Succession planning

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Wikimedia currently has no succession plan or leave of absence program for Board members who can not fulfill their duties for a period.

This could make achieving a quorum harder in the rare event of the Board needing to vote. It also leaves the absent member liable for events they are unaware of.

The August 2005 edition of the Board Cafe newsletter recommended succession planning "even when no one is anticipating a change in leaders", noting that "illness and other events can lead to sudden and unanticipated departures".

Succession plans should be created to ensure the continuous coverage of Board duties and continuous community representation on the Board. It would be useful for such plans to cover not only Board members, but all people relevant to the operation of the Foundation. As a first step, descriptions of the roles and duties of all relevant people should be written so we know what functions need to be replaced if a person leaves. See, for example, Board of Trustees, official positions, and Wikimedia staff. Plans are needed both for expected absences, and also for unplanned ones, of differing periods, including permanent ones. Any leave of absence program that is developed should take into account whether the Trustee's term will be extended if that member was one of the elected Trustees. We should decide who is authorized to implement such a plan.

The Board Cafe newsletter asks the following questions:

  1. If the executive is suddenly unable to serve, is it clear to everyone who will be the Acting Executive until the board can meet and decide?
  2. Does the Board of Directors have the right mix of members for hiring the new executive?
  3. Is the executive director's job doable-that is, could the job be done by a regular human being? Too often a successful executive director has, over time, taken on so many responsibilities that it would be nearly impossible to find another such superhero. A succession plan will identify the critical functions of the executive job, designate an emergency back-up for each function, and prepare the organization for both planned and unplanned executive transitions or vacancies.
  4. Is the salary of the current executive director much lower than what you should pay a new executive?
  5. Can you cover a fundraising dip? The chief money raiser in most nonprofits is the executive director. It will take time for his or her successor to develop the relationships with donors that are essential to the incumbent's fundraising success. Succession planning should include raising funds for the transition. Fundraising and business relationships can also be institutionalized by bringing board members and other staff into relationships now held only by the ED.
  6. Are there any obvious candidates for the job?
  7. When was the last time that succession was on the board meeting agenda?

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