The Latest

When you can't defend yourself, your work will protect you?

When you can't defend yourself, your work will protect you?

The work of a non-profit executive director leaves a trail. It might be the work we did last year, the work we did three jobs ago, or the work we did when we first started. As our career takes us to different organizations, we might not always be around to answer questions about how we...


I am not the caterer

I am not the caterer

I remember the programming era pre-COVID, where workshops and gatherings rivalled a red-carpet event. Along with finding the right instructors and the best silliest prizes, we planned elaborate catering and hauled in all our own equipment. As we move to post-COVID home offices the landscape...


Can we do this in only 3 days?

Can we do this in only 3 days?

Posted in emergency / policy / board of directors / board meeting

Your non-profit has been selected to apply to a special funding program. Not tiny little peanuts funding, we’re talking 6-figure, big-bucks. No problem. As a non-profit executive director, you are very experienced writing grant applications. The catch? This odd little funding program requires...


It will only hurt for 2 years

It will only hurt for 2 years

Posted in financial management / office operations / policy

It happens. You’re working on a grant application and the computer starts to get a little glitchy. No problem. It’s old. Probably just needs to do an update. You could use a break to stretch and wander over to the staff room to find a snack. 10 minutes later you get back to your desk and,...


The best feeling is when it just works!

The best feeling is when it just works!

Posted in executive director / year end

Being a non-profit executive director is no easy job. I've learned some hard lessons early in my career as I browsed the internet desperately looking for resources, tools, ideas, and solutions. What I found was an overwhelm of information from big-city experts. They had fundraising committees,...


I hate to ask, but...

I hate to ask, but...

Posted in staff team / members / stakeholders

Does this sound familiar? Its late on Friday afternoon. You're trying to wrap up the work week before you leave for the weekend, then an email pops up in your inbox. A request for a letter of support. Whatever you have time to provide, right? The request comes from a group that does...


Non-Profit Gift Guide

Non-Profit Gift Guide

Posted in office operations / vacation / staff team

People take jobs at non-profits, especially small and rural non-profits, knowing very clearly that they will not be paid anything close to their counterparts in the for-profit sector. Demonstrate an employee is valued. That disparity in wages is usually significant enough that it can be as...


Are you a leader or a manager?

Are you a leader or a manager?

Posted in job description / executive director

Years ago, I came across an article that discussed the difference between a leader and a manager. The author insisted that someone could only be one or the other – there was no middle ground. Back then, the article praised the leader, dismissed the manager, and pushed all my buttons. I was...


Is it too much?

Is it too much?

Posted in executive director / operations plan / staff team

The current year is wrapping up. Planning is well underway for next year. Non-profit boards will meet to write their strategic plan and then hand it to the staff team to turn into programs and services for the next operating year. Sometimes, in the excitement of operational brainstorming...


Call to order: 4:02 PM

Call to order: 4:02 PM

The board meeting is coming up and your job, as the executive director of the non-profit, is to prepare both the reading package and your own reports. Avoid hurt feelings and wasted time. The challenge comes in understanding the nuances between what parts of the reading package are created by...


5 weird truths about being a nonprofit ED

5 weird truths about being a nonprofit ED

A non-profit executive director is one of the strangest jobs. One minute you will be writing a major grant application and the next you are cleaning the bathroom. Some days you’ll be a leading force for the sector, speaking with confidence and enthusiasm, next you’re hauling twenty thousand...


A non-profit's guide to online banking

A non-profit's guide to online banking

Non-profits have many reasons to embrace online banking (e-banking). It might start with a desire to make faster payments to independent contractors, to encourage easier donations, or simply avoid the time it takes for in-person banking. When an executive director begins to investigate...


Let's keep friendly rivalry, friendly!

Let's keep friendly rivalry, friendly!

Non-profits rely on funding to stay operational. It is rarely enough to have only one funding source. Non-profits will have a collection of funding streams from grants and donations to events and merchandise sales. It will take a lot of people power to keep all the funding programs running and...


