Communication, planning key to successful succession for nonprofits

SOUTHFIELD – The key to executive succession at nonprofits is communication, according to the latest edition of Lawrence Technological University’s Executive-to-Executive Speaker Series.

Scott Landry, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, and Jim Nicholson, president and CEO of PVS Chemicals Inc. and a YMCA board member emeritus, shared their ideas about nonprofit leadership with about 80 attendees in a program called “Succession Planning: It’s more complicated than you think.”

Both men advised nonprofits to think about succession planning on an ongoing basis, and for board members to have a deep understanding of the operations and fundraising of their nonprofit. They should also be in regular contact with staffers at the nonprofit, not just the CEO. To do otherwise, Landry said, is “board malpractice.”

Jim Nicholson

“You have to be actively involved, you have to have drunk the Kool-Aid,” Nicholson said. “You have to understand where the cash comes from and where the cash goes.”

They said nonprofits can use a CEO transition as an opportunity to change the focus of a nonprofit – from survival mode to growth mode, for instance – and that succession planning must take into account an organization’s legacy.

Also, Nicholson cautioned, too often boards hire a great CEO, then underfund the organization so they can’t hire equally good people at the next level down. The CEO should not be doing the job of six people, Nicholson said.

He also cautioned nonprofits not to rush their succession planning or CEO searches, and to be willing to enlist outside help.

Scott Landry

The next events in the Executive-to-Executive Series will take place Tuesday, Feb. 13 and Tuesday, March 13 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at LTU’s Science Building Auditorium, 21000 W. 10 Mile Road, Southfield.

The Feb. 13 speaker is Sherri Welch, senior reporter covering nonprofits at Crain’s Detroit Business. The topic will be “Nonprofits and the Media: An insider’s view.”

The March 13 speaker is Raj Patel, cybersecurity practice leader at Plante Moran. The topic is “Do you know your organization’s security measures, and will they withstand an attempted hack?”

The series is sponsored by the accounting and advisory firm Plante Moran LLC, along with the Michigan Nonprofit Association, Blender Consulting Group, the McGregor Fund, and the Center for Nonprofit at LTU.

For more information on the events, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.