Handing Over Leadership

Last updated April 3, 2023

Image: EA UCT (University of Cape Town)

Groups thrive when they’re led by committed, talented, and hardworking organizers. If they’re not handed off to enthusiastic and competent people when organizers leave, the group may become less active or go entirely defunct. Succession problems are a frequent killer of good groups.

This is a particular problem for uni groups, which are robbed of organizers every time one graduates. Good leadership handovers don’t always happen automatically–so here are some tips to make your handover go smoothly. These are mostly written with uni groups in mind, but some will also be of use to city groups.


Suggested Resources/Templates

You can draw inspiration or use these resources/templates to help you recruit, vet, and onboard new leaders of your group:

Preparing for Leadership Succession Early

Long before you are in a position to decide on a successor, you can take steps to ensure you have a large pool of candidates to choose from when the time comes. University students should focus on recruiting first-year students so your members don’t all graduate at the same time. Let promising younger students take over responsibilities gradually in order to give them more leadership experience and get a better understanding of their fit for group leadership. You can also mentor someone to become your successor.

Even if you're not a university student, you can still focus on outreach to new members, and get existing members involved so they can get familiar with how the organization works.

Consider Leadership Transitions in your Committee Structure

Some uni groups have chosen to design their committee structure to help transitions. Here are some examples:

How to Select your Successor

Choose next year’s leadership early—ideally at least 2-3 months before you hand over responsibilities to them. Be sure that they have a solid understanding of EA and of the group’s purpose. 

If possible, choose someone who is familiar with the existing community and who has already helped you organize the group in some capacity.

What if you can't find a good leader to pass on the group to?

Sometimes, when organizers are graduating or leaving, they may end up not finding one or more interested people to take over in leading the group. It can be sad for your group to become inactive, but this does happen. 

It is also likely better for a group to be inactive than to be led by a leader who is not fit to lead and organize the group, as they may give people a wrong and/or negative impression of EA. A better organizer may also come along later on and restart the group.

If your group cannot find an interested organizer and will become inactive (e.g. your group will stop organizing events), you can notify CEA's Groups Team at groups@centreforeffectivealtruism.org. We can mark your group as inactive in our database and on the EA Forum, and we'll be on the lookout for if someone wants to restart the group there in the future.

The Handover Period

How to Write Handover/Onboarding Documents

When possible, make handover document/s to explain in writing what your successors will need to know to run the group in your absence, or onboarding document/s for new organizers to know when joining your leadership team. 

This is particularly important if your group’s committee is changing substantially, but it may not be as crucial when the new committee has been thoroughly involved. Make the document as readable as possible (e.g. by having bullet points instead of long paragraphs), so that your successors will be more likely to use them.

If multiple organizers are handing over their responsibilities, encourage them to each write their own sections for the document, and include everyone’s contact details so that successors can ask for further information.

Example Handover/Onboarding Documents

Each group will have different requirements for their handover documents, but these documents may act as useful models:

From university groups

From national groups

Potential Inclusions in a Handover Document

Further Resources