Career Development

Executive Director Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Executive directors are in charge of a range of human services or community-based organizations. They oversee the work of their organizations and, along with their teams, develop and implement long-term goals to guide the future direction of their organizations.

Executive directors are in charge of a range of human services or community-based organizations. They oversee the work of their organizations and, along with their teams, develop and implement long-term goals to guide the future direction of their organizations.

These types of jobs can be found at private foundations, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, and other similar types of groups. Some executive directors head small organizations with fewer than a handful of employees while others oversee hundreds or even thousands across multiple locations.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an executive director and what it takes to become one yourself.

Executive Director Job Duties

Executive directors typically perform the following duties:

  • Managing and maintaining day to day operations such as staffing, purchasing supplies and materials, and managing finances
  • Coordinating the overall strategic plan for the organization and implementing strategies for long term growth
  • Monitoring progress towards goals and identifying areas of improvement to increase efficiency
  • Planning fundraising events such as auctions or galas to meet current and future budgets
  • Developing marketing campaigns that will effectively reach target audiences in order to increase awareness of the organization
  • Scheduling volunteers to provide services in communities
  • Training staff on organizational policies and procedures in order to ensure all employees are following procedures correctly
  • Interacting with donors, board members, volunteers, community organizations, etc. on a regular basis in order to build relationships with key stakeholders

Executive Director Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for executive directors is $130,108. The highest earners of the profession earn more than $256,000 per year.

The number of executive directors in the United States is expected to decline over the next decade. With a greater emphasis on cost-cutting, organizations will be more likely to replace full-time employees with contract workers who can be hired as needed.

Executive Director Job Requirements

The requirements for executive directors are as follows:

Education: An undergraduate degree in business administration, management, or a related field is often required. Some employers prefer candidates with an advanced degree such as a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).

Experience: Executive directors typically have many years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Most organizations require that their executive directors have extensive experience in fundraising and/or program development.

Certifications & Licenses: Executive directors are not required to hold any specific certification or license to work in this role, but many have earned one or more credentials. Some certificates that are popular in the nonprofit sector include Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and Certified Grant Professional (CGP)

Executive Director Skills

Executive directors must possess the following skills:

Leadership skills: An executive director is responsible for managing a team of employees and overseeing an organization’s day-to-day operations.

Interpersonal skills: Executive directors must be able to communicate well with staff members, donors, and other stakeholders.

Problem-solving skills: Executive directors must be able to solve problems quickly in order to maintain smooth operations.

Organizational skills: Executive directors must have excellent organizational skills in order to juggle their many responsibilities effectively.

Financial management skills: These are necessary for handling budgets and expenditures for an organization.

Public speaking skills: Public speaking is a requirement for this job because executive directors give presentations and make speeches at events. They also speak publicly about their organizations’ work and achievements.

Executive Director Work Environment

Executives and directors usually have a comfortable environment. They may work long hours, however, and their jobs can be stressful as they often deal with difficult or high-powered situations. As a result, they need good interpersonal skills to build rapport with others at work as well as in social situations.

Although executive directors work in offices, they are generally required to travel frequently to attend meetings, conferences, network, or meet with clients. Executive directors must be mature individuals who can handle high levels of responsibility, delegate, and see the big strategic picture.

Executive Director Trends

Here are three trends influencing how executive directors work. Executive directors will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Importance of Networking

Networking is an essential skill for all professionals, but it has been shown to be especially important for those working in non-profit or public service industries.

A recent study by the National Association of Nonprofit Directors found that 90% of job candidates with a strong network were able to secure a position within two months, while only 50% of those without a strong network were able to find employment within the same time frame. 

Employee Engagement

In addition to being a critical part of their role, it is also becoming increasingly important for executive directors to manage employee engagement levels.

This trend is largely due to the growing number of organizations that have realized the value of high-performing teams. 

In fact, employee engagement has been shown to have a positive impact on everything from profits and revenue growth to productivity and customer satisfaction—making it an essential skill for any executive director today.

Increasing Importance of Community Relations

Community Relations Executive Directors are responsible for fostering good relationships with the surrounding community. This means maintaining a positive relationship with the local government, hosting fundraisers, and making sure that the organization is involved in important issues within the community.

Many Executive Directors also engage in fundraising activities to support these initiatives, which can include networking events or volunteer opportunities. These professionals are often required to work closely with other leaders in the community to make sure that all their programs are meeting needs and providing value.

How to Become an Executive Director

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you’re thinking about a career as an executive director, it’s important to think about the type of organization that you want to work for. If you love nonprofits and social justice issues, there are plenty of organizations that could use your help.

To build your network and get ahead in this field, start by volunteering at local non-profits or community organizations. As you make connections, see if any open positions match your skills and interests; these can be great opportunities to gain experience without having to commit full time. Once you’ve built up some experience and established yourself as a leader, it will be easier to find an executive director position that is right for you.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for executive directors highlight the organizations that you have worked with and the impact your work has had on them. You should be sure to provide details of all your past positions, however, it is important to focus on the most important skills for this position.

Skills such as leadership, management, and financial expertise are all essential for this role. When listing previous positions, be sure to note how you demonstrated these skills in each one. If you can describe a situation where you were able to make an improvement or help a business grow, even better! When describing the leadership roles you’ve held, include details on your ability to motivate others and inspire change.

3. Applying for Jobs

A high-level position like the Executive Director can be difficult to break into and is often secured through a solid professional network and reputation for success. Building an influential and respectable profile in your industry can carry weight for this leadership position. Keeping updated with industry trends and your target employer’s goals and challenges is key.

It’s also common to move up from lower positions within an organization by building credibility and a strong internal reputation with good leadership and sound business decision-making.

4. Ace the Interview

At an executive director interview, be prepared to discuss your management style and how you have used it in the past to achieve business goals. Think about how you have handled difficult situations and what the outcomes were. Be ready to discuss a time when a decision you made was unpopular or where you changed priorities. 

Prepare for this type of interview by asking colleagues and supervisors for their perspectives on your strengths and weaknesses as a manager. In addition to emphasizing your most relevant skills and using examples from prior jobs can be useful. Whenever possible, include concrete data related to your responsibilities and achievements at previous positions.

Make sure you come across as an expert in all areas of leadership. You will want to talk about your accomplishments from various points in your career. However, it is just as important that you speak about your failures and how they have taught you important lessons.


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