
members access to all the applications no mat-           applicants understand its origin and nature, its
ter which method of screening they use. This             role and acceptance in the community, and any
has the advantage of making it less likely that a        formative events or issues in its history.
promising candidate will be overlooked in the
screening stage. With a small board, applica-            STEP 4: Assess candidates.
tions can be copied for distribution to members               Plan the assessment process. The most
during screening; however, many boards feel              common method of assessing candidates is to
more secure in meeting applicants’ expecta-              interview them. However, an interview has
tions of confidentiality if members review the           limited reliability in predicting success on the
original applications in the place of custody.           job. The best predictor of a person’s behavior
     As they review applications, board mem-             on the job is the behavior itself. An interview
bers might use a rating sheet of some kind. The          reveals only what a candidate says about his or
résumés accompanying the applications will               her behavior. To a large extent, the person be-
indicate the most basic qualifications of appli-         ing interviewed can tell the interviewer what
cants as a starting point. For example, they will        he or she wants to hear without having to back
reveal whether applicants meet basic education           it up. An “assessment center,” a series of exer-
and experience requirements, and they might              cises designed to demonstrate candidates’ ac-
reveal low-level writing skills. Rarely, though,         tual ability to perform relevant work tasks, is a
will they reveal reliable information about how          more reliable predictor of a person’s ability to
well applicants performed in previous em-                do a given job. However, because a valid and
ployment. Beyond the basics, the board can               effective assessment center is difficult, expen-
only draw inferences from the candidates’                sive, and time-consuming to design and admi-
résumés relative to its list of desired know-            nister, most boards still depend on interviews
ledge, skills, and abilities.                            to assess candidates.
     Choose whom to interview. When all the                   Design the interview. The board can take
board members have reviewed applications,                several steps to increase the validity and the
the whole board can meet, compare notes, and             reliability of its interviews. First, it can careful-
decide whom it wants to invite for an interview          ly design them. The desired characteristics in
(or an assessment center, explained later).              the profile and the priorities assigned to them
Most boards invite three to seven applicants.            provide a valid basis for a set of interview
However, some boards conduct 30- to 45-                  questions.
minute screening interviews of ten or so appli-               Allowing for introductions, follow-up
cants before narrowing the field to a smaller            questions from board members, and closing
set of finalists. The board or its recruiting            questions from the candidate, an interview
committee can conduct these screening inter-             panel can explore only four or five questions
views by videotape at the applicants’ locations          adequately in a one-hour interview. If the
or in person at a designated central location. In        board wants to obtain more information, the
any case, when the screening interviews are              interview panel should plan a longer interview.
complete, the recruiting committee or the                One and a half hours is not unusual. More than
whole board usually agrees on a few finalists            two hours probably goes beyond the limits of
to invite for more intensive assessment.                 endurance and effectiveness of candidates and
                                                         panel members alike.


     If the board thinks that it has more impor-           helpful for members to exchange information
tant questions to ask than a reasonable inter-             and impressions and try to resolve the different
view time will allow, it might consider other              perceptions. Some panels try to reach consen-
ways to obtain some of the information—for                 sus on the ratings. Others find that hard to do
example, discussions at meals and other events             and not worth the effort.
on the itinerary, or observations and opinions                  Conduct the interviews. The board should
from candidates’ references.                               plan and arrange each candidate’s interview
     A second step that an interview panel can             visit with care. Candidates may want to tour
take to make its interviews more valid and re-             the community and get a feel for it; meet staff,
liable is to review and discuss the criteria to be         other agency heads, or local officials with
measured by each question before the first in-             whom the director works; and obtain informa-
terview. This allows the panel to ensure that              tion about housing, schools, and other matters
every interviewer has the same understanding               of interest to the candidate’s family. Agencies
of what will constitute high, medium, or low               that can afford to do so might invite spouses to
performance on each question. It also allows               accompany finalists so that they can form an
the group to discourage panelists from making              opinion about the community, but this is nei-
inferences that are not verified by actual ob-             ther expected nor necessary if the board feels
servation. For example, if a panelist reveals              that the cost is too high. It is possible to invite
that he will rate a candidate low on ability to            the successful candidate back with his or her
supervise the agency’s spirited staff if the can-          family to be courted after extending an offer.
didate is quiet and soft-spoken, the panel might           Some boards invite all the finalists at the same
discuss whether there is a valid relationship              time; set up tours, interviews, and other events
between the inference and the observed beha-               in rotation; and even have the candidates to-
vior, try to agree on a valid way to measure               gether at one or more social functions. Other
supervisory effectiveness, and make sure that              boards invite each candidate separately. Bring-
everyone on the panel uses it.                             ing in candidates all at once shortens the time
     Third, the panel should administer the in-            spent on the interview stage of the search but
terview consistently across the candidates.                requires more careful planning and coordina-
Asking each candidate the same set of ques-                tion.
tions in the same sequence and in the same                      Sometimes a panelist feels that he or she
manner provides a yardstick by which to com-               has determined whether or not a candidate is
pare candidates’ responses. As long as the                 viable before the interview is complete. In
panel establishes this common basis for com-               such a circumstance, a panelist may be
parison, it still is free to vary its follow-up            tempted to stop listening carefully, to stop re-
questions to explore the differences among the             cording impressions, or to record sketchily or
people whom it interviews. Most interview                  carelessly. A panelist takes at least two risks in
panels have found that they become more con-               doing this. One is that sometimes a candidate
sistent and efficient with each succeeding in-             will start an interview awkwardly or slowly
terview. This in itself introduces some                    and gradually warm up or “come alive” well
inconsistency across candidates. One way to                into the interview. If the interviewer stops tak-
mitigate the inconsistency (it probably cannot             ing notes at some point, he or she may be at a
be eliminated entirely) is to rehearse asking the          disadvantage in the evaluation discussion.
questions once or twice before the first inter-            Another risk is the possibility of depriving a
view. This also suggests keeping the same                  candidate of useful feedback on the interview
people on the panel for all the interviews.                if he or she asks for it.
     Finally, after each interview, while im-
pressions are fresh, panel members should                  Hire the director.
share their ratings. If the ratings differ signifi-             Agree on a choice. After the interviews
cantly, divergent members should discuss their             the panel usually tries to reach consensus on
reasoning. Sometimes one person sees, hears,               one candidate unless the board of directors has
or infers something that another does not. It is           instructed it to do otherwise. If the board uses

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

a panel of less than its entire membership, the           FINAL STEPS:
panel might recommend a first choice and a                     Establish and maintain a good relation-
backup, or rank-order the finalists from best to          ship. The relationship between a governing
worst, and then communicate that to the board.            board and a director can enhance or impede
The panel’s explaining the reasoning behind its           governance significantly, so devoting some
recommendations usually helps the board.                  time to establishing and maintaining a good
When there are serious conflicts on a board, a            relationship is important. Putting the necessary
candidate might accept only an offer based on             effort into this typically requires a lot of dis-
consensus, believing that anything less would             cipline by the board. Members are usually re-
make his or her position too tenuous. Many                lieved that a decision has been made, all the
candidates, however, are willing to start with            extra meetings and work on recruitment can
the tentative security of support from a simple           end, and they can return to their routine. It is
majority of the board.                                    useful at the outset for the board and the direc-
     Negotiate the details. In these last steps, a        tor to establish what they expect of each other
board often designates its chair to conduct final         beyond the general tenets of the bylaws. No
negotiations and actions on its behalf. If it opts        two boards are exactly alike, nor are any two
to do so, it first should decide what it will             directors. The very process of recruiting a new
leave to the discretion of the chair and what the         director often raises issues and creates dynam-
chair should bring to the whole board for dis-            ics that might unify or splinter a board. Either
cussion, guidance, concurrence, or decision.              way, the board is likely to undergo some
Usually the board arranges for a final back-              change. No matter how much experience a
ground check while it negotiates the terms and            new director has or how many directors a par-
the conditions of employment with the pros-               ticular agency has had, the relationship among
pective director. When the facts and the quality          a particular board, a particular chair, and a par-
of the candidate’s experience have been corro-            ticular director is certain to be different in
borated, the board should confirm the new                 some ways than any of them has ever expe-
prospective director.                                     rienced.
     Draft an employment agreement if one is                   Set clear expectations. Soon after a new
desired. There are advantages to executing a              director is hired (and at other times when a
formal employment agreement. The agreement                significant turnover in the board occurs), the
might set out a variety of conditions of the di-          board, the chair, and the director usually find it
rector’s employment, such as leave, use of a              helpful to review their specific expectations of
car or mileage reimbursement for official busi-           one another. Such a discussion allows them to
ness, an expense account, participation in pro-           understand what each thinks he or she needs
fessional activities—virtually any matter on              from the others to be effective in carrying out
which the board wants to have a clear under-              major responsibilities. Often this discussion
standing with the director. The agreement also            takes place at a retreat, during which the board
might specify the conditions under which the              and the director also might discuss the substan-
director should give notice of resignation and            tive goals and objectives that the board wants
under which the board may ask the director to             to pursue as part of its long-range agenda. The
leave involuntarily.                                      result of such a retreat should be a common
                                                          understanding of what the board wants to
                                                          achieve and how the board and the director
                                                          will work together to accomplish that.
                                                               Plan for formal evaluation. The board’s
                                                          expectations of the director provide a sound
                                                          basis for it to be effective in both formally eva-
                                                          luating the director’s performance and giving
                                                          the director informal feedback. They also pro-
                                                          vide the director with one reliable reference for
                                                          self-evaluation during the year. Most boards


find it effective and convenient to conduct a            EXECUTIVE SEARCH & SE-
formal evaluation of the director once a year,           LECTION
usually associated with their consideration of
adjustments in his or her compensation. Typi-
                                                         An energetic executive search and selection
cally the evaluation is held in a private meet-
                                                         process is the centerpiece of an executive tran-
ing, with the director present and participating.
                                                         sition management project. To begin the
                                                         Search and Selection phase, we should have
Conclusion                                               the following collaterals in hand:
Hiring an executive director for a nonprofit             1. A position profile or executive search sum-
agency is neither quick nor simple if done con-          mary: a three-to-four page document that
scientiously, but a conscientious process is             presents a capsule picture of the organization,
critically important to effective governance of          lays out the leadership opportunity and out-
the agency and effective administration of the           lines the essential characteristics sought in the
agency’s mission. Time and effort spent on               next executive. A compensation plan: an un-
defining carefully what the agency and its go-           derstanding of the board’s approved range or
verning board need in the near future, search-           its comfort zone about the compensation pack-
ing systematically for candidates with                   age. Development of an appropriate package
attributes that will meet those needs, and tho-          may require some discussion with the board
roughly examining the candidates can yield               about what it means to be a competitive em-
significant returns in the form of satisfied             ployer in terms of wages and a responsible
clients, board members, and employees.                   employer with respect to basic benefits, such
                                                         as health insurance and retirement.

