The Traits of a Great Nonprofit Executive Director
Whether you’re looking to hire your next nonprofit executive director or contemplating taking the position in a nonprofit organization, it’s vital to the success of the nonprofit company to fill the seat with a worthy and skilled leader. The best nonprofit executive directors do more than just fulfill the nonprofit executive director’s duties. Executive directors must have the drive to accomplish the goals of the organization. They must be passionate about the organization’s mission and be able to generate the same enthusiasm in other people on staff. Ideal nonprofit executive directors care more about what they can give to the nonprofit than what they get. Read on to learn more about this crucial and pivotal leader.
Executive Director Role and Responsibility
The role of a nonprofit executive director is to carry out the directives of the nonprofit’s board on the ground level. They are the hands-on leader running the daily operation of the nonprofit organization. While the specific responsibilities vary by organization, in general, the nonprofit executive director’s duties include:
- Collaborating with the nonprofit’s board to recognize, build, and execute strategic ideas to accomplish the institution’s objectives
- Finding, recruiting, training, and supporting a capable team of staff, volunteers, and fundraising professionals
- Overseeing operations to ensure compliance with regulatory and legal obligations
- Cultivating the organization’s culture and ensuring transparency and cooperation within the staff
- Developing alliances and collaborating with the nonprofit’s stakeholders, industry officials, and other community partners
- Detecting potential risks within the organization and its partnerships to protect the organization’s interests
- Identifying sources of financing and organizing fundraising efforts
- Understanding budget restraints and creating financial solutions
- Being the “face” of the organization at public events and representing it to bolster the nonprofit brand and convey the nonprofit’s message.
In addition to these practical duties, a great nonprofit executive director must possess the characteristics of a particular type of leader—traits that are hard to describe when creating the nonprofit executive director’s job description. The most effective nonprofit executive directors are natural self-starters who inherently possess the ability to motivate and lead. They’re able to generate enthusiasm and inspire other people to accomplish the organization’s goals. Because the executive director and the nonprofit board work closely together, the perfect candidate should be able to take criticism and direction without resentment or a sense of entitlement. And they should be good communicators since they serve so many constituents, including employees, the public, donors, and the nonprofit’s board of directors.
The ability to actively listen to the opinions and viewpoints of board members and staff is another crucial skill the organization’s leader needs to possess. Great leaders also are tactful and compassionate. They need sound judgment so they can explore various possibilities before arriving at the best possible outcome for the organization. Persistence is key, but also the ability to handle conflict with composure and fairness. Sound like too tall an order? Don’t worry. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find and hire a knowledgeable and strong-minded nonprofit executive director.
Stay away from candidates just looking for a large executive director’s salary or those you consider a “cheap find.” Money should be far down the list as a reason to hire a great nonprofit executive director.
Nonprofit Executive Directors Training
When filling the position of a nonprofit executive director, look for candidates with direct experience working for or serving on the board of a nonprofit—preferably one in your same industry. People who’ve held positions in nonprofits understand the unique demands of nonprofit management and know-how to make the organization more innovative and run more efficiently. The person should come to the position already knowledgeable about finance, HR, technology, marketing, sales, and administration.
Once the position is filled and the nonprofit executive director joins the team, give them an overview of your industry and your nonprofit. Look for seminars, courses, and workshops, online or in-person, so that they can learn about the latest regulations and trends. If your director has not already earned their Certified Association Executive (CAE) certificate, you can have them sign up for an official CAE study course and then sit for the exam.
At the very minimum, during the onboarding of a nonprofit executive director, you should introduce them to the various contexts of the position, any annual calendar objectives, meeting agendas, upcoming projects, introductions to key staff and partners, valuable resources. Make sure all necessary documents are signed and accessible.
Nonprofit boards often make the mistake of not informing the incoming nonprofit executive director about any internal conflicts that exist within the organization. All businesses experience conflict at one time or another, so it won’t take away from your organization’s accomplishments to make the new leader aware of any situations that need attention or resolution. You want your nonprofit executive director to initially focus on cultural improvements, broken systems, and poor performances. Don’t hand off company problems without fair warning, or you’ll be setting your new nonprofit executive director up for failure. Finally, be sure to give them an initial executive director evaluation to keep them on the right path to success. The evaluation is a great time to nip any errors in the bud and reiterate your expectations and goals.
The Benefits of a Nonprofit Line of Credit
While you’re hunting for a new director, don’t forget about your financials. Create a financing backup plan and put it into action by applying for a nonprofit line of credit from Financing Solutions. We have an excellent reputation—A+ rated by the BBB with 5-star-rated reviews, and no collateral or personal guarantees are required. It’s easy to apply (there’s a no-obligation 2-minute online application), and there aren’t any setup costs or other costs when the credit line is not in use. The credit line features an online customer web portal to request funds, track payments, and schedule payoff. Plus, the credit line can be paid off in days, weeks, or months—whenever you like. Your nonprofit business line of credit stays in place for 12 months and is easily renewed. Fill out an online application today to see what you qualify for!