The news of a C-suite executive’s pending departure can shock an organization and its entire stakeholder community. If an executive is considering leaving, it’s often already too late for intervention. The key to any effective retention strategy is proactivity. The only way to know if your executives plan to stay, is to ask. Nonprofit HR’s 2019 Talent Retention Practices Survey found that only 30% of organizations use the stay interview while the great majority, 88%, stand by exit interviews. These percentages are even lower for C-suite executives, as many simply don’t know where to begin the conversation. Stay interviews are a proactive way of gaining insight and reiterating value, while increasing engagement and promoting retention. Conducting an honest, direct, and substantive stay interview with vital employees can, at times, save an organization.  

 These seven questions will help your C-suite leader share some of their greatest concerns. A 20-minute conversation with your executives can make a difference in the future of your organization.  

1. How significant is this role to the legacy of you career?

2. How connected are you to the strategic goals of this organization as set forth by this organization?

3. Let’s talk resources. Do you have what you need to meet the board’s expectations?

4. If time and resources were not a limitation, what new trends are you seeing that our mission can impact?

5. How would you assess the strengths of your colleagues?

6. Share a time that made you reconsider your decision to come here?

7. What could someone offer you to make you leave us? 

What gets shared during stay interviews can be sensitive and sometimes require follow up conversations to remedy any major concerns. Following up with your executives afterward and providing appropriate action steps is also key. This approach reinforces the organization’s commitment to them as a key stakeholder. It is important not to use what is shared by executives against them after the stay interview process. That undermines the nature of the process – remember the goal is to increase engagement and to better understand their long-term plans with the organization. 

Whether launching a search to replace a retiring executive or seeking thought-partnership on implementing your succession plan during an untimely transition, you will need a tried strategy. Nonprofit HR’s executive search team partners with hundreds of organizations to help them fill highly-visible and critical roles.

Myra T. Briggs
Executive Search Consultant
Nonprofit HR


Nonprofit HR serves both nonprofit executives and the organizations who need them to pave the way to the future. Schedule a mini-consult with Myra Briggs to discuss your executive search needs.