Nonprofit Job Description Toolkit

30 min

Summary

The job description is your primary vehicle for announcing the open position to external and internal audiences, and is a valuable tool for finding candidates best-suited to your organization's needs.
Once your organization has defined the role it needs to fill, and the skills, experience, and level of education required (see Designing and Filling New Positions), you're ready to embark on the process of writing the job description. The job description is your primary vehicle for announcing the open position to external and internal audiences, and is a valuable tool for finding candidates best-suited to your organization's needs. Investing the time and effort in writing a strong job description will enable your organization to accurately articulate the opportunity to potential candidates.

Whether you’re seeking a senior position in a nonprofit, recruiting for new nonprofit leaders, or exploring the responsibilities of key nonprofit positions, the examples shared here can help inform your efforts and research. These representative job descriptions illustrate just some of the many ways organizations configure their senior management roles and write their job descriptions for would-be candidates.

Board Member Job Descriptions

These examples provide a good starting point for writing a description and represent ways nonprofit organizations can configure their descriptions when recruiting for new board members and board chairs. Read more >>

CEO/ED/President Job Descriptions

These two job descriptions represent classic profiles of executive directors/presidents/chief executive officers at organizations with revenues less than $20 million.
  • Executive Director (Small Organization)
    This sample job description shares how one smaller sized, growing, multi-site nonprofit organization configured the role of executive director. The executive director is responsible for general management as well as designing a national expansion plan. There also is a heavy emphasis on program evaluation.
  • President (Medium Organization)
    This sample job description shares how one medium-sized nonprofit organization configured its president role. The president focuses on the core functions of the organization to enable it to achieve its long-term vision. Areas of focus include: strategy, finance, board management, fundraising, and program delivery.

Chief Financial Officer & Finance Job Descriptions

Chief financial officer (CFO) roles—and the organizational structures in which CFOs operate—vary significantly across organizations. Based on Bridgespan's experience and interviews, the organization’s budget size and the complexity of its programs and revenue sources drive how the CFO role is configured—and how the role evolves over time.

The sample job descriptions posted here show how organizations may configure the CFO role based on budget size and complexity of funding and programming. As reflected in these samples, requirements for CFOs tend to be broad. However, every organization needs to determine which requirements it absolutely must have and which requirements would be nice to have. By setting these hiring goals in advance, your organization can hone in on the applicants with the must-have requirements and can also start thinking about how to compensate for the qualifications that a star candidate may lack.

Each sample job description is based on an actual position specification used during a search by a nonprofit organization. We have removed all information that would identify the hiring organization. It is important to note that each of our sample organizations has its own set of idiosyncrasies that have affected the configuration of that CFO position. The CFO job description you develop for your organization should be a blend of both the classic CFO responsibilities and the particular needs of your nonprofit. Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.
 
  • Chief Financial Officer Complex Funding
    In this sample job description, the nonprofit organization has complex program offerings and diverse financing sources—such as state and federal funding in addition to private funding. There is a heavy emphasis on reporting, requiring the CFO to focus narrowly on the finance function. Knowledge and understanding of Office of Management and Budget requirements for nonprofits is critical.
  • Chief Financial Officer (Small Organization)
    In this sample job description, the nonprofit CFO wears several hats. The budget can’t support specialized staff, so the CFO is responsible for a variety of areas far removed from the finance and administrative functions. These include human resources, information technology, legal, and facilities—and even building relationships with program recipients.
  • Chief Financial Officer (Medium Organization Straightforward Financing)
    In this sample job description for a nonprofit chief financial officer, the organization has fairly simple programs and revenue sources. Reporting requirements are less complicated, enabling the CFO to take responsibility for a broader span of functional areas.
  • Chief Financial Officer (Large Organization)
    In this sample job description for a nonprofit chief financial officer, the organization runs programs nationally and has complex funding sources. The CFO focuses strictly on finance, accounting, and the investment activities of the organization. In this sample, the CFO has a senior, seasoned staff with deep experience in nonprofit finance.
  • Controller Job Description Sample
    This organization has complex program offerings and diverse funding sources, including state, federal, corporate, and foundation funding. There is a heavy emphasis on reporting, requiring this role to focus narrowly on the finance function. Knowledge and understanding of Office of Management and Budget requirements for this role is critical because of federal funding, as is the ability to work closely with program leaders. Strong team management experience is key to being successful in this role.
  • National Controller Job Description
    In this sample job description, the organization runs programs nationally and has relatively uncomplicated funding. The National Controller focuses strictly on finance, accounting, and the investment activities and there is a heavy emphasis on streamlining operations and improving efficiencies.
  • Director of Finance and Administration Job Description
    In this model, the Director of Finance and Administration wears multiple hats. The budget can’t support specialized staff, so this position is responsible for a variety of areas far removed from the finance and administrative functions. These include human resources, information technology, legal, and facilities—and even building relationships with program recipients.
  • Managing Director, Finance and Administration Job Description
    In this model, the organization has fairly simple programs and revenue sources. Reporting requirements are less complicated, enabling this role to take responsibility for a broader span of functional areas.

