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A Day in the Life of a Nonprofit Executive Director

Imagine Billy Joel singing “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with alternative lyrics by a frantic nonprofit leader.

Board meetings, Overflowing Inboxes, Staff Shortages, Grant Deadlines, and If I May, Golf Tournaments, What Else Do I Have to Say?

We didn't start the fire It was always burning Since the world's been turning We didn't start the fire No, we didn't light it But we tried to fight it

As nonprofit leaders, we face the same challenges and perform the same balancing acts. Here is a sampling of major job responsibilities and tips to successfully “fight the fire.”


Executive Director vs Board Chair. See my article HERE on the distinctions.


  • You and your Board Chair must clearly and respectfully understand each other’s role.

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings.

  • Take care of your own physical and mental health. Schedule time for yourself.

Promotion from Program or Fundraising Director to Executive Director.


  • Acknowledge the difficult and uncomfortable transition.

  • Work with a coach to help you with your new role.


Have a working understanding of all facets of operations and staff management.


  • Have a trusted senior leadership team.

  • Require regular reporting.

  • Schedule consistent team meetings.

  • Invest in legal and HR expertise.


The board is ultimately responsible for the financial success of the nonprofit.


  • Understand their point of view and provide guidance and/or training on fundraising.

  • Work with Board Chair to ensure all board members contribute a gift that is meaningful to them.

  • Keep ethics in the forefront of all fundraising.

Board Management

The Board of Directors is the portfolio for the Executive Director.


  • Cultivate board members with regular communications.

  • Solicit their advice on strategic issues.

  • Work with Board Chair on regular board governance training.


The Executive Director must understand all aspects of the budget and financial reports.


  • If this is not in your skillset, take a class or have a trusted, knowledgeable colleague tutor you.

  • Hire an experienced bookkeeper.


Protect your organization by being up-to-date on all federal and state regulations.


Subscribe to relevant communications by governmental agencies.

Contract with a knowledgeable accountant or CPA firm.

Obviously, there is much more, and numerous distractions don’t help, but we are always here to assist you.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help.

We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges.

Contact us for more information.

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