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How to Own Your Executive Director Role

One of the hardest parts of starting a new job is becoming comfortable with your position and all that it entails. Onboarding processes are helpful, but they can’t make you completely accustomed to your role. Owning your role take time and a whole lot of practice; it can several months to truly get in the swing of things. If you’re the executive director your role becomes harder still: you need to be a good manager while maintaining an appropriate and consistent face for your organization. As a current and former executive director, these tips will help you stay poised in your role whether you’re just starting or you’re a seasoned vet.

Tell it like it is

Don’t be shy about your directorship! Put your title on business cards, email signatures and any other form of communication with your community. People need to know that you’re the one making important financial and organization decisions, and beating around the bush about your role will only confuse your constituents.

Be clear with your communication internally, too. Your staff needs to know what your job duties are so they can be sure to stay out of your way while you stay out of theirs. They need to know what substantial decisions need to be okayed by you before moving forward.

Confidence is key

Remember: you were chosen to be the director of your organization for a reason. Or, if you’re a small shop, you may have the started the organization yourself. So be confident. Seeking the advice of others, including your staff, is important, but organizational decisions need to be ultimately made by you.

When you’re out in the community, speak passionately about your organization and your position within it. Talk about your mission with the same fervor that you might talk about your favorite hobby or another hot button. When people see that you’re excited about the cause, they’re going to be excited too. And you know what excitement leads to? Donations, baby. Donations.

Throw convention out the window

Every organization is different. Just because you may have the same title as someone from another organization doesn’t mean your tasks and responsibilities will be same. At all. Forget everything (or almost everything) you know about what your position should be and start thinking about what it needs to be to achieve your mission.

Depending on how your staff and how your organization operates, you may serve as the primary fundraiser, a human resources coordinator, an office manager or myriad other things. Don’t be afraid to embrace those roles. But, since you’re the director, don’t be afraid to reach out for help either— even if that means hiring another part-time or full-time staff member.

No one will believe in your work if you don’t; and no one will feel comfortable supporting you—financially or otherwise—if you aren’t confident and assertive with your role as executive director. Now, go take the world by the horns and let everybody know why you’re in charge.

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