Chief Operating Officer Job Descriptions

Chief Operating Office (COO) roles—and the organizational structures in which COOs operate—are highly varied across organizations and even within organizations over time. The way a COO’s responsibilities are defined differs significantly depending on the organization’s strategic imperatives, design, history, and culture, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the executive director, COO, and other key leaders. Nevertheless, most COO positions can be categorized under one of four basic models, and the sample job descriptions posted here correspond to these models.

Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.
  • Chief Operating Officer (Operations/Administration)
    In this sample job description, the COO oversees the functions that support the programs but do not relate directly to program participants, and other senior managers are responsible for the programs themselves.
  • Chief Operating Officer (Generalist)
    This sample job description is for the generalist nonprofit chief operating officer who oversees all internal functions. This nonprofit COO oversees everything internal, freeing up the ED to focus on external matters such as fundraising, public relations, and partnerships.
  • Chief Operating Officer (Program-Focused)
    This sample job description is an illustration of a program focused chief operating officer. In contrast to the operations/administrative-focused nonprofit chief operating officer, some COOs are responsible primarily for programs, while the ED, the chief financial officer, or another senior executive oversees the more administrative functions.
  • Chief Operating Officer (Strategy/Operations)
    The COO role described in this sample job description has overall strategic and operational responsibility for all programs. In addition, the individual in this role also manages a group of program directors and work with the nonprofit's board of directors to keep them abreast of programmatic changes.
  • Deputy Director
    This job description is the broadest of the COO-track positions: the role oversees everything internal, freeing up the executive director to focus on external matters such as fundraising, public relations, and partnerships.
  • Vice President, Finance and Operations Job Description
    While the emphasis of this role is finance, it includes responsibilities for managing a breadth of staff functions and requires an individual who is both strategic and tactical.

Communications Job Descriptions

The configuration of the senior communications role in some cases is determined by the complexity and focus of the communication function within the organization. For example, in this Director of Communications job description, the focus of the role is on developing and implementing a communications plan that includes online activities and the organization’s annual meeting. Because the organization also has a vice president of communications, the director of communications focuses on providing information.

In this Vice President, Communications description, the organization has focused its communication role on branding and public relations. The individual in this communications role will be part of the senior leadership team representing the organization externally.

The communications role's variability is further illustrated in the Director of Communications and Public Affairs description. In this organization with $10 million to $20 million in revenues, the role crosses over with advocacy work—an unusual configuration that demonstrates how search committees will design specifications to meet organizational needs.

Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.

  • Vice President of Communications
    This sample job description for a vice president, communications role in a small nonprofit organization is strategic and has a heavy emphasis on brand management. This role is responsible for managing all communications plan activities and building external relationships with the organization's constituencies, including funders and the media. Feel free to use this sample job description in creating one for your organization.
  • Director of Communications
    This sample job description describes how one small nonprofit organization configured the role of director of communications.
  • Director of Communications and Public Affairs
    This sample job description for a director of communications at a medium sized nonprofit, works with the senior management team to develop the communications plan (as opposed to developing it independently) and has a staff of four. In contrast to the other communications positions, this role entails identifying public policy issues relevant to the organization.