When board members make operational suggestions…

When board members make operational suggestions…

Posted in executive director / board of directors

Every executive director gets them. Operational suggestions from individual board members. The requests usually happen away from board meetings and are almost always given under the guise of trying to be helpful. One or two operational suggestions here and there will feel uncomfortable but...


My team makes me thankful!

My team makes me thankful!

Posted in hiring / executive director / staff team

Creating an amazing staff team is one of the biggest challenges a non-profit executive director will face. Whether by luck, endless cycles of hiring, or simply waiting long enough, there is nothing more exciting than when that amazing team finally happens. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want...


The difference between operational and governance policy...

The difference between operational and governance policy...

Posted in executive director / policy

Non-profits rely on policies to guide everything from the number of board members needed for a meeting, to how to write a receipt. Policies are very helpful to guide board and staff in their jobs, but policies for the board are very different from policies for the workers. Don’t blur...


Now what?

Now what?

Posted in operations plan / staff team / programs and services

The strategic planning session is done. The board is happy with the results. The goals, outcomes, and indicators have been decided. Everything is handed over to the executive director for the next step. Now what? I don’t know what to do! A non-profit executive director’s part in...


The challenges of non-profit HR

The challenges of non-profit HR

Posted in hiring / financial management / staff team

Much time is spent reviewing and planning the governing model of a non-profit board of directors letting the operational model of the staff team develop organically, and sometimes a little haphazardly. Limited budgets make choosing the right HR model, critical to achieve goals with the right...


Strategic planning: does the executive director have a role?

Strategic planning: does the executive director have a role?

Heading into strategic planning season can be a confusing time for a non-profit executive director. Strategic planning can feel like it is all about the board who will be spending time reviewing and interpreting the wants and needs of clients, members, and stakeholders. The same wants and needs...


Executive Directors can help boards make better decisions

Executive Directors can help boards make better decisions

Non-profit boards make a LOT of governing decisions. When the decision-making system is working well, the board might conduct its own research, develop committees, and have discussions. That’s the dream. The reality is it rarely happens that way. Don’t expect volunteer board members to have...


3 steps to keep a non-profit chart of accounts simple...

3 steps to keep a non-profit chart of accounts simple...

A chart of accounts is a numbering system to organize a non-profit’s financial transactions. You can compare a chart of accounts to the Dewey Decimal System at your local library, where different groups of books have different number codes. In a non-profit, revenues have different number codes...


Is it better to keep board meeting discussions private?

Is it better to keep board meeting discussions private?

Posted in board of directors

Years ago, at a board meeting, there was a pretty robust discussion about a hot topic. As the executive director, I wanted my board to have all the background information to make an informed decision. So, I spoke frankly, and provided a lot of detail, thinking it would be kept confidential....


3 Time-Off Ideas When You Can't Take a Summer Vacation

3 Time-Off Ideas When You Can't Take a Summer Vacation

Posted in executive director / vacation / staff team

For some non-profits, summer is the busy season, and it isn’t possible to be away. If that sounds like your work world, let’s talk about other ways to take time off. When can you start using vacation time? Think back to when you first started working at your non-profit. Did you have to wait...


Don’t Let Guilt Ruin Your Holiday

Don’t Let Guilt Ruin Your Holiday

Posted in executive director / vacation / staff team

Working as an executive director, we all share a desire to do the job well, and we put in the long hours to make it happen. When the time comes to take holidays, feelings of guilt for being away from the office take over. The indecision about taking this week or next week, can delay vacation...


Governance Policy: Easy Four-Part Structure

Governance Policy: Easy Four-Part Structure

Posted in policy / board of directors

The board of a non-profit has a complex job. It is accountable to the stakeholders to meet the strategic goals, while at the same time governing the organization and monitoring management. No experience, no time, no problem! Non-profit board members rarely come to the position with a wealth...