Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Ernesto Escobedo


There is a high failure rate among local community-based nonprofit human service organizations in New York State, which may lead to service gaps in communities. Increasing sustainability may reduce these gaps and allow nonprofits to continue following the first leadership transition. Using McGregor's human resource theory as the guide, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the relationship between leadership succession planning and how departure of founding leaders impacts the sustainability of nonprofits. Data were collected through interviews with 16 leaders that included departing founding leaders, successors, and 2 board members in 4 local community-based nonprofit human service organizations in New York State, regarding the impact of the founder's departure on (a) leadership, (b) motivation, (c) teamwork, (d) power balance, (e) work environment, and (f) organizational change. Interview data were inductively coded and analyzed using a thematic analysis procedure. The results yielded 4 thematic elements that contributed to successful outcomes: (a) strengthening accountability to balance power, (b) individual versus collaborative leadership to increase shared governance, (c) assessing and developing competencies to efficiently use human resources, and (d) ability to conceptualize change and plan for the future. The results of this research study may help to contribute to positive social change by offering the leaders of local community-based nonprofit human service organizations strategies to sustain their organizational culture during and following their first leadership transition, involving the departure of the founder, allowing the organizations to continue to contribute positively to the community.