                                                         2. A search plan and budget: a short (two-to-
                                                         four page) document that outlines the strate-
                                                         gies that will be used to develop the candidate
                                                         pool and summarizes the key search and selec-
                                                         tion activities. It also should include a pro-
                                                         jected timetable and a board-approved budget
                                                         for the search-related expenses.
                                                              With these collaterals in hand, you are
                                                         ready to begin the search and selection phase,
                                                         which has three major steps: (1) developing a
                                                         diverse candidate pool, (2) screening candi-
                                                         dates and selecting a finalist, and (3) confirm-
                                                         ing the employment offer.

                                                         Step 1 - Recruiting a Diverse Candidate
                                                              The recruiting process can involve a com-
                                                         bination of advertising, online placements and
                                                         direct contacts, e.g., emails and phone calls to
                                                         potential candidates and nominators. Nomina-
                                                         tors are individuals who probably aren’t poten-
                                                         tial candidates themselves, but are in a position
                                                         to make referrals or “put the word out” among
                                                         their networks. Generally, all searches should
                                                         seek to achieve diversity of gender, race and
                                                         ethnicity among the finalist pool. To achieve
                                                         this, it is important that the board and its

                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

search committee establish clear and specific             organizations, executives and officers of re-
diversity goals-goals that consider the mission,          lated statewide or national professional associ-
clients and objectives of the organization.               ations, and key program officers of interested
Making the diversity goals explicit at the out-           foundations and corporate giving programs can
set of the recruitment process allows you to              be very productive. This type of outreach is
use this commitment to inspire and inform                 often the key to achieving the desired level of
your decisions about the recruitment strategies.          diversity in the finalist pool.
For example, as you consider your ad place-
ments, you might broaden your advertising to              Step 2 - Screening & Selection
include Spanish-language publications. Or, if                  Once you’ve placed your ads, the an-
you are reaching out to college alumni associa-           nouncement is on the web, and you’ve made
tions, you can include historically black col-            your recruitment phone calls, the resumes start
leges and universities. Achieving a diverse               to pour in. What do you do? You will want to
finalist pool is not an accident; it requires a           ensure that you are prepared to receive the re-
commitment by the organization’s leaders to               sumes, review them, identify the candidates
make diversity a priority and make that priority          that you wish to interview and arrange the in-
clear to those who are managing the search                terviews.
process.                                                       Resume Management—All resumes,
     Advertising—For most nonprofits adver-               whether received by fax, email or surface mail,
tising is a reliable way of letting potential can-        should come to one point of contact. Ideally, a
didates know about your vacancy. Given the                detail-oriented person with sufficient time to
production schedule for most publications, we             devote to the task has been assigned to regular-
suggest starting the recruiting process by plac-          ly check for new resumes, ensure that they are
ing your ads first. Most publications require             logged, file a copy for the record and forward a
some lead time between when you place the ad              copy for review. (Typically, an organization
and when it actually appears. Newspapers typ-             will need to maintain the search records for at
ically have the shortest lead times (two to three         least two years, perhaps longer, depending on
days) while national professional magazines               state laws.) Confidentiality is essential. Whe-
and journals can have lead times extending to             rever possible, the resume receipt and man-
several months. You’ll need to ensure that                agement process should take place outside of
your search plan allows for this long lead time.          the organization’s office, in the office of a
You must also give sufficient time for candi-             board member or the search consultant.
dates to respond to your ad. Online-In addition                Resume Review—The resume review
to placing the announcement on your organiza-             process begins with one or more reviewers
tion’s web site, you should explore any job               reading each resume and sorting them into one
boards hosted by the statewide or national as-            of three tiers: Tier 1—Candidates who meet all
sociations related to your organization’s field           of the criteria. The experience outlined on the
of work. There are a number of nonprofit-                 resume suggests that the candidate could clear-
specific job websites. (See the list below for            ly do the job; Tier 2—Candidates who meet
suggestions.)                                             most of the criteria. The resume suggests that
     Direct Recruitment—Most professional                 they might be suitable, and Tier 3—Candidates
recruiters rely heavily on contacts with a net-           who do not meet the criteria or whose expe-
work of potential candidates and nominators               rience is clearly not up to the job.
that they constantly and carefully develop and                 Candidate Screening and Vetting—Now
maintain. A nonprofit board may not be able to            that you have reviewed and sorted the resumes,
duplicate the depth of a recruiter’s network              you may want to conduct some pre-screening
that has taken years to develop, but every non-           of the Tier 1 candidates before arranging the
profit has its own base of contacts that can be           interviews, especially if you have a large field
successfully employed in the search for your              of candidates. A short phone screening inter-
next executive director. A few hours on the               view using a few select questions or a short
phone with leaders of allied or collaborating             candidate questionnaire (sent and returned via


e-mail) can help narrow the field and identify           is best conducted as early in the process as
the most promising prospects. Similarly, the             practical, typically between the first and
screening interview or questionnaire can help            second round of interviews as outlined above.
you check out some of the stronger prospects             Reference checks involve interviews with
among your Tier 2 candidates if your pool of             people who know the candidate and should not
Tier 1 candidates is limited. This additional            be confused with the background check dis-
screening step can help you determine the                cussed below. At least three and as many as six
depth and diversity of your candidate pool and           references should be interviewed. They should
help you make the judgment about whether                 represent a range of views about the candidate-
you are ready to proceed with interviews or if           for example, someone who has supervised the
additional recruitment efforts are warranted.            candidate (particularly a board chair or board
The screening interviews should also help de-            member of his or her previous nonprofit em-
termine if the salary expectations of the identi-        ployer, if the candidate has been an executive
fied candidates fall within your range. Also,            before), someone who the candidate has super-
this process will help you gather information            vised and a peer. Some reference checking be-
about the candidates’ availability for interview         fore finalists are selected ensures that the
and how much notice they might need to give              organization really knows the candidates.
to their current employer as well as other fac-              Background Checks—Background checks
tors that might affect their availability to join        are an increasingly common practice among
your organization, if selected.                          nonprofits. A pre-employment background
     Interviewing—The interview process                  check is conducted by a firm that specializes in
should involve several steps, for example, a             such checks and may involve a review of one
“round one” interview with the search commit-            or more of the following: criminal background,
tee (with perhaps five or six candidates) fol-           credit history, education/licensure certification,
lowed by a “round two” interview with the                driving records, etc. The background check
executive committee (involving two or three              should only include those items that are clearly
semifinalists), and a “round three” interview in         warranted. For example, if the job involves
which the finalist selected by the executive             contact with children, a check of the sexual
committee meets with the entire board. The               predator registry(ies) would be required.
process should involve both formal and infor-            (Background checks are an area regulated by
mal time for the finalists to meet with board            the Federal Trade Commission. The process
and staff. This interaction will vary depending          must meet the requirements of the Fair Credit
on the mission and culture of the organization           Reporting Act and requires that a “FCRA-
and might include a visit to the office and key          compliant” release be signed by the candidate.)
facilities, meetings with staff or senior manag-
ers, social time with key board leaders and/or           Step 3 - Confirming the Employment
funders, among other possibilities. Staff in-            Offer
volvement varies and minimally includes an                    Typically, the capstone of the interview
opportunity for the finalists to meet with the           process is a meeting with the board. The by-
senior managers and outgoing executive direc-            laws of most nonprofits call for the board to
tor where appropriate. In other instances, a             hire the executive director. Accordingly, a re-
staff representative or two serve on the transi-         view of the candidate by the board is impor-
tion or search committee. Because there is a             tant. An affirmative vote by the board to
two-way sale between organization and candi-             extend an employment offer is crucial. Assum-
date, interaction between staff and final candi-         ing all of the above is complete, the final step
dates is important. Typically, the process is            is to confirm the offer with an employment
better served by including the office/facility           offer letter or an employment contract. The
tour and staff interaction early in the finalist         offer letter or contract should be a reflection of
review process.                                          prior discussions with the finalist about salary,
     Reference Checks—A crucial step in the              benefits and expectations. In other words, it
selection process is the reference check, which          should be the final step that simply formalizes

                                                         PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

those negotiations. It is important to note that
an offer of employment can be a binding con-
tract that has many legal implications and pit-
falls. Accordingly, the employment
offer/contract should be reviewed by qualified
legal counsel before forwarding it to your fi-
nalist. Most nonprofits use an employment
offer letter that identifies the starting salary,
benefits (especially if they are different than
those covered in the employee handbook), the
reporting relationship and any other condi-
tions. Typically, in states that allow “at will”
employment, the letter also makes it clear that
the employment relationship is “at will.” Em-
ployment contracts are more prevalent among
larger nonprofits and trade associations. An
employment contract typically spells out the
same information as an offer letter, but covers
a defined period of time (typically, three years)
and usually includes a termination clause that
addresses severance pay.

