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.