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What does a Non-Profit Director do?

By K. Testa
Updated May 17, 2024
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Non-profit directors are generally responsible for the overall management and supervision of non-profit organizations. In the United States, they are often called executive directors, and their roles can be compared to that of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a for-profit business. Due to the nature of many of these organizations, however, the non-profit director may have some unique job responsibilities that are different from those of a for-profit executive.

A non-profit group’s mission statement and strategic plan often outline the duties of the director. His or her key responsibilities typically include creating and implementing policies, as well as overseeing programs. The non-profit director normally reports to a board of directors or trustees, and is directly accountable to its president or chairperson. These professionals hold meetings periodically, and the director typically updates board members on the organization’s progress. The director usually seeks feedback, and considers the board’s suggestions when deciding whether to implement new practices.

A non-profit director usually supervises other staff members and manages the organization’s day-to-day operations. He or she also oversees the budget and tries to ensure that the organization’s resources are being used effectively. A director frequently pursues fundraising opportunities, sometimes with the help of other development staff members. He or she usually is the primary representative or the 'face' of the organization. As the spokesperson, the director might engage in media relations and participate in public events.

Typically, a non-profit director has at least a college degree and extensive professional experience. Good leadership and communication skills are generally required for success in this position. A background in marketing and fundraising, accounting for non-profits, or non-profit administration could prove to be beneficial as well. For some types of groups, it might also lend credibility to the position if the director is familiar with certain issues or areas of focus. For example, the head of a charity organization, such as Habitat for Humanity, might be considered a more reliable leader if he or she has some relevant experience with housing matters.

Working conditions for a non-profit director sometimes include long hours and frequent travel. Directors often attend conferences, networking events, and educational seminars. Directors’ salaries vary widely, and normally depend on the size and scope of the non-profit organization. Leaders of large non-profits often command a high salary, for example, while a local non-profit director, with a minimal budget, might volunteer to lead the organization without any compensation.

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Discussion Comments
By Mammmood — On Mar 04, 2012

@SkyWhisperer - That’s true. That’s why the most important task for the director of nonprofit organizations is to raise money. That’s not an easy thing to do, so if you can do it, you should get at least a little remuneration.

Directors of non profits employ a variety of approaches to raising money. The most important in my opinion is something like “brand awareness,” where you start out by getting your name out in the community.

Then you can get on local radio or start doing community drives where people phone in pledges. Sometimes big business donors will offer to match pledges as well and this can result in substantial financial fundraising for the organization. The work takes a lot of tenacity, diplomacy and marketing skill too in my opinion. It’s not easy to get people to part from their money.

By SkyWhisperer — On Mar 03, 2012

The hardest thing is to lead an organization and not get paid for it in my opinion. Well they call it nonprofit for a reason I guess. I would hope that directors who choose to forego pay do so because they have other means of getting by.

Maybe they have regular “day jobs” and just do the directing on the side, but I doubt that’s how it works for most people. Volunteering at a nonprofit at this level requires a significant time commitment. Personally, I think they should receive some compensation even if it’s only minimal.

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