The 5 Key Roles of a Successful Nonprofit CEO

5 steps to success

The 5 Key Roles of a Successful Nonprofit CEO 

Your nonprofit’s work is important, and it is the staff of your organization that is responsible for carrying out that work. As the leader of your nonprofit, your CEO is tasked with leading your staff and ensuring that your organization is successful in meeting its goals, running its programs, and raising the money it needs to thrive. In short, the nonprofit CEO is one of the most important roles at any organization. 

A great nonprofit CEO wears many hats and takes on many responsibilities. Chief executive officers who can get things done and move organizations forward are in high demand by nonprofits that want to make the world a better place. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the five key roles that need to be filled by every successful nonprofit CEO. 

#1 Leader

The first, and perhaps most important role that needs to be filled by a nonprofit CEO is the role of leader. Every great chief executive officer needs to be capable of inspiring his or her team and able to motivate the entire staff to reach its goals. 

It is essential that your organization’s CEO be able to develop a big-picture strategy for your nonprofit, outline key responsibilities for different departments or team members, create timelines for various projects, and delegate responsibility where appropriate. Your CEO must be competent in keeping the staff on track, making course corrections where necessary, and putting the right people in the right positions to achieve the organization’s vision and mission. Your nonprofit’s CEO must be an excellent leader for your team.

#2 Manager

In addition to being a superb leader, a nonprofit CEO must be an adept manager. This means that your chief executive officer must be able to roll up their sleeves and manage the staff, board, and volunteers of the organization. This includes offering support and encouragement when appropriate and suggestions for improvement when necessary.  

Likewise, your CEO needs to develop a keen understanding of your nonprofit’s budget, revenue, and expenses, as well as the bottlenecks that face your organization. A great CEO needs to be someone who can develop and implement systems for your nonprofit or hire and manage those who do. CEOs who don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes are doomed to failure. Your nonprofit’s CEO must be a skillful manager for your organization. 

#3 Communicator

Your nonprofit CEO is the face of your organization. Whether giving a speech at an event, meeting with local business leaders, or shaking hands with local politicians, your chief executive officer is someone that the local community will directly associate with your nonprofit. For that reason, your CEO must be a seasoned communicator. 

Great nonprofit CEOs need not be extroverts, but they should be comfortable in the limelight. They must be willing to attend networking events and take the stage at your fundraising events, as well as pick up the phone to call donors, reporters, board members, or local elected officials. In order to be successful, your nonprofit’s CEO must be a practiced communicator.

#4 Connector

Because your nonprofit CEO’s roles span all your organization’s programs and initiatives, he or she will need to be an effective connector. This means that CEO needs to be able to bring people together, build rapport, and make connections between various groups of people.  

One way your chief executive officer will need to make connections is internally (on your staff) – such as helping the operations team interact with the program managers, or the fundraising team deal with the volunteer coordinators. Another way your CEO will need to make connections is externally, by connecting prospective donors with your development director or the president of a local company with your volunteer director, who needs lots of local volunteers to help with your big event. Your nonprofit’s CEO must be an adept connector for your organization. 

#5 Fundraiser

The fifth and final key role filled by your CEO is to be a fundraiser for your organization. A great nonprofit CEO needs to be engaged in fundraising. Very few organizations can survive without a chief executive officer who is willing and able to meet with donors, build fundraising relationships, and ask for major gifts from key prospects. 

Fundraising is the most important thing you do at your nonprofit. Without fundraising, you can’t carry out your programs, fulfill your mission, or keep the lights on at your office. For that reason, your CEO needs to be spending time and energy not only leading your fundraising efforts but actively participating in them. Your nonprofit’s CEO must be an energetic fundraiser for your organization. 

How to Find and Exceptional Nonprofit CEO for your Organization

As you can see from the above, your nonprofit’s CEO matters. A great nonprofit CEO must be an excellent leader, a skillful manager, a practiced communicator, an adept connector, and an energetic fundraiser. It’s a tall order, but absolutely essential for the success of your organization. 

Because a nonprofit CEO has so many roles to fill, it can be difficult to find the exceptional chief executive officer your organization needs to thrive. Here are three quick tips to help you find your next nonprofit CEO: 

#1 Give Yourself Time

It’s better to go without a CEO for a time than to hire the wrong CEO for your organization. Be sure to give yourself the time you need to find the right person for the job. In the interim, your nonprofit can use a consultant or board member to serve as CEO or promote one of your staff members to an interim CEO position.

#2 Talk to Your Network

While you should definitely post your CEO position on the appropriate job boards, start your search by talking to your extended network. This includes your contacts in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. Tell your friends and colleagues what your organization is looking for, and ask for referrals to leaders who might fit the bill.

#3 Don't Skimp on Salary and Benefits

Great nonprofit CEOs are hard to find, and they know their worth. If you want to hire an exceptional chief executive officer for your organization, be sure to offer a competitive salary and benefits package.

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