Key Areas of Responsibility for a Nonprofit Executive Director

What to Know About the Role of a Nonprofit Executive Director 

Whether you are a new or aspiring nonprofit executive director (ED) or a board member considering hiring your first ED, it is essential to be clear about what the role entails. It’s common for nonprofit boards to hire an ED when they only really need administrative support. As a result, this leads to goal and role misalignment and, therefore, dysfunction within the organization.

The role of ED will look slightly different in every organization, but there are some fundamental parts of the job that are likely transferable to most nonprofits. Here are a few key areas of responsibility.


All organizational stakeholders see the ED as the most visible and concrete embodiment of what the organization is about. As a result, the ED must model good behavior. He/she should be able to articulate the vision, mission, and overall strategy and direction of the organization. The ED must be enthusiastic and optimistic to drive volunteer and employee engagement forward.

Board Support and Development

The board owns the nonprofit corporation. The ED works in partnership with them and for them. The ED should work to build alignment, while also maintaining role clarity. He/she should help build, sustain, and strengthen all board functions like meetings, policy adherence, and committee work.

Fund Development

Fundraising is an important part of a nonprofit organization, and the ED will be responsible for all fundraising actions. The ED should be involved in solicitations of major donors and foundations or create the conditions for fundraising success within the organization. He/she should work to train the board and staff along with instituting the right software and tools to succeed.

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