    The search and selection phase is compli-
cated and requires a broad range of skills.
Ideally, the search committee should be re-
cruited with an eye toward leaders who have
experience in hiring executives, in human re-
sources, and in the work and mission of the
organization. The above description is in-
tended to help you better understand some of
the key steps involved in recruiting and em-
ploying a new executive director. A solid re-
cruitment effort is not only complicated, it’s
time consuming. Your board might be well
served to consider retaining an executive
search firm or an executive transition man-
agement consultant who can bring expertise,
time and ready contacts to help the board meet
the challenge of developing a diverse finalist
pool and selecting a director who fits your or-
ganization’s leadership needs of today and to-


SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUES-                                  • genuine belief that diversity can make
TIONS AND EVALUATION                                         stronger product
                                                        • acknowledgment that obvious diversity (race)
SHEET                                                        is not only kind of diversity that matters
                                                        • acknowledgment that diverse groups may
QUESTIONS                                                    take more time to build trust and agree on
1. Opener. Please take a few minutes to tell us              plan
about yourself and why you are applying for             |_______________| ________________|
this position.                                          ________________| ________________|
|_______________| ________________|                     (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent
________________| ________________|                     Comments:
(1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent

                                                        4. Problem solving. A former board member
                                                        of ours always said that three things go wrong
2. Ability to advocate for staff. We’d like you         with every special event, no matter how well
to tell us how you would define your role as            you plan. Tell us about a time when you were
director. Our board hires and supervises the            on the spot, when something went wrong.
director, who hires and supervises the staff. As        What did you do?
director, what responsibilities do you have to          Look for:
the board, and what responsibilities do you             • ability to acknowledge that things can go
have to your staff?                                          wrong
     What can you do when your staff and your           • ability to trouble-shoot problems
board are opposed on an issue?                          • contingency planning for solving potential
     Look for:                                               problems
• maintains two-way communication between               • ability to improvise while staying calm
     staff and board through director                   • capacity to use available resources to fix
• takes facilitative approach to managing staff              problems
     to carry out direction set by board                • evaluation of successes/failures after event
• represents director’s role as hiring strong           • documentation of processes for future refer-
     staff and then providing environment in                 ence
     which                                              |_______________| ________________|
staff can do its best work                              ________________| ________________|
|_______________| ________________|                     (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent
________________| ________________|                     Comments:
(1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent

                                                        5. Dealing with media. One of our challenges
                                                        is that sexual violence is an extremely complex
3. Comfort with diversity. Give us an example           issue that is easily sensationalized. It is not
of when you have had to work with people                unusual to give a 30-minute interview and end
who were very different from you—culturally,            up with a one-sentence quote and a dramatic
racially, economically, etc. How did you deal           headline. Tell us about your experience and
with those differences?                                 strategies for overcoming this kind of chal-
    What specific issues did you have to deal           lenge and working effectively with the media.
with in working together as a result of those           What do you do when you’re misquoted?
differences?                                            Look for:
Look for:                                               • ability to build relationships with reporters
                                                        • ability to be useful as resource to media

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

• understanding of reporters’ constraints and              |_______________| ________________|
     ability to work with them                             ________________| ________________|
• ability to create sound bite himself/herself             (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent
     rather than leaving it to reporter                    Comments:
• ability to use editorial page, etc., to get agen-
     cy’s message out
• ability to problem-solve after bad story
|_______________| ________________|
________________| ________________|                        8. Delegation. There is more work to do in this
(1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent               position than can possibly be done by one per-
Comments:                                                  son. Tell us specifically how you see that the
                                                           work gets done.
                                                           Look for:
                                                           • is willing to let go of control
6. Financial management skills. What expe-                 • delegates appropriately to staff or volunteers
rience have you had in financial management                • defines expectations clearly
that is relevant to running a small nonprofit              • provides means for success to those to whom
agency?                                                         he/she delegates
Look for:                                                  • avoids micromanagement but monitors
• experience in grant-writing and reporting                     progress at key points
• ability to track contributions through fund-             |_______________| ________________|
     raising                                               ________________| ________________|
• ability to do or supervise payroll and ac-               (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent
     counts payable                                        Comments:
• ability to prepare budget and then to manage
• ability to use many different funding sources
     that require different kinds of relationships
|_______________| ________________|                        9. Practice and model self-care. As director,
________________| ________________|                        you have to deal with the stress of our clients’
(1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent               trauma, the stress of meeting the needs of staff
Comments:                                                  and the board, and the stress of managing the
                                                           community’s perception of this agency. Tell us
                                                           how you balance all of these demands while
                                                           maintaining your personal equilibrium. What
7. Maintain community relationships. There                 do you do to take care of yourself?
are many different people and organizations in             Look for:
this community that have a stake in the work               • employs healthy strategies for coping
of our agency-police officers, survivors, phi-             • what he/she says is consistent with how
lanthropists, activists, and schoolteachers, to                 he/she looks and acts
name some. What do you do to stay informed                 • is aware of own spiritual, mental, physical,
about all the different currents swirling around                and emotional needs
in a community, and how do you apply it to                 • exhibits thoughtfulness in his/her personal
your job?                                                       evolution of self-care
Look for:                                                  |_______________| ________________|
• is cognizant of informal power and commu-                ________________| ________________|
     nication channels                                     (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent
• has strategy for staying informed and in-                Comments:
• knows how to identify key stakeholders and
     how to work with them


                                                        • listens carefully and patiently
                                                        • is willing to ask for clarification
10. Final question. Do you have any other               |_______________| ________________|
questions of us?                                        ________________| ________________|
Comments:                                               (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent

11. Writing sample.
Chair: Please do one more thing. Write and
submit by [date] a one-page memo to the board
answering this question: “If you were offered           14. Oral communication skills
the position of executive director, what would          (rated throughout interview)
motivate you to accept it or decline it now that        Look for:
you have had the opportunity to visit here to-          • speaks in way that is easy to understand and
day?” Here are detailed instructions [gives a                follow
memo to candidate].                                     • is responsive to cues from listeners
Look for:                                               • is brief, specific, and accurate
• thinks clearly                                        • is able to think on his or her feet
• expresses ideas clearly                               |_______________| ________________|
• presentation shows professional attention to               ________________| ________________|
     detail                                             (1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent
• is willing to discuss “undiscussable issues”          Comments:
|_______________| ________________|
________________| ________________|
(1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent

                                                        NEXT STEPS
                                                        Chair: The top two or three candidates will be
                                                        invited back to have the opportunity to meet
12. Sense of humor                                      privately with staff and to meet other board
(rated throughout interview)                            members and volunteers at a special event to
Look for:                                               be arranged. Our time frame for completing all
• ability to see humor in situations outside own        interviews and making a decision is [date]. If
     control                                            you have further questions, you can call me in
• ability to see humor in own actions                   the meantime.
• ability to pick up on others’ humor
|_______________| ________________|
________________| ________________|                     GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
(1) Inadequate (3) Meets Needs (5) Excellent            AND FINAL OVERALL ASSESSMENT
Comments:                                               OF CANDIDATE
                                                        [Interview panelists enter general comments
                                                        and overall evaluation here.]

13. Listening skills
(rated throughout interview)
Look for:
• responds accurately to what was asked or

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

TRANSITION SUCCESS FAC-                                   attention to the detriment of the pre-hiring and
TORS                                                      post-hiring phases. If the pre-hiring phase is
                                                          slighted, you may end up with the wrong per-
                                                          son. If the board doesn’t reserve energy for the
Excerpted from an article by Tom Adams as
                                                          post-hiring phase, they’ll get off on the wrong
published in Nonprofit World • Volume 16,
                                                          foot with the new executive. Exhausted board
Number 3 May/June 1998
                                                          members who disappear after selection run the
                                                          risk of a weak executive-board relationship
Executive transition is a powerful milestone
                                                          and too little accountability. Devoting time and
for an organization and a predictor of its future
                                                          energy to all three phases is critical to long-
effectiveness. Careers of departing and arriv-
                                                          term success.
ing executives and reputations of board leaders
are directly affected by the outcomes of transi-
tion. Whether or not you’re currently involved            3. Identify what type of transition it is.
with an executive transition, this article will                The type of transition influences the costs,
help you manage one of the most difficult and             risks, and transition strategy, as well as the
unavoidable aspects of nonprofit life.                    attributes of the next executive. First, you need
     What follows are lessons and practical tips          to clarify whether the transition is routine or
for executives and boards based on a five-year            non-routine. Routine transitions occur when an
field research project of the Neighborhood                executive retires or takes another position and
Reinvestment Corporation, a national nonprof-             a stable organization goes through an orderly
it based in Washington, D.C, and experienced              process of hiring a new executive. Neighbor-
in applying these lessons in over 200 executive           hood Reinvestment’s field experience and re-
leadership transitions.                                   search, validated by executive search
                                                          professionals, suggests that most transitions
                                                          today are non-routine and complex.
1. Take time to clarify how the transi-
tion can benefit the organization.
                                                          4. Assess your organization’s health,
     For a host of financial, programmatic and
emotional reasons there is enormous pressure              needs, and resources, and sharpen its
to move quickly to place an ad and begin re-              mission, vision, and goals.
cruiting. No matter how experienced the lea-                  Search firms refer to this process as scop-
dership, this tendency is almost unavoidable.             ing-turning a lens to examine and understand
Tom Gilmore, author of Making a Leadership                the organization’s history, current condition,
Change, describes the rash and unconscious                and future needs. When thoughtfully done, this
decision-making that occurs during transition             assessment provides a clear picture of what the
as “sleep-walking through the process.”[1] The            next exec should be like, what compensation
odds of a successful transition are improved              package will attract such a person, and what
when an organization faces this pressure, ad-             issues need attention before hiring the new
dresses the legitimate issues that warrant im-            exec. This snapshot also provides a basis for
mediate action, and then carefully reflects on            the board to map out its transition route, eva-
how the organization can benefit most from                luate the expertise it has available, and identify
this time of change.                                      where outside assistance is needed.

