Concept: Roles and Responsibilities of the Chief Executive Staff Person
Overview: The Chief Executive Staff person is the CEO of any non-profit organization, often called the Executive Director. Their role is not so different from their for-profit counterparts, however much of the time their responsibilities are much broader in scope. Not only are they considered the primary spokesperson for their organization, they must possess a philanthropic passion for the cause of their organization and be quite gifted in fund raising ventures.
Article Summary: “A corporate executive’s short guide to leading nonprofits”, by Lynn Taliento and Les Silverman.
Upon interviewing a dozen nonprofit executives who have successfully made the transition from the for-profit into the nonprofit sector, they discovered five major problem areas in nonprofit versus for-profit leadership. These are they 1) have less control and less authority; 2) deal with a wider range of stakeholders; 3) are more challenged in monitoring performance; 4) underestimate the importance of effective communications; and 5) have a more difficult time building effective organizations where resources and training are limited.
Nonprofit executives do not derive power and respect from their title, it has to be earned and employer/employee relationships are quite different than the for-profit sector. Nonprofits also have to deal with vastly different stakeholders who all have differing agendas as to how the organization will be run and managed. Furthermore, performance management for the nonprofit is measured on an entirely different scale than their for-profit counterparts. There is no financial metric by which to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the nonprofit, only public perception and attitudes. Effective communications is also essential in nonprofits for a smooth operation. Communications are used as influential and motivational tools and therefore must be strenuously thought out. Finally, the lack of funding and training is a huge hindrance in building an effective organization. Nonprofit executives have to learn to adjust to the resources they have available at any given time in order to stay effective in building their team.
In realizing the challenges nonprofit executives face, Taliento and Silverman offer guidance to the business leader on how they can better relate or perform in four different roles. As a board member, they suggest to take that role more seriously and not treat it as a mere hobby. Also, be more open to different performance measures than they are used to dealing with. In the role as a donor, they suggest not making demands on personal objectives, rather direct demands in the area of impact within the scope of the organization. In the role as a partner, be willing to invest time and energy in helping the organization better manage their effectiveness. Finally, in the role of an executive, take the time to get to know the organization and its staff before making any changes. This will only help to get the staff on board and build a level of trust.
Taliento and Silverman (2005) do an admirable job bringing to the forefront the challenging roles faced by today’s nonprofit executive. Their article dovetails nicely with many of the roles and responsibilities Smith, Bucklin, & Assoc. (2000) discuss in their book. For instance, the section entitled, “Understand the Organization—Inside and Out” (Smith, et al., 2000, p. 44-46) speaks of the familiarity the nonprofit executive needs with the overall scope of the organization. However, it does not touch upon a critical factor which Taliento and Silverman (2005) discuss, getting to know your staff and building a level of trust. Having the trust and support of your staff is crucial to being an effective leader anywhere, but even more crucial in the world of the nonprofit.
Both the text and the article discuss the importance of effective communications, educating the board on the roles and responsibilities of the staff, and the importance of maintaining flexibility. However, Taleinto and Silverman’s (2005) article does not touch on an important factor brought up in the text, the importance of dealing with volunteers. The for-profit sector has no need for nor seeks the support of a volunteer workforce. Furthermore they find the best motivational factor in dealing with their workforce being in the monetary realm. Volunteers, on the other hand, are not motivated by financial gain. They find their identity with the cause of the organization and are on an entirely different motivational level than their for-profit counterparts.
The roles and responsibilities of today’s nonprofit executive staff person far exceed the expectations of most and are often dismissed by their for-profit counterparts. With the plethora of skills needed to effectively manage a nonprofit organization in today’s ever-changing society, the executives who possess those skills are becoming extinct. With an estimated 75% of executive directors leaving their posts by 2011 and a need of 640,000 new senior nonprofit managers by 2016 (Damast, 2008 ), there will be a higher demand in the years to come than probably in any time in history for nonprofit executives.
Damast, A. (2008, August 11). Narrowing the nonprofit talent gap. Newsweek, 58.