You already know that your staff members are your greatest asset, and you’ve got a great group of people who are passionate about your cause. That’s probably why you never want to think about that time when they might leave. But people do leave, and your organization needs to be ready to handle it.

Through my work in the nonprofit technology world, I’ve seen some bad staff transitions, and some good ones.

Some potential technology problems when a staff transition goes badly

  • The organization can lose access to data or services – Sometimes, when a person leaves, they take their username and passwords with them, leaving the remaining staff with no way to get to their email list, fundraising data, or other mission-critical pieces of information or services.
  • The organization can lose momentum on critical activities – For some organizations, the problem isn’t that they don’t have access to critical tools, but that no one except the person who has left knows how to use them. The organization then loses valuable time in figuring out how to do the tasks this person used to do, and where to receive help or training to do these things.
  • The organization can lose track of its technology strategy – If the organization’s technology strategy only lives inside a particular staff person’s head, it means that when that staff person leaves, most of the organizations strategic gains leave with them. The organization then goes back to square one in figuring out how best to leverage their technology to produce results.

How to handle staff transition well

An essential component of handling staff transition well is preparation and planning. Handling staff transition well would include:

  1. Documenting your technology and technology strategy
  2. Planning how to effectively manage the transition while it is happening
  3. Planning how to manage technology while looking for new staff
  4. Planning how to get your new staff on board and up to speed as quickly as possible.

Where to start

We’ve put together a short PDF guide for nonprofit organizations handling staff transition. It’s a great place for you to get started in managing the technology side of your staff transitions.

Update: We’ve also put together a worksheet you can use to document your technology please feel free to download the worksheet and use it to record information about technology you acquire.

I’d also like to hear from you. Based on your own experience, what steps would you recommend nonprofits take to prepare for staff transition that weren’t mentioned here?