How Can the Nonprofit or Charity Board Establish a CEO Hiring Plan

by Carter Toni

One major responsibility of a non-profit board is to hire the chief executive officer (CEO). The right person will be in charge of carrying out the strategic plans and policies of the board. Thus, this task should not be taken lightly.

Luckily, establishing a CEO hiring plan can ensure that a non-profit organization will find the best person for the role. Below are the steps on how to create a CEO hiring plan:

Board Preparation for Hiring a New Chief Executive

Board preparation starts with appointing a board committee to focus on establishing the plan. The committee will manage the transition, including the hiring and selection process, job description, and recommendations. Essentially, they will create every part of the plan.

As soon as the plan is complete, the entire board of directors should be notified of the transition. They can review the plan and make recommendations to change or update it, as they deem fit. The board will also determine the funding for the transition.

This includes identifying the cost for the search, posting advertisements, and use of any platform to select and interview candidates.

Consider Hiring a Nonprofit Executive Search Firm

Instead of handling it on their own, the board may choose to relay the task to a nonprofit executive search firm.

Executive search firms are companies that comprise professional recruiters who are trained in a wide range of recruiting activities.

They can handle everything, from identifying the core responsibilities of the CEO and the qualifications needed, writing job descriptions, screening applicants, developing a candidate pool, and assessing candidates’ skills and experience.

An executive search firm can make the process of hiring a new executive director a lot easier while ensuring the quality of hire.

Administrative Preparation for Hiring a New Chief Executive

In case of immediate transition, the board should appoint an acting chief executive officer so as not to disrupt the daily activities of the organization. The interim CEO should ensure that he or she clearly understands the job description. Also, the period of his directorship should be properly laid out so as not to confuse the other members (as some may believe that the transition is complete.)

The next step is to update the administrative calendar of the organization. The outgoing CEO should make a list of all the recurring activities for the year. Additionally, he or she should make a list of all community stakeholders that the new CEO should know about.

Lastly, the outgoing CEO should document the status of his or her office, review personnel files to know if there are pending major actions, and perform complete performance reviews on all personnel before he or she leaves.

Set Criteria for Selecting the New CEO

A non-profit CEO wears many hats. In essence, this individual oversees leaders at the organization, works directly with the board of directors, and shapes the organization’s future by steering personnel in the right direction.

Furthermore, the CEO handles a wide range of responsibilities. In particular, he or she should handle board development, leadership, public relations, financial management, liaison between stakeholders, organizational development, and compliance.

Non-profit CEOS hold immense responsibility. Thus, the board should set criteria when hiring a new one.

Planning the Transition

Transition planning for executive roles requires great effort from the board. Below are some tips for leadership transition in non-profits:

  • Gain the commitment of the board and staff. Inform everyone that a transition is taking place. If there’s an interim CEO and for how long, the entire organization also needs to know.
  • Draft a timeline for the transition.
  • Ensure timely delegation of duties and authority when there is an immediate or unexpected transition or interruption in executive leadership. At the same time, cross-train current staff to minimize disruption from unexpected changes.
  • Implement thoughtful communications to support the staff and the organization during the transition process.
  • When creating a job description, it’s important to consider the new responsibilities or current needs of the organization and not simply base it on the past job descriptions.
  • The board should also decide whether or not they need to hire additional staff or leaders to ensure that the new CEO is not burdened.

Hiring and Orienting the New Chief Executive

The executive search firm can handle all these if the board chooses to work with one. Otherwise, hiring a new CEO includes advertising the position internally and externally, screening resumes, interviewing candidates, shortlisting candidates, hiring the best person for the job, and creating an offer.

However, succession doesn’t end when a new CEO is hired. A CEO transition is not the same as onboarding, which is a formal orientation program of briefings and meetings.

The next step is to develop an orientation procedure before the new CEO starts work. At this point, the board will send a letter welcoming the new CEO to the organization and furnishing him or her with a copy of the employee policies and procedures manual.

While an onboarding plan is a crucial component of the transition process, a CEO transition includes activities that take place after the new CEO takes the job.

Succession should also include the activities that take place when the new CEO takes on the job.

Even an internal promotion can benefit from a transition program. For example, most people promoted from the inside must learn to handle a level of responsibility for which they have had little preparation.


Establishing a CEO hiring plan is a task that a non-profit board should take seriously. It’s always a good idea to hire an executive search firm as these companies have the skills and expertise to hire key leadership positions. Plus, they have access to a wide pool of talent.

If the board chooses the hire a CEO on their own, they should appoint a committee to focus on the transition. The committee’s task includes updating the CEO calendar plan, creating a job description, setting criteria, and ultimately, hiring and orienting the new CEO.

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