How to Manage Leadership Transition During an Advancement CRM Implementation


Leadership transitions are typically high-stakes, high-tension events. When asked to rank life’s challenges in order of difficulty, the top one is “making a transition at work”—ahead of grief, divorce, and health issues, according to a McKinsey & Company report.


But the leadership transition is even more stressful if the departure is announced during a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project. If your organization has found itself in this scenario, first, take a moment to gather your thoughts.


Next, evaluate how that specific leader impacted the project tangibly and intangibly.


You can manage a leadership transition during an advancement CRM project. Here’s how.

Project Continuity

As you manage the transition of a key leader during a CRM project, you’ll first need to assess the tangible impact of the leader’s exit. Next, determine what they were bringing to the project.

  • Project governance: How did they govern the project? And is there someone who can appropriately represent the concerns of the department?
  • Project sponsor: Was that leader a project sponsor? If so, who can resume that responsibility—continuing communication and upholding the project’s vision?

For the sake of the project and continuity, the successor must be comfortable (and agree) to continue the CRM project as-is and carry out the existing vision. It would be detrimental during a CRM project if a leader were to change the vision or reroute the direction.


One intangible area to consider is the departing leader’s level of influence. Specifically, assess what they influenced, how they achieved the influence, and if replacing them is viable in an appropriate amount of time.

  • Did the exiting leader provide a level of influence over relations within the advancement? Or did they have a level of influence that repaired relations with partners outside of advancement that benefited the project? 
  • Is this level of influence replaceable by other individuals within the organization? If so, who can fulfill that role? 
  • Is it necessary to establish a strategy of more intentional collaboration or discussions with certain groups because that influence has been lost?

Change Management

A CRM project implementation requires a significant amount of change. Another intangible area to consider as you manage a leadership transition during your CRM project is the existing leader’s ability to champion change.

  • Were they key change champions that provided comfort and confidence?
  • Did they help others believe they could make the transition to the new CRM autonomously?
  • Was buy-in impacted positively because of the communication of this leader?

As you consider these change management abilities, is it something you must replace, or can you manage the loss internally—specifically, did you lose your spokesperson per se?

Decision Making

Finally, you’ll need to consider the exiting leader’s impact on decision-making as you manage the leadership transition.

  • Were they the voice of reason in intense debates on project decisions?
  • Could they be objective and synthesize information? 
  • Did they excel at helping everyone feel heard while simultaneously establishing a consensus?

Change management within the CRM implementation context is about getting users to adopt new processes and practices and the technology that supports them. One critical area of successful change management is an effective leader. Managing the transition of a key leader during a CRM implementation project may feel overwhelming, but it is possible.