2. Don’t skimp on any phase of the tran-                  5. Take extra time to recruit a pool of
sition.                                                   finalists that is diverse in gender and
    There are three phases to the executive               ethnicity.
transition process: getting ready, recruiting,                 Many organizations, especially those in
and post-hiring. Each phase builds on the pre-            multi-ethnic communities, seek to insure that
ceding one. Skimping on any phase puts the                finalists represent the diversity of the commun-
success of the transition at risk. Be careful that        ities served. An organization’s ability to recruit
the recruiting phase doesn’t absorb the board’s           a diverse pool of finalists is increased if the


board and its leadership are diverse. Given the          Handle Leadership Transitions Successfully. Jos-
competitiveness for talent and the shortage of           sey-Bass Publishers, 1988.
experienced executives in some communities,              [2] See Interim and Acting Directors: The Case For
added time and outreach are often needed to              Short-term Leadership, by Catherine W. Farquhar,
                                                         Management and Information Exchange, July 1983.
identify and attract a diverse pool.
                                                         Selected References
6. Offer a competitive compensation                      Adams, Tom. “Demystifying Executive Leadership
package, including an employer-                               Changes,” Stone Soup, Neighborhood Rein-
contributed retirement benefit.                               vestment Corporation, Spring 1997.
     Don’t advertise a salary too low to attract         Brinkerhoff, Peter. “How to Choose and Work with
people with the needed skills. It’s better to re-             a Consultant,” Nonprofit World, March-April
main flexible about salary until you’ve met
                                                         Farquhar, Katherine W. et al., “Special Issue on
potential candidates and know their current                   Leadership Transitions,” Human Resource
salaries and needs. Funders may be willing to                 Management, Spring 1995
supplement salaries with grants to help you              Fram, Eugene & Robert Pearse, “Custom Design
hire a more experienced executive.                            Your New Exec’s Orientation Program,” Non-
     It’s increasingly important to offer bene-               profit World, January-February 1991.
fits, including an employer-contributed retire-          Fram, Eugene & Robert Pearse, “The Effective
ment plan.                                                    Executive Takes Over,” Nonprofit World, May
                                                         Nathan, Maria L, “The Nonprofit Executive as
7. Consider outside assistance.                               Chief Learning Officer,” Nonprofit World,
     Initially, many board members don’t see                  March-April 1998.
much difference between hiring a new execu-              National Center for Nonprofit Boards, “Crisis or
tive and hiring any new employee. Such a view                 Opportunity? Executive Leadership Transi-
underestimates the complexity of the process.                 tions,” Board Member, Special Edition, May
Involving a person with a proven track record                 1997.
in selecting nonprofit executives is a tremend-          Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, Manag-
ous advantage.                                                ing Executive Transitions: A Handbook for
     For larger, more established nonprofits                  Nonprofit Boards Hiring Executive Directors,
with clear mission niches, search firms that                  1994; revised for Winter 1997.
                                                         For information on founder transitions see: Founder
focus on nonprofits (preferably in their mission
                                                              Case Studies (/eds/founder_cases.htm) Founder
area) can be particularly helpful. Community-                 Transition Lessons(/eds/founder_lessons.htm)
based nonprofits, smaller organizations, and
nonprofits with emerging mission areas tend to           New Resources
benefit from working with independent consul-            Founders and Other Gods, the spring issue of The
tants experienced in one or more phases of the               Nonprofit Quarterly includes an article about
transition.                                                  founders. Read the full article:
     Most boards find outside assistance valua-              www.nonprofitquarterly .org/section/490.html
ble in assessing their readiness to recruit, in          Capturing the Power of Leadership Change: Using
doing candidate outreach and reference checks,               Executive Transition Management to Streng-
                                                             then Organizational Capacity, published by the
and in facilitating the initial relationship-
                                                             Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Evelyn &
building and performance reviews with the                    Walter Hass Jr. Fund, is the first of a series of
new executive. New executives find enormous                  monographs on Executive Transition Manage-
benefit in working with an executive coach or                ment (ETM) and related topics. This 17-page
management consultant during the stress-filled               report provides a step-by-step overview of the
first year.                                                  ETM process with case examples of the capaci-
                                                             ty building benefits of the ETM approach. It’s
ENDNOTES                                                     available online at the Transition Guides web
[1] Thomas N. Gilmore, Making a Leadership                   site http://www.transitionguides.
Change: How Organizations and Leaders can                    com/resources/docs/cappower.pdf. A hard copy

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

    can be requested through TransitionGuides                  Clarify the Roles—Typically the leader-
    (call Melody Thomas-Scott at (301) 439-6635.          ship for the organizational preparation work
                                                          comes from the board’s executive or transition
PREPARING THE ORGANIZA-                                   committee and the outgoing executive (or the
TION                                                      interim/acting executive director). In refining
                                                          the transition plan, you will want to make sure
Finding a talented executive who is ready to              that the board, executive and staff roles are
assume the leadership role is an absolutely es-           distinct.
sential ingredient of a successful executive                   Map Out the Actions & Timetable—With
transition. In many ways preparing the organi-            the issues prioritized and the roles defined,
zation to work effectively with that new leader           what’s left is to identify the actions, establish a
can be just as crucial. It will certainly have a          timetable and make assignments. The timeta-
profound impact on the new executive’s early              ble should include periodic meetings or confe-
tenure, and in some cases, long-term success.             rence calls with the transition committee to
For this reason you’ll want to make sure that             provide the necessary coordination for the
the “leadership platform” your new executive              overall preparation and transition effort.
steps onto is as solid as possible. The transition
assessment and planning process will typically            Step 2 - Prepare the Board
surface a number of organizational issues that,                Research by BoardSource has demonstrat-
if left unattended, may hinder the new execu-             ed that executive directors spend an average of
tive’s performance. These can be a major dis-             nine hours a week on board-related work.
traction during his/her early tenure when the             Clearly, the board is not only an incredibly
new director should be building relationships             important part of the leadership team, it is a
and beginning to learn about the organization-            major influence in the executive director’s
not fighting leftover fires. Some of these prob-          work life. We suggest starting with the board
lems may indeed be too big to tackle in the               first because its voluntary nature and schedules
time before the new executive starts, but iden-           generally mean building the transition work
tifying the issues, putting plans in place to             around board meeting calendar, providing you
tackle them and beginning to take some action             with just a few points of access during the
will help alleviate these constraints and signal          transition period.
to your incoming executive that this is an or-                 Encourage the board to look at its vision
ganization serious about improving its perfor-            for where the organization is headed and ask
mance.                                                    “what is the board’s strategic contribution to-
                                                          ward that vision?” How should we govern in
Step 1 - Clarify the Transition Plan and                  light of that vision and the type of executive
Enlist Support                                            that we are trying to recruit?” The answers to
     Prioritize the Issues—One of the first               these larger questions will go a long way to
things to do is establish some priorities. Ques-          shaping constructive preparation work and
tions to ask are: “Which of these issues is like-         providing the energy and excitement for the
ly to be the largest and most immediate                   changes required.
constraint to our new executive? “Which of
these issues, if we don’t tackle now while mo-            Step 3 - Prepare the Staff
mentum is with us, is unlikely to get re-                      Preparing the staff usually comes at two
solved?” Which of these items is likely to do             stages. Early in the transition process, it in-
the most to pave the way for success for our              volves helping the staff understand the nature
new executive?” Setting priorities can be a               of transitions, the timetable for their organiza-
good way to enlist board and staff support for            tion’s project and addressing any emotional
the preparation work. Both are more likely to             impact related to the outgoing executive’s de-
embrace change if they have a hand in identi-             parture.
fying and planning the changes.                                Later, just prior to the announcement of
                                                          the new executive, the preparation focuses


