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An executive director is a chief executive officer (CEO) or managing director of an organization, company, or corporation. The title is widely used in North American non-profit organizations, though many United States nonprofits have adopted the title president or CEO.
Confusion can arise because the words executive and director occur both in this title and in titles of various members of some organizations' boards of directors. The precise meanings of these terms are discussed in the board of directors article.
The role of the executive director is to design, develop and implement strategic plans for the organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner. The executive director is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the organization, which includes managing committees and staff as well as developing business plans in collaboration with the board. In essence, the board grants the executive director the authority to run the organization. The executive director is accountable to the chairman of the board of directors and reports to the board on a regular basis – quarterly, semiannually, or annually. The board may offer suggestions and ideas about how to improve the organization, but the executive director decides whether or not, and how, to implement these ideas.
The executive director is a leadership role for an organization and often fulfills a motivational role in addition to office-based work. Executive directors motivate and mentor members, volunteers, and staff, and may chair meetings. The executive director leads the organization and develops its organizational culture.
As the title suggests, the executive director needs to be informed of everything that goes on in the organization. This includes staff, membership, budget, company assets, and all other company resources, to help make the best use of them and raise the organization's profitability and profile.
- Policy vs. Paper Clips: Selling the Corporate Model to Your Nonprofit Board, Eugene H. Fram with Vicki Brown, 1995, 2nd Edition, Families International, Milwaukee, WI
- Charles W. L. Hill, and Gareth R. Jones, (2001) Strategic Management. Houghton Mifflin.