How to be a non profit executive director

Non profit jobs - an executive director and board member

Find out about non profit jobs

There are many non profit organizations in the world, and they provide thousands of non profit jobs. Other names for a non profit organization are non-governmental organization (NGO), voluntary agency, community service, and charity. All of them need great leaders to direct them.

Non profit jobs and the role of the executive director

All these organizations work to help people or to make the world better in some way. They do not exist to make money. Nonprofits must raise money they need for programs, events, and other activities.

“Executive” means putting plans into action. A director is a person who manages things and gives directions. The executive director’s job is to make sure the non-profit does what it is meant to do and succeeds.  A director of a non-profit organization speaks on behalf of the organization, raises money, makes plans for the future, holds meetings and assign duties to the staff.  

About the job


Executive directors are like managers of a business. They have many duties and have to oversee everything. Here are some of their duties:

  1. Plan and set annual budget of the organization
  2. Create employment opportunities and administrative policies
  3. Establish and maintain relationships with various organizations
  4. Report to and work closely with the board of directors to make decisions
  5. Supervise, collaborate with organization’s staff members
  6. Set strategic plans and implement them
  7. Oversee organization Board and committee meetings
  8. Oversee marketing and other communication efforts
  9. Review and approve contracts for services


Most non profit jobs, including the executive director’s, take place in an office. But people in non profit jobs may travel a lot.  Executive directors travel to promote their organization, raise money, or do work in the field. They may work long hours.


The salary for non profit jobs varies based on the organization’s size and the person’s experience and education. The average salary of a non-profit director is $63,824.

About the person

Non profit executive directors are a great communicators and enthusiasts. Here are some qualities and skills they need –

Qualities you should have:

  • stamina –  directors work long hours and have to be able to keep going when everyone else has gone home
  • problem-solving – managers and directors should be people who notice and look at problems with the approach of fixing them
  • good ethics – directors must be responsible about how they use funds and honest in their communications
  • ability to analyze information – nonprofit work is full of data that includes complex information and regulations

Skills you will need:

  • creating and maintaining a budget
  • leadership and management
  • fundraising and communication
  • strategic planning
  • time management

Get qualified


Most nonprofits require their executive directors to have an advanced degree in the field of work. The other option is a Master of Public Administration degree (MPA). The MPA qualifies people  for a career in non profit management, in government, or any other public service. Coursework includes nonprofit and financial management, leadership, and strategic planning.

However, many directors are trained in other fields. For example, the leader of an environmental NGO may have been a scientist. The leader of a charity helping sick children may have started in health administration at a children’s hospital, or as a medical professional.


There are several certifications you can get by joining leadership training programs. Most non profit organizations provide mentorship and leadership programs to their staff. If you work for a non profit already. taking part in one of these programs can help you tremendously.


Volunteering is one way to gain experience. Volunteer with a non profit organization that align with your beliefs and causes. You will gain new knowledge and experience. Once you have experience, you can start using it to find a paid job. It will be a long time before you can rise to be an executive director, but there are many good jobs along the way in non profit organizations.

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