Chamber Executive Article Archive


By Sarah Melby, MLIS


Our board of directors has requested that we adopt a succession plan (for various scenarios), but we don’t quite know where to start. Can HERO help? How do we create a plan to address personnel changes, like retirement, death, serious illness and dismissal?



Yes, HERO can help! (Got a question for HERO? Email questions to

Every organization faces personnel transitions—sometimes they’re planned, and other times transitions happen unexpectedly.

Chambers of commerce without a proper plan in place aren’t alone. In fact, fewer than half of nonprofits surveyed are fully prepared for such changes, according to a 2015 study by BoardSource. The study, called Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, found that 34 percent of nonprofits surveyed have a written succession plan. (Learn more at What’s more, results of an ACCE QuickPoll, called The Chamber Professional (, found that 32 percent of respondents plan to retire by 2025. Combine that with 29 percent who said retirement by 2025 is “somewhat likely” and another 18 percent who said retirement by 2025 is “very likely,” and we have 400 chamber professionals who could be spending their days on the golf course come 2025. The time to plan is now.


  • Abdicate the throne. Who will serve as interim leader? Clarifying responsibilities — budget, media relations, human resources, emergency response, critical operations — early can release some pressure on staff and board members later.
  • Make it easy. Draft a job description for your board to use as a starting point on its hunt for a new executive. (Find sample position descriptions at Compile a list of executive search firms and platforms for posting the open position, like ACCE’s JobWatch (
  • Collect and organize. Equip your board of directors and staff with a breakdown of unmet (or in progress) goals, updated strategic plan, governance guidelines, personnel policies, financial statements and other important documents. Draft standard operating procedures for work that must be carried on after your departure.
  • Don’t ignore the money. Work to develop healthy reserves so that the organization has enough wiggle room for the interim. Plus, the organization’s new leader will appreciate starting in the black. (To get an idea of what peer chambers have in reserves, check out the Operations Survey at


The board of directors for the Billings Chamber of Commerce (Mont.) adopted a President/CEO Succession Policy & Plan in February 2016. The 11-page plan explains why a succession plan in important, outlines steps for CEO succession, defines guidelines for selecting an interim CEO, details core competencies needed for the position, suggests communications strategy and more. Check out the full plan at

Adopted in late 2015, the Succession Plan Policy for the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce (Kan.) details the plan’s purpose, types of succession plans, procedures, interim duties assignments, actions, considerations when forming a search committee and suggestions for the interview process. View the 8--page plan at


Looking for succession plan samples to use as inspiration or as a template to get you started? Samples, gathered from peers and other organizations, can be found by visiting

Additional resources, including ACCE’s CEO Hiring Toolkit and direct links to articles and more, are available at

Can’t find what you need? Or would you like to learn more about custom research and services? Email

Sarah Melby is ACCE’s director of information and research. Email Sarah at or call 703-998-3524.

HERO (Help. Expertise. Resources. Online.) is ACCE’s information repository and reference desk. Live help is available every business day. Learn more at

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