Funding Through Leadership Transitions

One CEO, for 20 years head of a training center for community leaders and now about to retire, said that he had started to see funders hesitate to commit to their usual grants to his organization. He called it the “worst possible response” to an outgoing CEO. After hearing the story, the grantmaker considered what he was describing and had to admit that “we were right in there with everybody else,” planning to see who the new CEO would be before promising support.

Realizing how damaging that response could be, the foundation began to alter its behavior, making the grants it had always made to organizations as they faced leadership transitions and advising other funders to do the same. The grantmaker reflected on her changed perspective: “We’ve always tended to take a wait-and-see position when there’s an incoming executive director,” she observed, “but as soon as funds are withheld, it inhibits the new leader and the organization from showing what it can do. My message to funders is to make the leap of faith. Assume that, whatever the organization has been doing they will continue to do. You may decide a year later that that’s not the case, but if all of us withhold our funding, there isn’t a chance.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Executive Transitions.