This is the most senior staff position within an organization. The Executive Director (in larger organizations the position is often known as a Chief Executive Officer) reports directly to the Board of Directors, through the Board President. The ultimate authority for the operations of the organization lies with the ED/CEO. Depending on the type of board governance style, the ED/CEO usually oversees the day-to-day operations, while the Board of Directors is responsible for policy direction and oversight.
In a small organization an Executive Director could be vary hands-on, carrying out many responsibilities including fundraising/grant-writing/financial management, human resources, program development and management, and may even actively participate in the activities of the organization.
In a larger organization the ED/CEO is often a step removed from the actual activities and plays an overseer role with senior management staff who carry out the functions. In these instances, the ED/CEO ensures that work is being carried out correctly and meets deadlines, that responsibilities to funders and fiscal obligations are met and that the direction of the agency shows forward progress.
Many of the skills that an ED/CEO uses are transferable from one type of non-profit job to another; however, to be very effective it is important that the individual in this position has a strong understanding of the clientele that their agency serves.