Why an Executive Director Shouldn't be a Jack of All Trades

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Why an Executive Director Shouldn't be a Jack of All Trades

There is an expectation, real or perceived, that the executive director of a non-profit needs to be a jack of all trades – someone who picks up all the left-over little tasks and handles them as part of regular work duties. The executive director is often expected to handle all the accounting, fix troubles with technology, run multiple social media accounts, keep the website up to date, and do all the filing.

The executive director’s job doesn’t include handling everything.

Even if the executive director has some experience with graphic design, or an aptitude for quick tech fixes, those little tasks are very likely not the job the ED was hired to complete. If the executive director is spending time tinkering with a poster layout, that’s time away from focussing on fulfilling strategic priorities. If the executive director is spending time doing internet searches to fix a glitch on an employee’s laptop, that’s time away from effective management.

Contract out key areas that take too much time away from the actual executive director’s work.

There are 3 jobs, that an executive director can contract out, to lighter the ‘not-really-my-job’ work and focus more on ‘what-I-was-REALLY-hired-to-do’ work.


With the release of online design software, suddenly everyone feels they know how to create a poster, or new business cards. But factor in an employee’s hourly wage, the length of time it really takes to put together that ‘quick’ poster, and it becomes clear that the money could be spent on a designer who can do the work better, and in half the time.

Graphic designers don’t need to come from great big advertising agencies. There are lots of freelancers looking for work, who have tons of talent, and a desire to work with non-profit clients. It might take some legwork to connect with a few local designers to find one that is the right fit and the right price. Try starting with a flat rate on a few test designs. Build the working relationship from there or move on to a new designer if it isn’t the right fit.


Executive directors are busy people and there is never enough time to truly dedicate to hiring new employees. Once again, factor in the hourly wage spent on all the prep-work updating job descriptions, placing advertisements, screening resumes, and shortlisting applicants, and it becomes clear that the money would be better spent on an HR professional who can do the work much faster. The executive director can still be very involved in interviewing, reference checks, and final selection.

Human Resource professionals can be found by connecting with a local chamber of commerce, or nearby education institution. There are companies that handle these tasks on a larger scale, and independent contractors who can work with a non-profit at a more affordable rate. Remember, an HR professional isn’t a monthly cost, it is a one-time expense that will make the executive director’s job easier and can often make the hiring process faster.


We’ve become an online world these last few years. We are meeting virtually, operating with shared cloud files, and remote offices. But all the tech experience we are getting does not make it any easier to fix tech issues. Consider the time spent on internet searches, trying to fix a glitch here or there, then compare it to the few minutes it takes a tech expert fix the problem.

While it might take some trial and error to find the right person, hiring a tech expert is fast way for a non-profit executive director to reduce the burden of being expected to handle all those little tasks. It will take some budget room when first implemented but can become a line item each year after that. Tech experts can be found through referrals from other non-profits and local software training companies. Start with incidental tech support and build up as budget room allows.  

It is OK for the executive director to focus on big picture work.

A non-profit executive director is responsible for the big picture operations of the non-profit but that doesn’t mean personally handling every little task. At the end of the operating year, the stakeholders want to hear about how the organization met its outcomes and strategic priorities. When an executive director can shift some of the little tasks to experts to be handled, they will free up their own work time to focus on the big picture priorities.

Contract out the tasks that are not part of the job.

Executive directors that spend a large portion of their working hours on those other little tasks might be neglecting the very job they were hired to do. Begin by identifying the not-really-my-job tasks that take too much time or cause too much stress. Set-up a trial contract to take over one of the ED’s little tasks and see how much extra time it provides. Add other contracted tasks as budget allows.

When a non-profit executive director needs more time during the work week to focus on the big picture impact of the organization, contracting out the little tasks, can relieve the stress of feeling like they need to do it all.  

Thanks for taking the time to read my ideas. If you know someone who needs to read this, why not grab the link, and share it with them. Let’s work together to free executive directors from feeling like they need to be a jack of all trades.


Hi, I'm Christie Saas, former board member, current Executive Director, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.

Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

I created ChristieSaas.com so non-profit leaders never need to feel alone. I’m here to help. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.

© Christie Saas 2022 All Rights Reserved

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