mainly on the launch of the new executive—              over into the new executive’s tenure. Still oth-
how to help educate him/her and build a                 ers may need to be put on hold because crucial
strong, forward-looking relationship. Asking            decisions may need the input of the new ex-
staff to help plan the briefing process for the         ecutive.
new executive is a great place to start. Transi-             Obviously, if your systems need a major
tions are a time of high anxiety for the staff.         overhaul, that’s not something that can be
                                                        tackled during the interim period and may in-
Step 4 - Prepare the Organization’s                     volve securing some financial support to un-
Physical Environment and Systems                        derwrite a capacity-building effort. However,
     The condition of the organization’s facili-        the process of sorting these issues out is a good
ties and state of its systems should be reviewed        start toward getting them handled.
and given attention during the transition. Non-              Preparing the Physical Environment—
profits typically under-invest in their infra-          The physical plant (office, technology and fa-
structure. Often the cost of this                       cilities) should not be ignored. While we try to
underinvestment is not fully apparent until             keep the commotion down to a minimum, sev-
there’s a leadership change, and folks are faced        eral of our interim assignments have involved
with understanding and planning the transition.         moving organizations to more suitable quar-
While a “make-do” culture can be a noble                ters. In most cases, preparation of the physical
thing for a charity, when it affects the organi-        space doesn’t involve something as drastic as a
zation’s ability to properly manage its donors          move. It might be as simple as a ritual cleaning
or track its finances, or when the condition of         of the entire office, which might be as clean-
the facilities puts a damper on program out-            sing for the staffs’ spirits as it is for the space.
comes, it is a performance constraint that              Our interim executive colleagues routinely
ought to be tackled.                                    comment about working with staff and board
     Addressing System Issues—We often find             members to de-clutter the office and move old
that system issues may appear daunting, but             files to off-site storage. The executive’s office
often have fairly simple solutions. For exam-           should receive special treatment. If there is
ple, one organization was actively reviewing a          broken furniture, get rid of it. Make sure that
new accounting software program. We found               the files that are there belong there and not in
that the root issue was inadequate financial            the finance office, etc. Moreover, make sure
reports. The solution was as simple as fully            that none of the search-related records are left
exploiting the capabilities of their current            on the executive’s desk.
software by training staff to set up the appro-
priate reports and getting a software upgrade           Step 5 - Plan the Handoff,
installed that the organization had avoided in          Announcement and Orientation of the
the “interest of savings.” Sometimes transition         New Executive
issues require a more substantial solution that              As the search begins to draw to a close, it
involves new investment and some system de-             is important to pay attention to how the organ-
velopment. For example, in one organization             ization plans to announce the appointment of
we found that the outgoing executive was car-           the new executive, handle the handoff between
rying around “in her head” all that the organi-         the departing executive (or the interim/acting
zation had in the way of major donor history.           executive) and address the new executive’s
Installing some donor tracking software and             orientation.
doing a “brain dump” with the outgoing execu-                Preparing for the Handoff—A good han-
tive was a beginning, but the project also in-          doff centers on a solid briefing for the new
volved reviewing paper files to capture the             executive. Part of the organizational prepara-
specifics of past donations and other research          tion phase is planning that briefing and the re-
to flesh out each donor’s history. Some system          lated materials. One good idea is to put
issues can be tackled during the interim pe-            together what we call “the book.” It’s a 4-inch
riod—before the new executive begins work.              ring binder that has copies of all key organiza-
Others can be started, but will clearly carry

                                                                          PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

tional documents (articles of incorporation, by-         derstand the game plan and who is going to be
laws, organizational chart, budget, year end             responsible for which parts.
audit), as well as meeting notes, copies of key
materials for projects in progress, lists of
stakeholders, etc.                                       Conclusion
     Planning the Announcement—The new                        The goals for the organizational prepara-
executive’s appointment is a newsworthy                  tion work should be to get as many constraints
event. Your announcement package should                  as possible out of the way of the new execu-
include a press release, bio on the new execu-           tive. This will help ensure that he/she is not
tive and a basic letter of introduction that can         immediately caught up in “firefighting” and
be adapted to various audiences. Make a list of          will allow the bulk of the time in this early
the media to receive the press release. As for           stage of the tenure to be devoted to building
letting your stakeholders know, we suggest               those important relationships and other actions
dividing them into three categories: those who           that will give the new executive a solid footing
should receive a phone call, those who should            and contribute to the long-term interests of the
receive a letter, and those who can read about           organization.
the appointment in the newsletter. The first
category may include top-level donors, colla-
boration partners, and others with an intense,
active interest in the organization. The second
group may include other constituents with an
interest but a less active role in the organiza-
tion. The last category is all your other remain-
ing stakeholders.
     Arranging the Orientation—Laying the
groundwork for the orientation can begin any
time during the organizational preparation
stage, but it kicks into high gear as the selec-
tion process draws to a close and the new ex-
ecutive has been identified. During the
interview process, the new executive should
have received a lot of information about the
history and evolution of the organization.
He/she should also have picked up many in-
sights into the organization’s values, strengths,
weaknesses, outlook and long-term, as well as
immediate, challenges. The orientation should
round out this picture. If the new executive is
from outside of the area, helping him/her get
immersed in what needs to be known about the
community should also be on the orientation
agenda. Finally, introduction and relationship-
building meetings with key stakeholders is a
major component of the orientation, often with
involvement from board or staff. It may be
appropriate for different individuals to play a
role in various parts of the orientation. An
orientation plan—one or two pages covering
the actions steps, timeframe and assign-
ments—will help ensure that all involved un-


RENEWING LINKAGES —                                    Agreeing on when to revisit strategic plan and
Committing to new lea-                                    direction of organization
dership and a new direc-                               WARNING — Rushing to hire can cause ma-
tion                                                   jor problems. Think about the costs of rush-
                                                       ing through the process. Potential pitfalls
Three Phases of Executive Transition                   include:
     Executive transitions pass through three          Making hasty decisions without assessing
distinct phases, each building on the one be-              needs
fore. Following are key issues faced by non-           Becoming frozen and indecisive: too much
profits during each of these phases.                       process
                                                       Employing overly rational process that ignores
Phase I: Getting Ready                                     feelings of loss, anger, etc.
Deciding short-term who’s in charge of what            Underestimating time and help required
Assessing organization priorities and health           Not asking for help when needed
Hiring interim manager, particularly if not            Denying real condition of organization
    ready to hire or in crisis                         Recruiting too soon
Developing profile of new executive attributes,        Misreading needs of the organization; attempt-
    knowledge, skills                                      ing to hire executive exactly like (or oppo-
Setting a competitive compensation strategy                site) departing executive
Saying an appropriate goodbye to your depart-          Hiring an inappropriate interim manager, often
    ing executive                                          someone liked and admired on staff or
Understanding and dealing with departing ex-               board but not experienced in what’s
    ecutive’s legacy                                       needed
                                                       Advertising a non-competitive salary, limiting
Phase II: Recruiting                                       applicant pool
Agreeing on a recruitment strategy, including          Expecting a diverse pool without outreach and
    diversity outreach                                     networking
Proactively seeking candidates                         Getting buried in resumes and process with
Screening and ranking candidates against pro-              inadequate systems
    file                                               Appointing “obvious successor” with insuffi-
Completing thorough reference checks before                cient thought or checking
    final interviews or selection                      Doing reference checks too late to influence
Spending informal time with finalists and in-              finalist selection
    troducing to key stakeholders                      Appointing a new executive with board di-
Selecting and negotiating                                  vided on decision
Having a back-up plan if first candidate de-           Not fully disclosing to finalist condition of
    clines                                                 organization and first year expectations
Completing letter of appointment                           Not welcoming or introducing new execu-
                                                           tive to community
Phase III: Post-Hire                                   Succumbing to exhaustion and abandoning
Welcoming and introducing new executive                    new executive during first 30-60 days Mi-
Orienting new executive to organization and                cromanaging Giving insufficient priority to
    community                                              shifting roles and relationship building in
Making agreements between board and new                    first month
    executive on three- and six-month work             New executive becoming overwhelmed, ignor-
    plan                                                   ing board and stakeholder relation ships,
Agreeing on executive evaluation process                   staff or administration; having difficulty in
Executive development planning by new ex-                  balancing all three
    ecutive with board support                         Curtailing surprises for new executive and

                                                                             PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

Paying no attention to work plans or evaluation            organization’s strengths and accomplishments.
    system                                                 In a crisis situation, there’s a need to come to
FIVE DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS                                   terms—very quickly—with the factors that
FOR THE INTERIM PERIOD                                     precipitated the crisis.

One of the most overlooked opportunities in                2. Exploring identity and direction. An ex-
executive transitions is how to make the most              ecutive transition is a unique moment to shape
of the interim period, which is the time be-               the future of the organization unconstrained by
tween the departure of the incumbent and                   the limitations of the executive’s leadership
when the new executive starts. Often boards                capacity and capabilities. Faced with replacing
think of this time as a problem and rush to find           their executive, boards typically turn first to
someone to “bridge the gap.”                               the departing executive’s job description. That
     Providing stable management for an or-                should be the last reference point for launching
ganization when it is without a permanent ex-              a search; at best, the old job description de-
ecutive is certainly a crucial role, but so much           scribes the leadership role of the organization
more is possible. A well-trained “intentional              of the past, not of the future. Instead, the board
interim” can help institute changes that help              should be looking forward, exploring the or-
turn around an organization in crisis. In stable           ganization that they aspire to create and then
organizations they can provide an important                shaping the job (and job description) around
respite between a founder or other “big shoes”             the present and future leadership needs of the
leader and his/her successor. This “interim                organization.
time” is often essential for the organization to
come to terms with its history; address any                3. Making leadership/operational changes.
latent issues; and for the staff, board members,           Quite often, a change in executives will spot-
and volunteers to deal with their own sense of             light other needed changes-in leadership, staff-
grief and loss in order to be ready to embrace a           ing, systems or structure. These changes can
new leader.                                                come in many forms: a board that realizes that
     The crucial task of the intentional interim           its size is unwieldy and downsizes, a disruptive
director is to ensure there is a solid platform            board member is encouraged to move on, an
for the new executive.                                     organization overhauls its underpowered fi-
                                                           nancial system, etc. The true test of any change
1. Coming to terms with history. One of the                is whether it will advance the organization
fundamental tasks of the interim is to help the            without undue disruption. Filling key staff
Board take an unvarnished look at the organi-              vacancies presents another tension. Generally
zation-its past, its strengths, its weaknesses, its        interims try to balance effective staffing during
shortcomings, and its accomplishments. In                  the interim with the need to preserve the lati-
transitions involving an organization in crisis,           tude of the incoming executive to build his or
especially when a termination is involved,                 her own team.
there is often a tendency to magnify the short-
comings of the former leader while ignoring                4. Renewing linkages. Over time, especially in
some of the underlying organizational issues               crisis situations, key stakeholders and suppor-
that helped precipitate the crisis-issues which            ters may become disengaged. One of the “plat-
may have predated the “failed” executive’s                 form building” tasks can be to bring some of
hiring and probably still persist after he/she has         them back into the fold. For example, a mem-
left. The board can’t hope to have a “solid                bership organization may have drifted off mis-
platform” for the new executive if the founda-             sion and lost members as a result. Having
tion is made wobbly by unresolved underlying               come to terms with history and refocused on
problems. Coming to terms with history means               its mission, it now has a case and a new mes-
ferreting out and addressing those problems as             sage to begin the process of recovering its fal-
well as recognizing and truly appreciating the             len-away members.


