What Skills Does a Nonprofit Executive Director Need?
The nonprofit sector is complex. Each year, variables affecting the success of a nonprofit change to various degrees. In the last two years, we have already seen a pandemic, economic change, government policies moving in a variety of directions and greater demands on nonprofit employees. Therefore, nonprofit executive directors need to know what can make their organizations thrive.
The nonprofit professional must study past trends, understand present situations and use forecast modeling techniques. The nonprofit executive must possess certain skills and utilize time management to maximize performance. Think about what personal skills you need to improve, especially if you are interested in enhancing your job performance or if you aspire to the position of executive director.
Think about the responsibilities of an executive director — leadership of nonprofit departments with a variety of functionalities. The executive director must understand the role the board plays and how to maximize board performance. The executive director must understand public relations as this individual is the public face of the institution.
Leadership in fundraising and knowledge of finance and budgeting is critical. Executive leaders must function as a liaison between internal and external stakeholders. For future success to occur, the executive director needs to embrace technology and determine how to employ it in the nonprofit organization. It is also especially important that the executive director promote policies, programs, organizational development and ensure the organization is compliant with all regulations.
Executive directors wear diverse types of hats. To be effective, that individual needs to wear these hats equally well. These hats include management, fundraising, communications, planning, strategizing, marketing, problem solving, leadership and board development. They must be leadership visionaries while also managing people, property and other elements entrusted to them.
Overall, nonprofit executive directors typically utilize the leadership style of being authoritarian, participative or delegative in nature. They also may combine leadership styles as they grow and learn more about the organization. It helps for the nonprofit leader to have a master’s degree, particularly in business administration. An executive director should possess excellent people skills, be of high character and action-oriented. It is particularly important to have skills that you continue to grow with experience. It is also important that you use these skills with the perspective of time management in mind.
Effective time management helps you keep your work under control. Your daily work time is finite and maximizing your use of this work time is imperative. The Pareto principle declares that only 20% of your time during the workday really matters. That 20% produces 80% of your results. If you can identify and focus on those things that really matter and find the key 20%, it will make a real difference in your work time management.
Time management is a critical skill in a changing environment in which no day is the same. Know what work you must accomplish each day at the beginning of the day. Find what elements of your work you can delegate, use physical planners to keep the to-do list organized, use strategic plans to prioritize work, rely on your network, do not rush key decisions, find work-family balance and continue to seek how to work smarter. You must plan well, delegate by being clear and direct, focus on thinking big, and create a system for working with email, voicemail and social media.
Time management is the executive’s most valuable tool. It is a concept and process of planning and organizing projects and activities that need to be accomplished. If you manage your work time, you will see immediate benefits. Time management helps you prioritize your work and personal life, keep you from getting overwhelmed, maintain focus on what is most important and delegate for total management success. Best management techniques are quite clear. Set boundaries by saying no, plan your next day in advance, and use goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Strive to stop multitasking and schedule time between each meeting either to refresh, prep or think. Guard your daytime wisely.
Be the best nonprofit executive you can be by seeing how peers utilize their time. Strive to create new skills and improve your current personal tool kit. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and determine where your staff can provide greater help to your success. Understand that your nonprofit can only be a successful as the executive director.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.