New research from the Bridgespan Group thwarts some long-standing conventional wisdom governing founder transitions. Historically, a clean break has been billed as the best tactic to transition a founder. Bridgespan’s research suggests otherwise. Its top three takeaways were:
- Compared to the number of nonprofit boards who opted for an amicable clean break (31%), more worked out continuing roles for founders (45%). A significant majority of those who kept founders involved said the benefits made the effort and complexity worth it (75%), and nearly half of the clean break cases felt the transition would’ve gone better if the founder had retained a role.
- By measures of revenue growth, successor retention, and self-reported performance, transitions that paired a founder with their successor was the most successful transition model Bridgespan studied.
- Boards who worked to identify and clearly define roles for founders beyond their tenure positioned their organizations best for maintaining funder, board, and staff loyalty, while also giving new leaders the opportunity to benefit from the founder’s capabilities and knowledge.
These key insights are the culmination of interviews with 49 individuals at 31 organizations from a pool of several hundred organizations that had experienced founder transitions, which Bridgespan was able to identify with help from GuideStar and BoardSource. Bridgespan’s Jari Tuomala, Donald Yeh, and Katie Smith document the methodology and findings of their new research in the Spring edition of Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Among the interviewees Bridgespan tapped for the research was the leadership transition pair of Communities In Schools Founder Bill Milliken and his successor, Dan Cardinali. Prior to taking the reins as President and CEO at Independent Sector in July 2016, Cardinali led Communities In Schools for the 12 years after Milliken’s 2004 retirement from the post of chief executive. Milliken continues to serve as board Vice Chairman for Communities In Schools.
To learn more about Milliken and Cardinali’s transition model, and Bridgespan’s founder transition research overall, check out the full article.
— Daniel Cardinali (@DanCardinali) July 31, 2014