                                                           Transition Tips
5. Committing to new leadership and a new                  for Boards & Search Com-
direction. The final step of the interim process
is making a commitment to the new executive                mittees
and the new direction. At this point the organi-           Your biggest challenge is to resist the pressure
zation should have a healthy perspective on its            to act too quickly. The following are some
history, have worked during the interim period             steps to consider:
to build a solid platform for the new executive,
and have a clear sense of the organization di-             • In the first week after the departure, take
rection and priorities that it is laying out before             stock of the key issues facing the organiza-
the new executive. In short, it should be pre-                  tion and the leadership and resources
pared to launch and support its new staff lead-                 available to manage the transition.
er.                                                        • Develop a plan that pays attention to all three
                                                                phases of transition-getting ready, recruit-
                                                                ing, and post-hiring.
                                                           • Build extra time into your plan to identify
Transition Tips                                                 and attract a diverse pool of candidates.
for Departing Executives                                   • Consider whether outside assistance from a
                                                                consultant or facilitator friend of the or-
Once you announce your intent to leave, rela-                   ganization is needed to get the full picture
tionships and roles shift immediately. You can                  of the organization and its needs.
help yourself and the organization best if you:            • Retain outside help unless you have an expe-
• Provide the board with a clear picture of what                rienced volunteer with immediate time and
    must be done during the interim period.                     expertise to devote to the transition.
• Shift your priorities to short-term actions that         • As soon as possible, let staff, board, and oth-
    you and the board agree will strengthen the                 er stakeholders know about the transition.
    organization before your departure.                         Tell them in writing and face-to-face
• Encourage the board to appoint a transition                   where possible. Let them know when the
    committee and get ready to recruit.                         executive is leaving and who will head the
• Avoid hasty recommendations. Encourage                        search committee. Invite input into the
    the board to undertake a thorough “getting                  attributes of the next executive, priorities
    ready” assessment and let the assessment                    of the organization, and possible candi-
    drive the interim strategy.                                 dates.
• Avoid (in most cases) being actively in-                 • Review your compensation package, add an
    volved in selecting your successor. Discuss                 employer-paid retirement plan if you don’t
    your appropriate role with the board and                    have one, and stay open about the final
    transition committee.                                       salary until you’ve tested the market for
• Encourage the board to get outside help ra-                   candidates.
    ther than rely on you, especially if you are           • Say an appropriate goodbye to your departing
    a founder.                                                  executive and celebrate his or her contribu-
• Accept that you may have a lot of mixed feel-                 tion to the organization.
    ings, and talk about them with a mentor or             • Communicate regularly with the departing
    colleague.                                                  executive, board members, and other key
• Celebrate your relationships and accom-                       stakeholders.
    plishments, say goodbye in ways appropri-
    ate for you, and be direct if there are ways
    you would or wouldn’t like to celebrate
    your years at the organization.

                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION


Announcement to Board Members

                                         ABC Letterhead

Dear Board Members,

    We are in a unique situation that has not occurred in 28 years. We are the board members who will
seek, select, and hire a new executive director for ABC. ABC has come a long way since the current
executive director was hired those many years ago.

     We have the opportunity to set the direction for the agency for the next 28 years. The quality of
our work will only be improved by the care that we take to do the best we can with our responsibili-
ties. Already there have been efforts to try to find out who the next executive director is going to be.
We have not even decided which process we are going to use and already there are people who are
interested in finding out. That is only a reflection of the importance of the position and therefore the
job that we need to do.

     I am writing you to remind you that it is of paramount importance that we maintain the confiden-
tiality of the personnel business, issues, and process we are undertaking. As a corporation we are only
as strong as the weakest one among us and we are as secure as each one of us makes us. I understand
that all of us need to feel important, appreciated, and respected. However, the importance we have,
maintain, and promote is the work that we do. If we engage in gossip, speculation, or self-
aggrandizement, we can only harm our fellow board members, the agency and ourselves.

     So, let me remind you, again, in no uncertain terms, that each and all of us need to keep the confi-
dentiality of the important task we have undertaken together, as a board.

    If you have any questions, if anyone has any questions for you, please, please refer them to me and
I will deal with them.


                                          Chairperson of the Board



Board Agenda
                          Community Action Board Retreat and Meeting

2:00pm        Call to Order
              Review of Agenda

2:15pm        Review Process to Date and Tasks

2:30pm        Review of Draft Job Description
              Review Draft Recruitment and Selection Process

3:00pm        Outside Management Group

3:30pm        Adoption of Job Description and Process
              Set Dates/Timetable
              Discuss how broad a search
              Funds for Ads/Outside Management/Technical Assistance

4:00pm        Break

4:15pm        Privacy, Confidentiality, Law of Hiring Issues

4:45pm        Identify Unresolved Issues

5:15pm        Dinner

6:00pm        Review Draft of Interview #1 - Presentation Process

6:30pm        “More than a Gut Feeling” - the interview process

7:00pm        Q & A and Unresolved Issues
              Press Release
              Celebration for Executive

7:45pm        Final Thoughts and Assignments

                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

SAMPLE—Draft Screening, Interview and Hiring Process
for Community Action Executive Director
The following is an outline of the process the            Additionally, the members recommend that the
board members present at the July retreat rec-            Administrative Assistant be responsible for
ommend to the full board for approval with                removing names, addresses, and identifiers and
regard to screening, interviewing and hiring              establish a coding system for the applicants,
the next Executive Director:                              and bringing the applicant materials to the Ex-
                                                          ecutive Committee of the Board for scoring to
1) The Board members recommend that the                   determine interview status. The Board re-
“ABC Board act as a Committee of the Whole                commends that the Administrative Assistant
for the purpose of conducting the search, inter-          staff the Board process for the purpose of
view, and selection process of the next Execu-            record keeping and communication functions
tive Director.” That means every board                    related to the entire hiring process.
member is eligible to participate in the inter-
view process, but must commit to being                    7) The Board members recommend that the
present for ALL parts of the interview and se-            Executive Committee select up to 15 appli-
lection process. Dates for these activities will          cants for interviews by the Committee of the
be set at the August 16th meeting so everyone             Whole. The first interview will be presentation
can put them on their calendar.                           style. Each member of the Committee will
                                                          score the applicant presentations, and at least
2) The Board members recommend that the                   the top four applicants will move to the next
“ABC Board include at least one member of                 step in the process.
the Head Start Policy Council in the process.”
                                                          8) Finalists will complete a “Profiles Plus”
3) The Board members recommend the appli-                 candidate evaluation tool. They will also be
cations and resumes (minus names, addresses,              asked to write a paragraph during a second
and identifiers) be reviewed for minimum qua-             interview process. The second interview will
lification by the ABC Board Executive Coun-               be a more traditional interview, with each
cil, and that they select at least ______                 board member assigned the task of asking a
applicants for interviews by the Committee of             specific question or follow up questions in
the Whole.                                                each and every interview. A sub-committee of
                                                          the board will be named to contact references
4) The Board members recommend that the                   and report on their findings. All finalists will
interview questions be reviewed by the ABC                be asked to conduct a brief staff meeting, after
Board of Directors, key staff, and the Head               which staff will be able to complete question-
Start Policy Council, in order to get the best set        naires for input to the Board's selection
of questions, reflecting the agency mission,              process. All elements of this process will be
values, culture, and core values.                         brought forward to a REVIEW session.

5) The Board members recommend that the                   9) After a thorough review, one candidate
application process require applicants to sub-            will be recommended to the Board for hire.
mit a cover letter, resume, and completed ap-
plication, along with names and phone                     10) The Board will approve the hiring of the
numbers of 3 references, and 3 recent and                 final candidate and prepare an announcement
dated writing samples.                                    to staff and community.

6) The Board members recommend that the                   11) An employment agreement will be devel-
Agency obtain a post office box for the specif-           oped by Agency counsel for the new em-
ic purpose of receiving application packets.              ployee.


SAMPLE—Draft Job Description
                ABC Executive Director


POSITION TITLE:         Executive Director

    Responsible for leading, representing, promoting, nurturing, and furthering the mission, culture
and core values of ABC Community Action.
Responsible for the overall operation and administration of ABC Community Action, Inc., its staff and
programs, in line with the vision of the Board of Directors and the team management guidelines
adopted by the agency. Involves regular travel within the agency service area and the state of Minne-
sota, including evening meetings and overnight stays. Must actively lead and participate with the
Agency Management Team members in recommending policy to the ABC Community Action Board,
and determining and implementing decisions and strategies of an Agency-wide nature.

REPORTS TO: ABC Board of Directors

SUPERVISES: Direct supervision of department heads, and through delegation, indirectly supervises
all ABC Community Action, Inc. staff.


    Four-year college degree in social sciences, business administration, or related area, AND 5 years
experience in related upper level management position, INCLUDING 3 years managing a budget of $3
million or more, AND supervision of a staff of at least 20 people performing a variety of tasks. Non-
profit, human services experience preferred.

