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Career Story: Executive Director Of A Nonprofit

Executive Director Of A Nonprofit

Job Title: Executive Director Of Nonprofit Organization

Type of Company: My nonprofit organization supports a state-run science museum through fundraising, advocacy and operating museum-related revenue centers (like the Museum Store, Cafe, Renting the Museum for events after hours).

Education: BA, English, St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Laurinburg, NC)

Previous Experience: I taught high school English for two years, then began fundraising for a nonprofit environmental group. That led to a position as a membership coordinator at my current nonprofit where I am now the executive director.

Job Tasks: My primary responsibly is to make sure that everything in the organization is functioning well and that we follow all legal guidelines for being a nonprofit organization. I oversee a staff of about 35 people. The staff each have individual responsibilities (such as operating the Museum Store, handling membership applications, recording donations, operating special exhibits, working with the accountant, planning special events) but ultimately, all these functions are my responsibility and I have to make sure everything is being done. If an employee is having a problem, I try to help that employee, either by providing training or mentoring. If an employee does not work out, then I have to terminate his employment and find and hire a replacement.

My job entails soliciting contributions for the organization and working with a volunteer board of directors. The board of directors is my boss. They meet five times a year and I plan the agenda and materials for their meetings and carry out anything they would like done on behalf of the organization.

My job requires me to pay close attention to detail. I read a lot of contracts and planning documents. I also write a lot of letters and reports, and often write or update procedures.

Finally, a key part of my job is developing relationships with people who are important to the organization: donors, legislators, members and staff.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the working environment. Being within a museum setting and getting to work with scientists and educators is a very interesting experience. Our staff meetings aren't your typical staff meetings about turning in time sheets and filling out forms. Museum staff report on their current research, so we might hear from a herpetologist about a new salamander species he recently discovered.

The worst part of my job is supervising other people. Occasionally someone just doesn't work out in the organization and having to fire people (even if they aren't doing their job) is terribly unpleasant.

Job Tips: I feel as though I lucked into my job because I was at the right place at the right time. However, looking back I can see how things in my background really helped me. My first job was teaching English and this gave me a good solid background in writing with good grammar. Being able to write in a correct and effective manner is critical. I know that when I am hiring people, if their cover letters and resumes have grammatical errors, they immediately go in the "no" stack. If you can't write, you can't represent the organization well. Also, you have to be willing to start at the bottom. My first nonprofit experience was door-to-door fundraising. This led the way to being a membership coordinator and that led the way to being the executive director.

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