Development Job Descriptions

In organizations with revenues greater than $20 million, the director of development may be part of a larger development team, reporting to a vice president within the organization and having his/her own team to manage. In this Director of Development, Large Organization description the director has a team in addition to a full array of development responsibilities, as compared to the development manager in the smaller organization, noted above, where the majority of the work is done by the individual manager.

Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.

  • Vice President, Development
    In this sample job description for a small nonprofit organization, the vice president of development both supports the executive director's fundraising activities and is a key fundraiser responsible for expanding and diversifying the organization's funder base. The position requires the ability to develop and implement a strategic development plan.
  • Director of Development (Small Organization)
    This sample job description shares how one small nonprofit organization configured its director of development role.
  • Director of Development (Large Organization)
    This sample job description shares how one large nonprofit organization configured its director of development role. Report int to a VP of development, s/he is tasked with creating a development strategy, and hiring and managing staff members. The position also entails direct fundraising, and working with and supporting the senior management team with its fundraising plans.

Evaluation & Measurement Job Descriptions

Nonprofits that seek to use measurement to continuously improve their impact eventually may decide to create a full-time position to lead their performance measurement function.

But don't assume the best person for the job will necessarily be a "data wonk"―someone who can execute complex analyses that reveal powerful insights about an organization's programs. Few would argue the value of such a skill set, however, often more important can be the interpersonal and change management skills a Measurement Director should have. In addition to "hard skills" of understanding the data, Measurement Directors also need to have the "soft skills" that will ultimately help staff across the organization see the value of using measurement to make better decisions.

A clear and comprehensive job description is critical to attracting candidates who are a good fit with the role. But without gaining agreement among your leadership team around the specific responsibilities of the role, and the qualifications and experience level of the optimal candidate you want to attract, even the best written job descriptions and interview process will fail.

Here are a few job descriptions you might view as examples:

Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.

Programs Job Descriptions

Senior program management roles differ based on the extent of general management and operational skill and experience required. Often, at larger nonprofits, the vice president of programs position is similar to an executive director role in that it has responsibility for fundraising, program development and delivery, budget and team management, and public speaking and relationship management (see Vice President of Programs). At some smaller nonprofits, the senior program manager focuses solely on program management and does not have fundraising responsibilities. In contrast, some smaller organizations will configure a vice president of programs role that entails broad operational responsibility including human resources, and program evaluation and expansion across the entire organization, as in the Vice President of Regional Programs and Operations description.

Each sample job description is intended to be a jumping off point, and likely will need to be tailored to meet the particular needs of your organization. Feel free to use and tailor these descriptions for your needs.

  • Director of Programs
    This sample job description shares how one small multi-site and multi-program nonprofit organization configured its director of programs role. The director of programs has an externally facing role managing relationships in the community with a heavy emphasis on team management and development, and establishing standards of performance across all programs.
  • Vice President of Regional Programs and Operations
    This sample job descriptions shares how one small nonprofit organization configured its vice president of programs and operations role. In addition to managing multiple program managers, this role encompasses human resources, evaluation, and knowledge management.
  • Vice President, Programs
    This sample job description shares how one large nonprofit's vice president of programs oversees the general management of all program areas, which includes program development, delivery, and evaluation, as well as fundraising, budget setting, knowledge management, and all external relationship management.

Related Descriptions

  • Organization Overview Sample
    The organization overview in a nonprofit job description shares key descriptors of the organization. It should include information that will help interested external candidates better assess their fit with the organization and better understand the organization's goals and beneficiaries.
  • Email Job Announcement Sample
    The email job announcement is one type of communication that can be used to reach out to your network of peers for qualified candidates. A condensed version of the full job description, this email job announcement includes such details as your nonprofit organization’s name, its mission, the key responsibilities of the role, and what you ideally seek in a candidate.

More Articles To Read

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