The Role of an Executive Director of a Non-Profit Organization

By Nichole Hoskins

The executive director of a nonprofit has numerous duties, the most important of which is carrying out the mission of the organization. Strong nonprofit organizations have executive directors who understand the broad role and perform it well. The most effective directors are involved in all aspects of organizational management including human resources, financial management, day-to-day duties, and overall operations.

Operational Duties

While the responsibilities of executive directors can vary from organization to organization, overseeing an organization’s different departments is a duty that all executive directors share. A director might also hire key management staff, maintain a positive relationship with the board of directors, and implement fundraising strategies and goals.

Human Resources

A nonprofit executive director is ultimately responsible for the management of the organization's human resources operations. Depending on the size of the organization, the executive director might supervise a team of managers or have direct involvement with the entire staff. An executive director might also create job descriptions for staff positions, design evaluation tools and recruit managers. The executive director also establishes the overall environment for the office and ensures that each department supports the desired atmosphere.

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Accountability to Board of Directors

A nonprofit can thrive when both the board of directors and the executive director are committed to a common vision for the organization. It is important, therefore, for the board and the executive director to have a successful working relationship. The board selects the executive director and has the authority to terminate his employment. The board evaluates the director's performance and has the duty to guarantee that the executive director is guiding the nonprofit properly and protecting its mission.

Fundraising and Financial Management

Among the most important responsibilities of the executive director is determining how the organization will generate and spend its funds. Because raising funds and managing them wisely is key to the overall survival of a nonprofit, the executive director is likely the person responsible for developing a fundraising plan and implementing it. This responsibility includes creating an annual budget for the nonprofit and ensuring that all funds raised are used to further the organization's mission.

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