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The Board and Succession Planning

05 Oct 2023

The Board and Succession Planning

In our latest guest blog, Ben Payne and Gerald Richards of B&G Partners, share more info about what they'll be discussing at our Cultural Governance Conference 2023.  

Book your spot here 
📍12 Oct 9:15am – 1:30pm

One of the biggest risks for a nonprofit - and also one of its biggest opportunities - is when its current leader decides to step down. This moment can really test a board of trustees’ mettle.

This challenge can be particularly acute in the arts where organisations are often small and such transitions can have a big impact. Your board may need to think about how to replace a long-standing founder or a particularly inspirational Artistic Director, or they may feel it’s time for a different strategic direction in the appointment of its next Executive Director. Possibly they may need to consider different leadership models entirely - such as co-leadership.

As leaders and founders of creative organisations, as well as board members ourselves, we’ve both been through succession planning processes. Some have gone smoothly, others not so well, and we became interested in the characteristics of either. Earlier this year, in partnership with The Fore, we developed and have been delivering a series of succession planning workshops for nonprofit leaders and their boards. What became clear is that few of them had a plan to speak of.

The last few years have been extremely challenging for the nonprofit sector in general and for the arts in particular. Many leaders and organisations recognise the need for change and renewal. The issue is often about understanding the culture of an organisation, maintaining the legacy of strong leadership across the organisation, including the board, but making sure to future proof it for both planned and unexpected change. Good succession plans, in fact, help to build a culture of renewal into the whole organisation, not just for the role of the leader, but other key members of staff - and your board too.

A scary statistic from the US suggests that a new CEO, after taking over the role from a founder or previous long-standing leader, lasts an average of 18 months. Recent stories in the UK arts press have identified this turnover of leadership as a pressing issue. The reasons for why this happens can be complex - but our conference session will introduce you to the principles of how to take this important step in any arts organisation’s life.

Ben Payne and Gerald Richards B&G Partners

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Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.