Honor Exiting Leaders


Often leadership transition is perceived as a time of weakness. Organizations can turn weakness into strength with the right plan and dedicated leadership effort. How can organizations use transition to build a foundation that propels the mission forward?

During a leadership transition, supporters want to show their support for the transiting leader.  Creating a fund in the transitioning leader’s honor will provide the opportunity for staff, volunteers, past clients, and community partners, to honor the transiting leader for their service and legacy. Additionally, transitioning leaders often find it difficult to leave particularly if they are founders. Creating the fund will help them move forward into their next life chapter by quantifying their work and increasing the organization’s  financial strength.

How do leaders’ develop the fund’s theme and announce the opportunity? Leaders and staff with strong connections to the transitioning leader should ask themselves, what was the transitioning leader’s passion? What was the part of her work that always made her eyes light up? The meeting she would never say no to even when she was already over committed. The law she was instrumental in advocating for.

Once leaders develop the theme, create a fundraising goal and levels connected to the fund. Fundraising is always more effective when there is a goal and urgency surrounding the campaign. Supporters don’t want to let the transitioning leader down. Use the number of years the organization has been in existence and the number of years the leader has been a part as giving milestones. Develop levels connected to the program the fund will support. How many people have directly benefited from the program? What is the need? How much does it cost to provide services to one client?


Although this is something the transiting leader feels most passionately about, the most effective ask will not come from her but from other organization leaders. The board should start the campaign internally with an individual gift from each board member. Then board members reach out to major donors and foundations that were instrumental in the work’s success or strongly connected to the leader.

Plan a public kickoff announcing the fund during a large event in honor of the transitioning leader. Highlight their accomplishments, emphasize the importance of the program, and plan for future efforts supported by the fund.  Before and after the event, use social media channels to highlight and raise additional funds. For example, celebrate past success stories on a new blog and on the organization’s Facebook page. Ask other organizations to pledge their support creating a community movement and an urgency to continue this work for the long-term.

During transition many organizations experience a dip in fundraising while new leaders build relationships with major donors and  develop their personal ask. Organizations can avoid this dip by not only celebrating the transitioning leader but introducing the new leader. We will explore this best practice in the next blog post.


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