Q&A: What should be included in an Executive Director job description?

Q: What should be included in an Executive Director job description?

 A:  The position description for a nonprofit Executive Director should include language addressing core competencies and other operational skills.  For many organizations, these include:

Passion for Mission

  • Ability to translate mission into concrete action items
  • Substantive knowledge of the organization’s client base and stakeholders
  • Compelling way of engaging business, government and other nonprofits in valuable partnerships
  • Knows how to market and brand the organization to create interest in the mission and in sponsorship opportunities

 Strategic Planning & Decision Making

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Reliance on data to make key decisions
  • Ability to conduct both short- and long-term prioritization for the organization
  • Knowledge of how to describe key goals so right action follows the decision to make a goal a priority

 Resource Generation

  • Prior fundraising success. Knowledge of and participation in: grant procurement; capital campaigns; individual donor; planned giving; corporate sponsorship and special events
  • Basic understanding of how to build a strong financial platform for the organization
  • Knows how to internally and externally report the financial status of the organization to avoid crisis situation and build trust

 Financial Management

  • Personal integrity
  • Knowledge of basic accounting protocols and ability to review finances with CFO and others to build consensus around priorities and monitor ongoing expenditures
  • Willingness to be held accountable for the sustainability and overall health of the organization

 Talent Management

  • Ability to attract, retain and develop talent
  • Ability to recruit and engage a strong board
  • General capacity-building/training skills
  • Impartial, objective evaluation and assessment skills
  • Understands how to get the best out of team; strong team-building skills
  • Desire to create and/or maintain a culture rewarding outstanding performance
  • Creates new ways for employees and volunteers to contribute to key goals

Operational Proficiency

  • Mastery of technology as a means to build efficient operating systems and enhance communication
  • Relies on both quantitative and qualitative metrics to assess and evaluate the organization
  • Demands the best of each employee; rewards exceptional performance appropriately
  • Understands how to internally and externally build trust
  • Is committed to create a high-output, financially responsible, mission-driven culture


  • Communicates well in person and in writing with all kinds of stakeholders and clients
  • Comfortable serving as the public face of the organization
  • Knows how to engage audiences of varying sizes and interests in the business of the mission
  • Works easily with the press and public media representatives
  • Can be relied upon to deliver messages with tact, diplomacy and appropriate messaging


  • Can-do personality
  • Creative about building bridges between and among competing interests
  • Quick to consult others with expertise, evaluate input and come to clear decisions

 Cultural Competence

  • Has worked with a diverse client base
  • Is committed to building an organization reflecting distinct points of view and interpretations of mission success
  • Tactful; respectful of differences
  • Encourages cultural and other forms of tolerance

Outreach/Community Interface

  • Builds relevant partnerships with corporate, civic and other organizations
  • Appropriately projects the mission and vision to a wide variety of audiences

 Personal Traits & Executive Demeanor

  • Commitment to the mission and the organization
  • Analytical thinker, quick-study, strategic
  • Financially responsible and capable
  • Resilient
  • Enjoys meeting challenges
  • Demonstrates a sense of humor
  • People person, gregarious and fun-loving; easily enlists others in the mission
  • Skilled organization representative and communicator
  • Generates trust and loyalty in others; credible leader
  • Holds self personally accountable; has integrity
  • Energetic; persistent about achieving goals
  • Continuing Learner; keeps up with industry trends, competitors and emerging opportunities


Karen Alphonse and ExecSearches provides various resume review and career advice services for nonprofit professionals.

ExecSearches.com is a job board for nonprofit job seekers interested in fundraising, management and executive nonprofit jobs.

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