A Short Note on Managing the 501: The Process of Succession
© 2014 EEASI Corporation


The Process of Succession

The acceptance of new board members and officers by the membership and volunteer work force poses similar problems in a 501 as in any corporation. The implementation of the new management program must proceed with caution, or at least restraint, in some critical cases. In particular, when the new manager is less well known and thus less popular than the outgoing manager, the new manager should lie low before effecting any change (Caplow, How to Run an Organization, Chapter one).

The risk in introducing change to a previously, apparently successful program is, in the worse case, mutiny. This is because any new manager is an unknown and their proposed program changes will be met with skepticism, especially when the previous management's program has met with no problems.

Once an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion has been established by a new comer, definite actions must be taken by the new administration to regain the confidence and trust of the previous significant contributing figures, especially the volunteers. This will require considerable time and effort, so it is best not to create distrust by acting too abruptly in the first place.

The following steps will reduce the risk of disruption, or even outright resistance, by the existing members of the organization to the new organizations programs.

First, gain a full understanding of the existing program and why it was successful, or at least appeared to be successful. It is a natural human response to resist any new program when the current program is believed to be beneficial to the organization. "We have always done it that way, so why change now" is a common mantra. This mantra can become a stonewall if new changes are not respectful of past successes. The new administration may find itself spending most of its time scrambling to resolve conflicts that never need arise, thus sapping vital energy from the organization.

Second, get to know the past manager and understand his/her decision process in implementing their program before designing any new program.

Third, show respect for success, or even apparent success. Failure to do this will engender distrust that will be hard to erase. Make all previous operatives you allies not your enemies. They know how the organization operates in detail, and in the details lies all the land mines and pitfalls of the organization's operations.

Forth, seek out the members and volunteers that you will need to rely on the most and make them your allies. Failure to do this will result in the new management having sole responsibility for all work to keep the logistics train moving, which will be VERY time consuming. In effect, the new management of two or three individuals may wind up having to do the work of ten or more previously cooperative volunteers. This will be a life consuming project that never need materialize.

Fifth, any contracts already in place should be extended on a month-to-month basis for the duration of the "honeymoon" period to give the new administration time to settle in and build the necessary bonds of trust with principle individuals that will be essential in implementing any new program.

In short, do not be in a hurry to make changes; take time to understand the status quo before acting; and build close bonds with the past administration and volunteer cadre because they are the ones who have the real knowhow to keep the organization running while you devise your plan for change. .