KNOWLEDGE, ABILITIES, AND SKILLS: (in order of priority)

1) Proven record of leadership that reflects professional and interpersonal skills of resourcefulness,
    flexibility, problem solving, and strategic planning competencies in support of agency activities to
    carry out the policies, objectives and programs of ABC Community Action;
2) Working knowledge of federal, state and local funding sources and accompanying regulations:
3) Excellent written, oral and interpersonal communication skills including public speaking,
    grantsmanship, and computer skills;
4) Ability to direct and motivate staff to accomplish community action goals;
5) Knowledge of administrative polices and procedures;
6) Understanding of and sensitivity to community constituencies, needs, and resources;
7) Ability to collaborate and create community partnerships and mobilize community resources;
8) Working knowledge of employment practices and labor relations;
9) Demonstrated ability and skill in public relations and marketing and proven record of developing
    resources through grantsmanship;
10) Means of transportation for regular travel (40%) as required by position.

(Scale 1 = 28pts, 2 =26 pts, 3=24pts, 10= 10pts)

                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

Overall agency administration, including fiscal and personnel management under the direction of the
     Board of Directors;
Development of plans and procedures to implement Agency goals and objectives;
Interview, hire, train, supervise, evaluate, and terminate department heads;
Direct and coordinate the work of department heads to accomplish program an Agency objectives;
Understand federal, state, and local regulations on fiscal management and program operation;
Supervise grant proposals and budget development to assure ongoing funding of Agency programs;
Promote public understanding and/or support of Agency programs through public speaking, news re-
     leases, and contacts with public officials and meeting attendance;
Initiate fundraising activities, resource development, partnerships, collaborations that maximize hu-
     man and other capital;
Advise department heads on personnel issues'
Resolve appeals and/or grievance of program and Agency policies;
Provide in-service training to department heads on Agency objectives, policy and procedures through
     regularly scheduled meetings;
Act as liaison between staff and Board of Directors;
Develop and maintain good working relationship with Community Action Network;
Implement and monitor compensation, classification and performance appraisal plans;
Implement training opportunities to improve Agency effectiveness;
Monitor community needs through periodic assessments to guide and focus Agency programs and ac-
Lead and participate actively with Agency Management Team:
     Model and Implement continual quality improvement process, in line with team management
          style, philosophy, culture and core values of the agency.
     Support management team decisions to staff appropriately
     Enforce program and Agency policies consistently.
     Review all decisions to assure consistency with mission, core values, customer focus, management
          style, and communication commitment.

Follow all procedures of the Minnesota Data Privacy Act;
Participate in Agency voter registration activities.

This job description is not intended to be all-inclusive. The employee will perform other reasonably
related business duties as assigned by the ABC Board of Directors.

ABC Community Action, Inc. is an At-Will employer. ABC Community Action, Inc. reserves the
right to revise or change any or all parts of this Job Description. This job description does not consti-
tute a written or implied contract of employment. EOE/AA/ADA

Approved by: Chairperson of the ABC Board                          Date ___________________

Approved by ADA Compliance Officer                                 Date____________________

Approved by Human Resources Director                               Date____________________


SAMPLE—Draft Job Description

Executive Director

    ABC Community Action Agency seeks Executive Director to lead anti-poverty agency serving

___________________________________________________ counties, with headquarters in

____________, Minnesota. The Executive Director is responsible for leading a staff of 70 plus em-

ployees who provide programs and services to low-income residents of the service area. Programs and

services include Head Start, Transportation, Housing, Big Buddies, Energy Assistance and Weatheri-

zation Programs, and new and emerging community based strategies for addressing poverty. The di-

rector is responsible for overseeing the operation of an $ 8.7 million dollar budget and for identifying,

securing, and utilizing resources to carry out the mission of the agency, i.e. increasing family self-

sufficiency. The director reports to the Board of Directors, and serves as the Board's representative to

all local governments, other non-profit agencies, public human service agencies, and constituency


Salary range begins at $62,000. Interested applicants should call ____________(name and phone

number)__________________ for an application packet. Deadline for applications is



                                                                           PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

SAMPLE—Draft Interview Process #1

Executive Director
Presentation Model

How the Process Works
     Following the recruitment process, which includes ads, internal postings, and internet postings, the
applicants are screened by the Executive Committee to determine which applicants meet the minimum
requirements. This process may include a ranking based on point values for work history, education,

    Each applicant chosen for an interview receives a letter about the interview process. They are told
to arrive 45 minutes early for their appointment. Upon arrival, each applicant is taken to a quiet office
space, given written instructions, and is provided with paper, note cards, and access to a computer for
their use. Applicants are given a series of questions and told to prepare a 30-minute presentation to
the Board. When the forty-five minutes are up, the applicant is brought to the interview room, and
told they should initiate their presentation at their own pace. They are given 30 minutes, and are ad-
vised that if they do not conclude in the time period, they will be stopped.

    During the presentation, each board member has a rating form to assign point values to the an-
swers of the questions, as well as to note the applicant's significant responses. When the process is
concluded, the finalists with the highest point values move to the final process: a final interview, an
evaluation, a writing test, a staff meeting, and reference checks.

    Attached is a sample instruction and questionnaire and sample rating form.


Sample Instruction Form

The interview panel is composed of ABC Community Action Board members.

The interview consists of a set of prepared questions that you will be given with these instructions.
You will have 30 minutes to respond to the attached questions once you have met the interview panel.
You are now being given 45 minutes to prepare a presentation that answers the attached questions.
You are permitted to take notes into the interview to assist you with your presentation. You will be
responsible for managing your time wisely.

In order to assist you in that process, the panel will NOT re-read the questions. You should proceed
through your answers at your own pace. The interview panel will NOT ask you any follow up ques-
tions when you are finished.

You will have the use of a quiet work space, a notebook, paper, note cards, and computer. You can
use these to organize your presentation.

It is important that you be as open and honest with us as you can. That will assist us in making the
best possible decision regarding the final selection. We want the successful candidate to be a good fit
for us, but we also want ABC Community Action to be a good fit for the person selected.

All candidates will be notified of whether or not they are moving on to a second interview.

We hope to notify you within 10 days or two weeks. Our goal is complete second interviews within
the next month and to make an offer to hire by the end of the first week in December. We will, of
course, take the necessary time to make what we believe will be a difficult decision.

Thank you for your interest in ABC Community Action, and for your participation in the interview

                                                                         PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

SAMPLE—Draft Interview # 1 Questions

You may find these questions to be very different from those you have previously experienced in an
interview. There is no doubt they require some thought. You need to be sure that you are answering
the questions, and that you are relating to specific examples that have been part of your work expe-
rience. Please turn these questions in at the end of your interview.

1) Tell us about yourself, including previous employment experiences, life experiences, or
personal history. Give us a sense of who you are and what you consider to be important.

2) Tell us about a specific project that you believe demonstrates your ability to function as a leader.
What was the project? What role did you play? Why do you believe it was successful? What did you
learn from the experience?

3) Tell us about a time when the way in which you communicated did NOT work well. What was
the circumstance or incident? What did you do? What would you have done differently?

4) What do you believe should be the role of ABC Community Action in the communities we serve?
How should our organization relate to other human services agencies and organizations?

5) Effective delegation means different thing to different supervisors. Describe your style of
leadership relative to delegation and communication, and tell us what you see as the strengths and
weaknesses of your approach.

6) Describe a time when you were required to analyze a problem/situation and give a recommenda-
tion to a Governing Board. What was the problem/situation? Describe the process you used and the
recommendation you made. What was the outcome?

7) As a manager, some of the most difficult areas of effort involve budgets and personnel. What was
your most difficult personnel and budget challenge, and how did you handle them?

8) What is your vision for ABC Community Action, and what three steps will you take first to
achieve that vision?


SAMPLE—Draft Interview Rating Sheet

1) Tell us about yourself, including previous employment experiences, life experiences, or personal
history. Give us a sense of who you are and what you consider to be important.
    1           2               3               4               5               6               7

2) Tell us about a specific project that you believe demonstrates your ability to function as a leader.
What was the project? What role did you play? Why do you believe it was successful? What did
you learn from the experience?
    1           2                3                4              5                 6                7

3) Tell us about a time when the way in which you communicated did NOT work well. What was
the circumstance or incident? What did you do? What would you have done differently?
    1          2               3               4            5               6            7

4) What do you believe should be the role of ABC Community Action in the communities we serve?
How should our organization relate to other human services agencies and organizations?
   1          2                3               4               5               6          7

5) Effective delegation means different thing to different supervisors. Describe your style of
leadership relative to delegation and communication, and tell us what you see as the strengths and
weaknesses of your approach.
    1            2                3             4                 5               6                7

6) Describe a time when you were required to analyze a problem/situation and give a recommenda-
tion to a Governing Board. What was the problem/situation? Describe the process you used and the
recommendation you made. What was the outcome?
    1           2              3               4              5               6                7

7) As a manager, some of the most difficult areas of effort involve budgets and personnel. What was
your most difficult personnel and budget challenge, and how did you handle them?
   1            2                3              4                5               6              7

8) What is your vision for ABC Community Action, and what three steps will you take first to
achieve that vision?
    1            2            3            4                5                6                      7

Significant Comments:

                                                                          Total Points Awarded_______



SAMPLE—Press Releases


The ABC Community Action, Inc. Board of Directors met on ______________, in ___________,
MN, to accept the notice of retirement of the Executive Director. (The Director) has served the ABC
for the last 27 years. In that time, she has grown, expanded, and solidified the service and dedication
of ABC to empower people to meet their own needs and network to integrate into the five-county area
served by ABC.

The President of the Board of Directors recognized the tremendous contribution and the exemplary
service provided by the director. Currently the Board and staff are planning a celebratory farewell for
the retiring director in the five-county area served by ABC.

The Board Chair announced the publication, search and screening process adopted by the Board to
seek the next Executive Director. The job description will be published in local newspapers and com-
munity action web pages. Application forms can be obtained from the agency. The deadline for the
application process is _____________. The interview and selection process will begin from there.


