Different circumstances for worker departures will require different approaches for the transition. Let’s look first at possible reasons for worker transitions.

Worker Transitions

Click the plus sign for more information about each reason for transition.

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Life circumstances

The worker leaves the organization for personal reasons unrelated to their current job. Reasons may include retirement, deciding to become a stay-at-home parent, going back to school, or moving to another town to support a spouse’s new opportunity.

Lack of advancement opportunities or recruited away

The worker is ready for a new challenge, and the organization lacks a suitable opportunity. Many nonprofits are small and lack a “career ladder,” which can lead workers to move to another organization to step up to the next level of responsibility and pay.

In some cases, a great opportunity arises that causes the worker to leave, even if they were not actively job searching.

Not a good fit or difficult workplace

The worker realizes the position they are in or the workplace culture is not a good fit. The job may not align with their strengths and aptitudes, desired working conditions, or lifestyle.

There are times when the organization can have significant dysfunction, poor working conditions, very low compensation, inequitable treatment, or other factors that drive workers away.

Staff restructuring or changes in the demands of the position

A nonprofit’s staffing needs can change over time, and positions may be eliminated or restructured. The worker is not a good match for available positions remaining.


The worker is unable to perform their job duties, and they may be fired (more about this later in the chapter.)

Organizational viability

If a nonprofit simply does not have funds to pay its current workers, leadership may make the difficult decision to reduce the number of workers. Adjustments of this type can be partial, such as reducing hours of some or all workers, temporarily furloughing workers, or permanent layoffs of workers.

When a worker transition comes up, there are several factors to consider.

  • How quickly will the transition happen?
  • Is the parting amicable? Is the worker motivated to leave on positive terms and/or ensure the mission can continue with minimal disruption?
  • To what extent do other people in the organization understand the worker’s job? Can another worker fill in or help to train a successor?
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