But it doesn’t have to be. The definitions vary, but essentially, the idea of a legacy is leaving something for the future (specifically, the future you are connected to).
Most of us think about our legacy at some point in life. For some of us it is intentional and early in life and well-thought-out. For others, it’s casual or accidental. For some it’s shared with others, and for some it’s held close and private.
Those of us who are committed to the nonprofit world, as volunteers, board members, or staff, should think about the legacy we’ll leave. We probably don’t think about our service as “leaving a legacy.” But we should. Our commitment leaves a mark on the agency as we devote our time, talent, and treasure, and the results of our good work also leaves a mark on us. It’s a wonderful two-way legacy.
If we want those legacies to be strong and powerful, it is important for us to think about what happens to all our good works when we’re no longer there. Who will take over where we leave off? What will that person do with (and to!) all our good work? Will what we leave behind survive long after we’re gone? Or will it disappear as soon as we leave?
So, whether you’re a volunteer or a board member or a staff member – and especially if you’re an executive director/CEO, it’s imperative that you help with succession planning. Clarify what happens after you’re gone before you’re gone, by engaging in the planning necessary to make certain that the good work you’ve done continues and that your legacy lives on.
I hope you’ll be intentional about what you leave. That will serve you more fully and serve those you leave your legacy to purposefully.