If you take a quick look around you will see a growing trend of baby boomer executives leaving their positions. Delayed by the 2008-2009 recession, the pace is picking up. And now it is the Community Foundation’s turn.

Nancy Kieling, President, Princeton Area Community Foundation

Nancy Kieling, President, Princeton Area Community Foundation

Transition is a time of change, challenges, grieving, and new beginnings. What does it feel like, and how is the Community Foundation managing, you ask? It is still early in our process, but here is what we are learning.

For me, after 20 years at the helm it is a good time to step back, take a deep breath, consider new opportunities, and enjoy a more open calendar. With my departure still nine months away, my focus remains on my work, and I have yet to really confront the personal losses that will accompany my leaving after so many years of work with a wonderful organization and community and the people, now friends, that make them great. Come January 1, I will say farewell, but never good-bye.

Equally important is my belief that 20 years is a good run by any standard, and the organization will benefit greatly from new leadership, a fresh perspective, and a well-chosen skill set for the future. The Community Foundation’s long term success is my # 1 priority.

For any organization changing its leadership, a clear roadmap for the next several years and an honest assessment of organizational culture are key building blocks. This spring the Board and staff are considering the Community Foundation’s future. Like the 47 organizations working through our Path to Impact project, we too completed a CCAT assessment and are using the results to focus our attention on our programmatic priorities, important in their own right, and key to hiring the right new leader.

The Community Foundation board adopted a Succession Policy in 2013, a blueprint for the process of change. It calls for a Transition Committee of “…at least five and no more than seven members with a majority trustees. Ideally these board members will represent past, present, and prospective future leaders of the board.” Appointed quickly after the announcement of my retirement, this group of talented and committed individuals will soon appoint a search firm to help in the hiring of a new CEO. I will not be part of that process except for providing information when asked. A departing leader needs to step away from planning a future of which they will not be a part. My colleagues here know that there is nothing I won’t do to ensure a smooth succession. We all understand that hanging on to the past by any of us will not move the Community Foundation forward – and a robust future is our shared goal.

We’ll talk more about these issues as the year progresses. Future blogs will share perspectives from our Board, staff, and Transition Committee. Assuming our experience can be helpful to others, we’re happy to share what we discover.