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What does an Executive Director do?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Executive directors are professionals who function as the senior managers of a business or not-for-profit organization. In many ways, the role is similar to that of a managing director or the chief executive officer of a large company. Depending on the setting, the exact duties and responsibilities of this type of senior manager may vary somewhat, although there are a few core functions that tend to be universal.

In the United States, the title of executive director is more commonly used as a means of designating the senior operating officer of a non-profit organization. The title helps to distinguish these organizations from for-profit businesses and calls attention to their non-profit status. Often, the scope of responsibilities involves direct interaction with both employees and volunteers of the organization, working with the board of directors to ensure the entity is functioning according to its mission statement and goals, and working with financial officers to ensure the non-profit is working within its budget.

In addition to addressing the day-to-day functions of the organization, most jobs require the individual holding the position to look toward the future. This often involves working alone and with others on the team to create and development events, fund raisers, strategies, and organization enhancements that will raise public awareness of the underlying cause for the formation of the non-profit, and help to secure the future function of the organization. It is not unusual for the job to also require that the director function as a spokesperson for the organization, issuing statements to the media and making public appearances on behalf of the organization.

In most cases, an executive director is compensated for his or her efforts, although there are charities and other non-profit organizations where serving as the managing director is voluntary and does not include any type of benefits, other than an expense account to reimburse the director for any out of pocket costs connected with his or her duties.

The authority to function in this job is often granted by a board of directors, board of trustees, or other governing body association with the organization. Depending on the bylaws for the non-profit, it may be necessary for the appointment to be approved by a majority of the total membership associated with the organization. In general, the governing board also creates and oversees the specifics of the director job description, using those specifics as a means of evaluating the performance of the current director.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Practical Adult Insights, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon968498 — On Sep 03, 2014

What is the difference between a school superintendent and executive director? in Arizona is there any ratio requirement for having either to oversee a small rural school?

By stolaf23 — On Jan 21, 2011

@Denha, Executive director positions can also be really well paying in some cases or in other cases be far more work than the executive director salary provides for; this can depend in some ways on not only the company's size, but its success. A lot of executive directors in recent times have had to take pay cuts because of the economy or other factors affecting the company's worth.

By Denha — On Jan 19, 2011

@Bkedia1989, I do not think there are any hard and fast rules for any of your questions; it probably depends on the company. Some larger conglomerates might have several executive directors for different parts of the company, while others might have one or none, and be run by a founder or owner with an executive assistant or someone similar with some executive tasks, but not as many as a director.

By Bkedia1989 — On Jun 09, 2009

Can a Non-Executive Director sign the Balance Sheet of the Company?

What is the minimum number of Executive Directors a Private or a Public Company must have?

What is the difference between an Executive and a non-executive Director?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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