What do Not-For-Profit Directors do?

Tess C. Taylor

In the world of social causes, non-profit organizations and charities, not-for-profit directors serve a vital function as leaders and mentors. Non profit directors design and set forth the policies and procedures that others follow within each organization. These policies are generally designed according to public policy and laws that protect the interests of the organization, the community that is served, and the cause each represents.

A not-for-profit board of directors broadly formulates the policy and activities of the non-profit organization it directs.
A not-for-profit board of directors broadly formulates the policy and activities of the non-profit organization it directs.

Not-for-profit directors are not to be confused with nonprofit officers, development managers, volunteers, paid employees, and program managers whom each serve different levels within not-for-profit organizations. While some nonprofit officers and managers do work as directors of certain programs, they generally do not direct the organization as a whole. Officers and program managers also typically do not handle the very complex legal and operational matters that not-for-profit directors do.

Another distinction that sets not-for-profit directors apart from other officers and employees in nonprofit organizations is that directors are not employees of the organization. Instead, directors are generally on the board of directors, or part of a larger charitable foundation, or part of the financial support network of the organization. While directors are responsible for the policies that the organization operates under, they operate as part of a group of other leaders who oversee the running of the not-for-profit entity.

In many cases, not-for-profit directors obtain leadership positions within the organization in two ways. The first being that the director contributes a large sum of money or other resources to fund the activities of the organization, either during its founding or in times of need. The second way a not-for-profit director achieves this status in the organization is to be nominated and voted in by other members of the board of directors during a time when the organization is being formed or is growing.

The role of the not-for-profit director can often be a challenging one because non profits do not operate under the same rules that profit-generating businesses do. These organizations typically do not measure their success in terms returns on investments, stock increases, or sales figures. The director must be able to provide other means by which to determine the success of the organization, such as the number of successful program launches, fundraising campaigns and legislation gains that come about as a result of the leadership of the board of directors.

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