Job Description for Executive Director

Board Café

Job Description for Executive Director

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The Electronic Newsletter Exclusively for Members of Nonprofit Boards of Directors

Short enough to read over a cup of coffee, the Board Café offers a menu of ideas, information, opinion, news, and resources to help board members give and get the most out of board service. Co-published by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (formerly the Support Center for Nonprofit Management) and the National Center for Nonprofit Boards. Chef / Writer: Jan Masaoka. September 21, 2000. Vol. 4, No. 9., .


Does the executive director of your organization have a job description? This month's issue includes a sample one as our "main course" topic. We also wanted to thank all of you for increasing our subscriber list to more than 13,000! Please take a moment to forward Board Café to a co-worker or friend who you know is on a nonprofit board . . . and thanks, especially, to the 30 or 40 people who write us notes each issue. --Jan Masaoka



Time after time, the best fundraising tools are in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal. Whether it's a discussion piece ("Clean and Dirty Money"), advice ("Hiring a Fundraising Consultant") or How-To's ("Raising Money in a Hurry") this bi-monthly magazine is simply terrific. Published by Kim Klein (author of the classic "Fundraising for Social Change") and Stephanie Roth, subscriptions are $32/year, available (as are back issues) at or 888-458-8588. There's so much junk out there, it's a pleasure to be able to recommend something reliably good and reasonably priced.


If your organization is considering a new phone system but finds itself bewildered by the choices and confusing sales talk, a new set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the subject is available at . . . click on "phone systems."


If one of your fellow board members or a volunteer you know is an on-line auction whiz (such as someone we know who collects Negro League baseball souvenirs through eBay and Yahoo Auctions), consider holding a "virtual auction." Ask your organization's members or constituents to donate items just as they would to a live or silent auction, but instead of having an event, sell the items on-line with the checks made out to your organization. It's not as much fun as a special event, but it's less effort and a volunteer job for someone who wants to help but has an easier time navigating on the Internet than through real traffic to a meeting.


Now for this month's "Main Course" at the Board Café:


by Jan Masaoka


At a recent gathering of nonprofit CEOs (executive directors) it was amazing how many people didn't have job descriptions - and almost no one had one that had been recently updated. Too often boards only look at the executive director's job description when they're unhappy with their executive or when they're hiring a new one. If you're writing or rewriting a job description, it may be helpful to have one for comparison. I've taken my job description as executive director of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services - one of the Board Cafe's co-publishers - and made it a bit more "generic" to serve as a template. Whatever job description you use, test to see that it both provides everyday guidance for the executive director and can serve as an evaluation tool at the end of the year. AND be sure to revisit and revise the job description as the job and the organization change.

Executive Director

The Executive Director is the Chief Executive Officer of ____________. The Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors, and is responsible for the organization's consistent achievement of its mission and financial objectives.In program development and administration, the Executive Director will:

Specific committee responsibilities:

  1. Assure that the organization has a long-range strategy which achieves its mission, and toward which it makes consistent and timely progress.
  2. Provide leadership in developing program, organizational and financial plans with the Board of Directors and staff, and carry out plans and policies authorized by the board.
  3. Promote active and broad participation by volunteers in all areas of the organization's work.
  4. Maintain official records and documents, and ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
  5. Maintain a working knowledge of significant developments and trends in the field.


In communications, the Executive Director will:

  1. See that the board is kept fully informed on the condition of the organization and all important factors influencing it.
  2. Publicize the activities of the organization, its programs and goals.
  3. Establish sound working relationships and cooperative arrangements with community groups and organizations.
  4. Represent the programs and point of view of the organization to agencies, organizations, and the general public.


In relations with staff, the Executive Director will:

  1. Be responsible for the recruitment, employment, and release of all personnel, both paid staff and volunteers.
  2. Ensure that job descriptions are developed, that regular performance evaluations are held, and that sound human resource practices are in place.
  3. See that an effective management team, with appropriate provision for succession, is in place.
  4. Encourage staff and volunteer development and education, and assist program staff in relating their specialized work to the total program of the organization.
  5. Maintain a climate which attracts, keeps, and motivates a diverse staff of top quality people.


In budget and finance, the Executive Director will:

  1. Be responsible for developing and maintaining sound financial practices.
  2. Work with the staff, Finance Committee, and the board in preparing a budget; see that the organization operates within budget guidelines.
  3. Ensure that adequate funds are available to permit the organization to carry out its work.
  4. Jointly, with the president and secretary of the board of directors, conduct official correspondence of the organization, and jointly, with designated officers, execute legal documents.

Many national and local organizations are willing to share their ED job descriptions with others. It's worth a call or two to friends on other boards to see if they have good ones to share... or to encourage them to develop a job description if there isn't a recent one in place!

You are reading the BOARD CAFÉ, published monthly by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (formerly the Support Center for Nonprofit Management) and the National Center for Nonprofit Boards. CompassPoint: 500 12th St., Suite 320, Oakland, CA 94607; (phone) 415-541-9000; (fax) 415-541-7708; Silicon Valley office: 1922 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126; (phone) 408-248-9505; (fax) 408-248-9504; (e-mail) , (website) . National Center for Nonprofit Boards: 1828 L Street NW, Ste. 900 , Washington, D.C. 202-452-6262 email ; website We welcome your comments and contributions to the BOARD CAFÉ.

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