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Key points:

  • Handovers are a vital way to ensure charity continuity, to properly manage change, and to prevent the loss of key charity knowledge.
  • Handovers are especially important for small charities given that the loss of knowledge held by a single person will have a much bigger impact on the charity.
  • Your charity should ensure vital information is passed on during the handover, then incorporated in the induction process for the newcomer to further clarify their role and responsibilities.
  • This process should be carried out in a thoughtful, orderly way so new arrivals are equipped to do the job without suffering from information overload.
  • A guide or checklist can help your charity through the handover process.

Having a handover process for when a board member, volunteer, staff member or other key personnel leave your charity is important because it:

  • allows you to complete a smooth transition through a period of change
  • ensures valuable organisational knowledge is not lost, and passed on effectively
  • helps newcomers to hit the ground running.

Any role in your charity that involves some level of responsibility and institutional knowledge should be subject to a handover process.

For small charities, handovers are even more crucial.

Small charities are far more likely to have important knowledge or numerous roles shared among fewer people. If any of these people leave the organisation and handovers are not conducted properly, the impact of the lost knowledge can be devastating.

A handover can be viewed as a combined briefing and training session – a 'passing of the torch' which enables the newcomer to operate at maximum effectiveness from the start.

Key documents and information featured in your charity’s handover should be ready to go ahead of time. Handovers should involve both a face-to-face conversation and written document.

Your charity’s handover process should work hand-in-hand with its induction for incoming board members, staff or volunteers.

In fact, the best handover can be viewed as a key introductory step in your charity’s induction process.

The information and material conveyed during handover should build a solid foundation upon which your more structured and detailed induction process occurs.

Your charity should prepare handover materials well in advance. This should include written notes:

  • describing the key responsibilities of the outgoing person
  • detailing their day-to-day tasks and duties
  • looking at key systems or applications they use, as well as major projects they look after
  • sharing contact numbers, passwords, charity access information (to bank accounts, for example)
  • explaining how to sign up to and use the ACNC Charity Portal.

Of course, for small charities, where a smaller number of people are likely to carry a larger number of responsibilities, these written notes might be quite extensive and lengthy. If so, double-check them to ensure you haven't overlooked anything, even if it appears to be minor.

This information should be handed over in an orderly way – document the process or work through a checklist.

The handover should also see your new arrival meet face-to-face with the person leaving your charity. Have them spend time together – even consider having your new arrival come in early and ‘shadow’ the person they are taking over from.

It is important that the person leaving your charity knows that they will have a role to play in any handover process for their role.

That way, if someone from your organisation announces their exit, they can play an active role in the handover process.

Your charity shouldn’t have someone leave without ensuring the knowledge and vital information they have is passed on.

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