An executive director leads a company or organization, providing the necessary oversight to help the board of directors achieve its goals.
Board member roles and responsibilities vary depending on the organization, but in general, executive directors are more involved in day-to-day operations, while the board of directors plans and strategizes for the future. The roles work closely together, advising and informing each other. Read on to learn more about the specific responsibilities of an executive director.
What is an Executive Director?
The executive director oversees a company or nonprofit’s board of directors, and is responsible for leading the organization. Executive directors work with the board of directors to ensure they’re well-equipped to meet the organization’s goals.
Since an executive director influences a company’s culture, they must be knowledgeable, skilled, and deeply invested in the organization or nonprofit’s mission and vision.
Qualities of an Effective Executive Director
The required attributes and credentials of an effective executive director are unique to the organization, but all executive directors should possess the following qualities to lead an organization.
- Leadership: Executive directors inspire trust through effective communication skills and informed decision-making. An executive director must be able to lead the board of directors and organization staff with confidence.
- Experience: Strong executive directors have deep experience, but understand that learning is a part of leading.
- Focus: To achieve goals, meet deadlines, and participate in strategic planning, an executive director must remain hyper-focused.
Qualified executive directors know the position is just as much about people as it is about profit.
What are Executive Director Responsibilities?
An executive director may have unique responsibilities depending on where they lead, but these 5 are essential no matter the organization.
1. Lead Board of Directors
It’s difficult to lead a group of leaders, but executive directors are hired to do just that. Because leaders often have strong opinions, board members may disagree on how best to perform board duties. The executive director must listen to all sides, and engage in conflict resolution when needed.
Organizational leaders build alignment through clear communication. They leverage all channels to communicate the company’s vision, mission, and value proposition.
2. Organize and Manage Fundraising Efforts
Executive directors have development staff to help with fundraising, but it’s their responsibility to oversee those efforts. Whether it’s providing tools or guidance, executive directors need to offer the support necessary to meet financial goals.
3. Align Employees With Company Goals and Objectives
Alignment is a central responsibility for any executive director. They set the organization’s strategic direction. If employees don’t align with company goals and objectives, the director has failed to effectively communicate the mission and vision.
4. Assess and Manage Budgets
Executive directors don’t need to be accountants, but they should feel comfortable around balance sheets and income statements. Without a basic understanding of financial information, executives can’t ensure the financial health of their organizations. Technology helps with basic data entry, budget development, and reporting to minimize the day-to-day time commitment of financial control.
Few industries are without compliance requirements. Executive directors must be aware of what regulations apply to their organizations. Whether it’s conducting audits or completing tax forms, directors should know what is required to meet deadlines and remain in compliance. Often, these requirements involve expenditures that an executive director should include in the budget.
A timely review of finances helps identify potential problems before they become immediate catastrophes. Executive directors should review key reports weekly or monthly to assess whether operations are on track. Budgets rarely go as planned. That’s why executives should establish a process for analyzing current activity against the budget.
5. Serve as a Mentor
Being a mentor grows the staff and organization, as well as the executive director. While the staff and board of directors will learn much from the executive director, the best directors learn from their mentees, too.
Executive directors make time to connect with mentees to develop an individualized relationship that goes beyond work-related communication. They should coach to their mentees’ strengths and interests. Mentoring staff, board members, and volunteers provides executive directors with a glimpse into the future of their organization.
Executive Directors Utilize OnBoard to Drive Board Effectiveness and Intelligence
With so many tasks on their plate, executive directors rely on board management software solutions to drive board effectiveness. OnBoard’s platform streamlines board business with the following features, among others:
- Board minutes builder
- D&O questionnaires
- Board assessments
- Skills tracking
- Voting and approvals
Dean Pielemeier found the need to modernize operations when he took over as president and CEO of Abbey Credit Union in Vandalia, Ohio.
“When I first came here, the board packets were being typed up on typewriters,” he says. “It was like stepping back in time. They were being typed up, copied, put into manila envelopes, and mailed out to the board members.”
While OnBoard helped digitize and lower the expense of creating board materials, the benefits didn’t stop there. OnBoard’s solutions improved the board’s governance capabilities and significantly reduced the time it takes to approve commercial loans.
And when the pandemic hit, OnBoard made it possible to keep business operations flowing smoothly with the use of web features and its Zoom integration.
“I appreciate how [OnBoard] continually improves on the system and upgrades its features,” Pielemeier says. “Now and then on a weekend, I’ll get an OnBoard notification. I can be sitting on my couch while I’m watching TV, review it, and respond.”
About The Author
- At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.
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