Reading the job description for an Executive Director position for a nonprofit can create panic and fear in many candidates. The list of responsibilities includes everything from strategic planning, fundraising, daily operations, training & developing staff, community outreach, networking, oral and written communications, board training and development, accounting, marketing, and public presentations, to name a few.
Over the years, and with the challenging economic times, Executive Directors are being asked to do more and more. While it’s important that an Executive Director has a variety of skills, it’s equally important that the Executive Director is effective. Functioning as the leader of the Implementation side of the organization (the Board of Directors functioning as the visionary and decision-making side of the organization), the Executive Director’s success lies with his or her ability to maximize resources and successfully delegate.
Partnering with Board Members in developing a solid strategic plan for the growth and sustainability of the organization is also crucial. This partnership fosters support for Executive Directors in making decisions in the daily operations of the organization, like hiring consultants to perform ancillary duties such as payroll, grant writing, and marketing.
The primary duty of the Executive Director is to manage the organization. A wise leader will do an awesome job of getting its board to support him or her in funding roles so that he or she is freed up to manage. Often times the Executive Director is so bogged down trying to do it all that he or she gets stuck in the weeds dealing with the details that the high level managing can’t get done. An effective Executive Director is one that ensures the movement of the organization. i.e., elements of the strategic plan that s/he worked with the Board to develop are being implemented, goals are being accomplished, and partnerships are being formed to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure and reach.
Ultimately, the daily operations, i.e., the successful implementation of programs and services, are the responsibility of the Executive Director. Funding is the driving force behind successful daily operations. And while the Executive Director plays an important role in tying all the fundraising efforts into a cohesive and successful strategic plan, it is important to note that this task is best accomplished by the Executive Director managing the effort vs. doing it all. Managing the effort frees up the Executive Director to think farther down the road to accomplish goals that lead to sustainable programs and services. Being tied down to the here and now minutia prevents the Executive Director from successfully fulfilling his or her role of managing the daily operations.