August 22, 2010; Source: The Statesman | Executive directors leave their nonprofit posts for a lot of reasons, and when it isn’t for another job, they often cite plans to retire, try consulting, or sign up for a government post. When these changes happen without the luxury of a succession plan in place, organizations can find themselves in an unsettled and uncomfortable situation.

“There can be a lot of anxiety around the transition for the staff and board,” said Tara Kirkland, director of consulting services for Greenlights, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit that provides business and program support to charities. “You really need someone who can be that port in the storm and really manage through that.”

Kirkland’s group places former executive directors in temporary roles as heads of local nonprofits with a leadership vacancy. The new employers typically pay their interim executive director with funds that already had been budgeted for his or her predecessor and they usually stay in temporary command for between four to six months.

Greenlights came to the rescue of the SIMS Foundation in mid-2009. The group, which provides low-cost mental health care for musicians, had been without an executive director for five months, and during that time its board chair tried to play that role. But Mark Grossman finally had to give it up when it became too much to handle. “At that time, I’d had a baby that was born five weeks early,” he said. “I had a car in the shop. I had my own business. It was a lot of burden on me.”

Thanks to Greenlight, an interim executive director was installed, giving the board time to recruit a permanent replacement. According to the Austin American Statesman, SIMS hired Tricia Forces almost a year after its previous executive director had resigned. Stories like that show that Greenlight prevents nonprofits from seeing red.—Bruce Trachtenberg