October 08, 2019
How an Executive Director Becomes a Financial Leader
What is an executive director? An executive director is “responsible for overseeing the administration, the program and the strategic plan of a nonprofit organization. Other key duties may include fundraising, marketing, community outreach, and this position reports directly to the board of directors.” As we all know, an executive director is required to wear many hats and needs to wear them all equally. Leadership styles have a huge impact on how well an executive director can carry out their duties—committed executive directors can set themselves apart when they’re able to evaluate their own leadership styles and seek input from others.
In this role, you’re tasked with the responsibility of both leadership and management and each duty requires a distinct skill level in order to be fulfilled properly. Leaders offer visionary qualities that can provide an overall scope to the organization’s specific problems and future planning. They tend to be a charismatic communicator and have the ability to motivate the team in anticipation of achieving future goals for the organization. Managers are very hands on—they make sure things get done. Not only do they manage people but they also manage property and assets helping to fulfill the goals that management and the board of directors have set before them. They are the busy bees of the organization, who control, organize and monitor day-to-day activities of the operation. Think of an executive director of a nonprofit organization as being the “jack of all trades”.
Along with managing and overseeing everyday tasks, an executive director is responsible for monitoring the finances for an organization—they oversee the development and on-going maintenance of the business model. This ensures the organization produces exceptional mission impact and sustains financial health. To make sure this is done successfully, the executive director has to be aware of the necessary business concepts.
Here are a few key business principles that could help guide financial leadership practice for your nonprofit:
1) Remain high-level and thoughtful with your board.
2) Make sure you’re managing your risks the right way.
3) Be sure to plan for your nonprofit’s reserves.
Executive directors learn that leading a nonprofit requires a constant balancing of current needs, external demands, and planning for the future. Financial leadership is crucial to the role and can not be fully delegated. Certain principles can help executive directors become accustom to the demands of the changing environment and maintain the balance needed for the organization.