The Importance of Volunteer Succession Planning

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Volunteer turnover is a common challenge that many organizations face, which can disrupt operations and hinder long-term goals. To address this issue, volunteer succession planning has emerged as a crucial strategy to ensure the seamless transition of responsibilities from one volunteer leader to another.

Understanding Volunteer Succession Planning

Volunteer succession planning involves identifying and developing potential volunteers who can assume leadership roles within an organization when current volunteers step down. It aims to minimize the negative impact of turnover by providing a structured process for identifying, recruiting, and training new volunteers. By creating a pipeline of skilled individuals, organizations can ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities and maintain their mission-driven work even when key volunteers move on.


  • Continuity: Succession planning ensures the continuity of organizational operations, preventing disruptions caused by sudden departures or gaps in volunteer leadership. By having trained and prepared successors in place, nonprofits can maintain their momentum and continue to serve their beneficiaries without interruption.
  • Institutional Knowledge Preservation: Volunteers often accumulate significant institutional knowledge, including best practices, contacts, and lessons learned. Through succession planning, this knowledge can be effectively transferred to incoming volunteers, preventing valuable insights from being lost and allowing new volunteers to build upon the organization’s past successes.
  • Enhanced Volunteer Engagement: A robust succession planning process demonstrates an organization’s commitment to volunteer development and growth. Volunteers are more likely to feel valued and engaged when they see opportunities for advancement within the organization. This can lead to increased retention rates and a stronger sense of ownership and dedication among volunteers.
  • Improved Organizational Sustainability: Succession planning ensures that organizations are prepared for future leadership transitions. By identifying and grooming potential leaders in advance, nonprofits can maintain a strong leadership pipeline, reducing the risk of a leadership vacuum and promoting the organization’s long-term sustainability.

Implementation a Volunteer Succession Plan

  • Identify Key Roles: Identify critical volunteer positions requiring succession planning. These may include board members, committee chairs, project leads, or specialized skill positions. Understand the skills, knowledge, and experience required for each role to guide the selection and development of potential successors.
  • Develop a Succession Plan: Create a comprehensive plan that outlines the steps and timeline for succession planning. Define the recruitment process, the training and development activities for successors, and the transition process for outgoing volunteers. Establish clear criteria for selecting potential successors, considering factors such as commitment, skills, and compatibility with the organization’s culture.
  • Recruit and Train Volunteer Leaders: Actively recruit individuals who have the potential to fill key roles in the future. Seek out existing volunteers or engage in targeted outreach to attract new volunteers with the desired skills and interests. Provide training and mentorship opportunities to prepare successors for their future responsibilities, ensuring they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed.
  • Transition and Knowledge Transfer: Facilitate a smooth transition by creating opportunities for outgoing volunteers to share their knowledge, experiences, and contacts with their successors. Encourage regular communication and collaboration between outgoing and incoming volunteers to ensure a seamless transfer of responsibilities.
  • Continuously Evaluate and Adjust: Regularly review and update the succession plan to align with the organization’s changing needs. Assess the effectiveness of the program by measuring the success of transitions and evaluating volunteer satisfaction and engagement. Make adjustments as necessary to improve the process and address any gaps or challenges.

Volunteer succession planning is a critical component of nonprofit organizational management. By proactively identifying, training, and preparing volunteers to assume leadership roles, organizations can ensure continuity, preserve institutional knowledge, enhance volunteer engagement, and improve long-term sustainability. By implementing effective succession planning strategies, nonprofits can navigate volunteer turnover with confidence, maintaining their mission-driven work and making a lasting impact in their communities.

🧡 what you just read? Be sure to subscribe to the Good POINT Blog using the form below, or share our post with your colleagues! Are you curious how POINT can level up your volunteer program? Book a free, live demo with our team!

Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.