HEADLINE: ABC Community Action Announces Executive Transition

The Board of ABC Community Action, Inc., is planning a celebration for __________________, their
director of 27 years, who has announced her plan to retire early this year to spend more time with her
family, especially her grandchildren. The board and staff of the agency plan to celebrate the accom-
plishments of the agency under her leadership on ________________(date) from
______________(time) at ____________________(place). The public is invited to attend the festivi-
ties which will include:

The Board of Directors is preparing a transition plan to recruit and select a new executive director, and
hopes to hire by the end of the year. Details of he search process will be released in September.

ABC Community Action is a Community Action Agency established in 1965 as part of the War on
Poverty. It has a rich history in the five-county area, including:_____________________________,
and is rooted in the belief that self sufficiency is the true goal of an anti-poverty program. The agency
has an annual budget of $3 million, and employs a staff of about 70.

The agency operates programs and activities aimed at supporting families and individuals to self suffi-
ciency, including________.

                                                                          PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

SAMPLE—Rejection Letter



(City, State, ZIP)

Dear (First Name):

Thank you again for your interest in the _____________(job title) position advertised by our agency.
You were one of a few applicants selected for a personal interview.

With the excellent quality of the applicants we interviewed, the selection of only one person for the
_____________(job title) was a difficult task. Although you were an excellent candidate, you were
not the individual ultimately selected. Please accept our appreciation for the time and effort you in-
vested in this opening. We encourage you to apply again if any other positions open which would be
of interest to you.


(Hiring Official)


SAMPLE— Job Offer



(City, State, ZIP)

Dear (First Name):

As we discussed on the telephone today, we are extending to you an offer of employment for the posi-
tion of ___________________in the ABC Agency. As we agreed you will begin employment on

The starting salary is $__________per hour and the position is a ______________(status) position.
Normal working hours are from ____a.m. to ____ p.m., Monday through Friday. Your supervisor will
be ___________________(name), ___________________(title).

The introductory period for all new employees is at least three months in length, and upon successful
completion of the introductory period, the employee will be given regular status. Oral evaluations
where appropriate with respect to weaknesses in performance or attitude will be brought to your atten-
tion, and a written evaluation will be scheduled upon completion of your introductory period, which
will be ____ months. Written evaluations and salary reviews will be scheduled at least annually the-

As stated in our Personnel Policies, it is the policy of the Agency that all employees who do not have a
separate written employment contract with the Agency for a specific fixed term of employment are
employed at the will of the Agency for an indefinite period. Employees may resign from the Agency at
any time, for any reason, and may be terminated by the Agency at any time, for any reason, and with
or without notice.

Please indicate your acceptance of the above by signing below and returning this memo to my atten-
tion prior to __________(date).

____________________________             ____/____/____           Social Security #_____-_____-_____
   (Signature of Acceptance)                 (Date)


(Department Head/Supervisor)




SAMPLE—Applicant Survey

                                       ABC Agency, Inc.
                                APPLICANT DATA SURVEY FORM

Applicants are considered for all positions, and employees are treated during employment without
regard to race, color, sex, national origins, age, marital or veteran statue, medical condition or han-

As employers/government contractors, we comply with government regulations and affirmative action

Solely to help us comply with government record keeping, reporting, and other legal requirement,
please fill out the Applicant Data Survey Information below and return in the addressed, stamped
envelope. We appreciate your cooperation.

This data is for periodic government reporting and will be kept in a confidential file separate from the
Application for Employment.

                                                                               Date _____/_____/_____

Position Applied For: Executive Director          Dept: Management

Name ______________________________________________Telephone______-______-_________
        (Last)                      (First)                  (M.I.)

Address ___________________________________________________________________________
        (Street Address)                                (City)                     (State)    (ZIP Code)

                                 AFFIRMATIVE ACTION SURVEY

Government agencies require periodic reports on the sex, ethnicity, handicapped and veteran statue of
applicants. This data is for analysis and affirmative action only. Submission of information is volunta-

Check one: _____Male _____Female

Check one of the following Race/Ethnic Groups:

    _____ Caucasian              _____Asian/Pacific Islander               _____Hispanic

    _____ American Indian/Alaskan Native                    _____ African/American

Check if any of the following are applicable:

    _____ Vietnam Era Veteran             _____ Disabled Veteran           _____ Handicapped

                                    PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

SAMPLE— Screening Evaluation Form


SAMPLE— Personnel Policies Regarding Hiring Process


    A. Selection of Candidates

All position applicants will be screened by the appropriate person/committee for required job qualifi-
cations. Those who do not meet qualifications set forth in the position description will be informed, in
writing, by the appropriate Program Director. As per Federal Head Start regulations, the Head Start
Parent Policy council will confer on and approve of the selection and hiring of candidates for all Head
Start positions.
    All job applicants being considered for a position will be required to submit the names of up to
three (3) work related references. References will be checked prior to final consideration for employ-

1. Executive Director
    For the position of Executive Director, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors will
screen all qualified candidates for the position and recommend candidates to be interviewed by the
Executive Committee of the Board. The Executive Committee may, at their discretion, ask Agency
employees, or others, to assist with the screening and/or interviewing of candidates. This Executive
Committee will, after interviewing, rate the candidates and submit their recommendations to the Board
of Directors for final approval.

                                                                            PLANNING FOR TRANSITION

SAMPLES— Fiduciary Duties


Directors have the responsibility of managing the business and affairs of a nonprofit corporation.
Minn. Stat.  317A.201. They also have the fiduciary duties of care, loyalty and obedience to the law.
These duties are owed to the organization itself, although members of the organization or the Attorney
General may seek equitable relief for violations of duty. (See Minn. Stat.  317A.467 for the provision
giving members the right to seek equitable relief for officer or director violations of chapter 317A.
Also, see section VI of this outline for the Attorney General’s authority.)

A. Duty of Care.

Directors of Minnesota nonprofit corporations must discharge their duties in good faith, in a manner
the director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the corporation, and with the care an ordi-
narily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances. Minn. Stat. 
317.A251, subd. 1 (1998).

1. In some circumstances, a director may rely on information, opinions or reports of others. Minn.
   Stat.  317A. 241 and 317A.251, subd. 2 (1998). See also Minn. Stat.  309.66 (1998) authoriz-
   ing a governing board to delegate the investment of institutional funds.

2. A director who is present at a meeting when an action is approved by the board is presumed to
   have assented to the action unless the director objects to the meeting because it was not lawfully
   called or convened and doesn’t participate in the meeting, or votes against the action or is prohi-
   bited from voting on the action. Minn. Stat.  317A.251, subd. 3 (1998).

3. By statute, a director of a nonprofit corporation is not a trustee. Minn. Stat.  317A.251, subd.4.

4. A trustee has the duty to exercise the care an ordinary person would employ in dealing with that
   person’s own property. In re Comstock’s Will, 219 Minn. 325, 17 N.W. 2d 656 (1945), Fortune v.
   First Trust Co. Of St. Paul, 200 Minn. 3676, 274 N.W. 524 (1937). A trustee with a greater level
   of skill must use the skills the trustee has in carrying out the trustee’s duties. Manchester Band of
   Pomo Indians, Inc. v. United States, 363 F. Supp. 1238 (N.D. Cal. 1973). A trustee has limited
   delegation rights. Minn. Stat.  501B.11 (1998).

B. Duty of Loyalty.

Traditionally, directors and trustees have an absolute duty of complete, undivided loyalty to the organ-
ization. This means that the director or trustee cannot use their position or the organization’s assets in
any way that would result in pecuniary gain for them or for any member of their family. Stern v. Luch
Webb Hayes National Training School, 367 F. Supp. 536, (D.D.C. 1973) (opinion supplemented by
381 F. Supp. 1003 (D.D.C. 1974), Ray v. Homewood Hospital, Inc., 223 Minn. 440, 27 N. W. 2d 409
(1947). State law has modified this absolute prohibition.

1. Conflicts of Interest: Under certain circumstances, a contract of transaction between a nonprofit
   corporation and its director or an organization in which the director has a material financial inter-
   est is not void or voidable. Minn. Stat.  317A.255, subd. 1 (1998). Generally, the director has
   the burden of establishing that the contract or transaction was fair and reasonable when authorized,


    that there was full disclosure of the conflict and that the contract or transaction was approved by
    members or other directors in good standing.

2. Loans: A nonprofit corporation may not lend money to a director or the spouse, parents, children
   and spouses of children, brothers and sisters or spouses of brothers and sisters of the director un-
   less the loan or guarantee may reasonable be expected, in the judgment of the board, to benefit the
   corporation. Minn. Stat.  317A.501, subd. 2 (1998).

3. In charitable trusts, certain conflicts are permissible if the conflict was clearly contemplated by the
   settler of the trust. In re: Irrevocable Inter Vivos Trust, etc., 305 N.W.2d 755 (Minn. 1981).

4. Other prohibitions relating to the duty of loyalty are in the rules of the Internal Revenue Code re-
   garding self-dealing transactions. These rules apply to private foundations.

C. Duty to Follow the Law.

1. Under Minnesota law, it is a breach of trust for a trustee (which may be a nonprofit corporation) to
   fail to file annual reports or to fail to manage property held for charitable purposes consistent with
   state law. Minn. Stat.  501B.41, subd. 6 (1998). Similarly, trustees must comply with other state
   and federal laws and with rules of the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies.

2. Directors have a duty to follow the organization’s government documents (articles of incorpora-
   tion and bylaws) and to carry out the organization’s mission and to assure that funds are used for
   lawful purposes.

3. Directors must comply with deadlines for taxations, for filing with the Attorney General, for social
   security payments, for income tax withholding, and so on.

    Directors may be personally liable for unpaid employment taxes.


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