New Book Gives Nonprofits a Proven Approach to Managing Leadership Turnovers

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Leadership transitions are stressful and time-consuming for any organization. On the other hand, an executive turnover offers unique opportunities for renewal and fresh thinking. Managing Executive Transitions, Tim Wolfred’s new book, gives nonprofits a proven process that enables them to handle this major event in a way that prevents problems and seizes opportunities for positive change and greater mission impact.

Affordable guidance and proven tools to help nonprofit manage leadership transitions

A leadership transition is a pivotal moment—an opportunity for transformation. When the director leaves, things become a bit unglued. This unglued state gives board and staff a chance to put things back together in new and creative ways, to let go of some old pieces, and to bring in fresh elements.

A new book by executive transition expert Tim Wolfred guides nonprofits through what can be a daunting time—a change in leadership. Managing Executive Transitions: A Guide for Nonprofits helps boards and executive directors handle leadership turnovers in a way that prevents problems and sets the organization on a path for long-term success.

A majority of nonprofit boards will be faced with executive transitions in the near future. According to CompassPoint’s national survey of two thousand executive directors in 2006, 75 percent of them planned to leave their jobs in five years or less. In addition, baby boomers, who came into the nonprofit sector in big numbers in the 1960s and 1970s, will be retiring. Many of these individuals were the founding executives of their agencies.

Yet, many nonprofit boards are unprepared. Too often they push ahead with a typical hiring process. “Executive transitions involve more than simple recruiting,” explains Wolfred. “A leadership transition is a pivotal moment—an opportunity for transformation. When the director leaves, things become a bit unglued. This unglued state gives board and staff a chance to put things back together in new and creative ways, to let go of some old pieces, and to bring in fresh elements.”

Managing Executive Transitions encourages a transformational process with three phases: Prepare, Pivot, and Thrive.

  •      In the Prepare phase board members, staff, volunteers, and funders engage in an efficient process for updating the agency's strategic directions and crafting a profile of the skills needed in the next executive. The organization also identifies the major constraints that hold it back from achieving its strategic vision and sets goals for addressing them.
  •      In the Pivot phase a search ensues, conducted by a board reinvigorated and excited about the agency's future impact. Staff takes the first steps toward resolving identified constraints.
  •      In the Thrive phase the board engages the newly hired executive as a leadership partner and gives him or her clear performance priorities derived from the strategic directions.

The guide’s process, case studies, and hands-on tools—including planning agendas, timelines, sample letters, and communication tips—are based on the experience of CompassPoint’s team of transition consultants. The team has helped over 300 nonprofits think through their goals and find the executive that fit that future. “We wanted to share what we know,” says Wolfred, “especially with medium-sized and smaller nonprofits that need affordable guidance and proven tools to help them manage these transitions.”

Even if a board has the resources to hire outside help, Managing Executive Transitions will help it gain an advance perspective on how to manage leadership turnovers in ways that can heighten mission impact while avoiding potential downsides. Ultimately, a well-done transition builds excitement for the future of an agency and draws resources to its programs.

About the Book
Managing Executive Transitions: A Guide for Nonprofits
by Tim Wolfred, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services
$29.95 (Discounts available on bulk orders)
7” x 10” softcover, 184 pages
ISBN 978-0-940069-57-2
Order no. 069572
Published June 2009

About the Author
Before founding the Executive Transitions program at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in 1997, Tim Wolfred served sixteen times as interim executive director of San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits. He is a coauthor of Daring to Lead and Daring to Lead 2006, and he is the author of Interim Executive Directors: The Power in the Middle and Building Leaderful Organizations: Succession Planning for Nonprofits.

About CompassPoint Nonprofit Services
CompassPoint Nonprofit Services is a nonprofit consulting, education, and research organization with offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, California. Through a broad range of services and initiatives, CompassPoint serves nonprofit volunteers and staff with the tools and strategies to shape change in leadership, nonprofit strategy, finance, fundraising, governance, and executive transition management. CompassPoint also publishes books, articles and research reports. For more information, visit

About the Publisher
Fieldstone Alliance (formerly part of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation) publishes practical books—with a focus on nonprofit effectiveness, funder effectiveness, and community building. Fieldstone Alliance also provides in-depth consulting expertise to help organizations, collaboratives, networks, and intermediaries with organizational assessment, management planning, stakeholder analysis, and implementation of capacity-building efforts to increase results and impact. Web visitors will find many free reports on a variety of nonprofit and community development issues and back issues of “Tools You Can Use,” a monthly e-newsletter which contains management tools and ideas from FA books. Visit:

Review Copies
A review copy of this (or any other) Fieldstone Alliance book is available for the asking! Contact Becky Andrews.

Contact Information
For the author:
Tim Wolfred is available for interviews and speaking engagements.
(415) 541-9000

For the publisher:
Becky Andrews, Marketing Manager
Fieldstone Alliance


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