Learning to be an interim executive

Being an interim executive director is a challenging role, and one that not many people have the training and experience to complete successfully. I have had two interim director roles, but I knew I had much more to learn. In late January, 2019, I attended the Interim Executives Academy developed by the Third Sector Company.

The training gave me a solid foundation to use to grow my skills as an interim. It was also helpful to meet other interim directors and talk about our challenges and our successes.

There were three fundamental aspects that I learned during the training:

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Taking Finances to the Next Level

For large nonprofit organizations, a chief financial officer (CFO) is a critical part of the management team. A CFO provides a high level of financial knowledge, and helps the organization understand their finances on a deeper level, as well as create plan strategically for its financial future.

For smaller organizations, this level of knowledge isn’t affordable. Some organizations are able to hire a CFO on a contract basis for a limited number of hours per month, but for many, even that cost is too high. This means the executive director needs to develop their financial knowledge to help the organization thrive.

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Basics of Accounting and Payroll for Small Organizations

For small nonprofit organizations, paying for bookkeeping software seems like a large expense. Luckily, any organization with a 501(c)(3) designation can get QuickBooks Online for just $50 per year through TechSoup. Spending $50 per year will save your nonprofit tremendous time and energy down the road, plus it lets you create professional looking reports from QuickBooks to give to funders. If you have more than a few transactions per month, you’ll want to get started with QuickBooks.

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Creating a Reserve Fund for a Rainy Day

Umbrella and moneyThe government shuts down, making your grant reimbursement is two months late. A critical piece of equipment breaks down and has to be replaced. An unexpected need for services comes up. These are all examples of when a reserve fund would be quite valuable.

In my time as an executive director, my biggest regret is not setting up a reserve fund at the beginning, and consistently funding it. There was always a need for programs or supplies or more staff, and when we had money, we used it.

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Starting a nonprofit – necessary policies and procedures

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Starting from scratch with a new nonprofit organization is your chance to do it right. Doing things correctly from the beginning will save you a ton of headaches down the road. On the other hand, if this seems overwhelming, you might want to reconsider starting an organization. A nonprofit has a lot of responsibilities beyond just helping people.

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Does your board have a code of conduct and ethics?

A different perspective – Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

A conflict of interest policy is standard for most nonprofits, but a code of conduct and ethics lets you go beyond just financial conflicts and look at all aspects of being a board member. This could also be called a board agreement. It lays out basic guidelines for group norms, before you need them. Just like any group where you bring together a group of people who don’t know each other, they need to specify how they are going to work together.

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Should you hire for passion or for experience?

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Some people have a ton of skills, making them great candidates for executive director jobs. But do you need to them to demonstrate that they have a strong passion for your work? It’s going to be hard to find someone who has both the skills and passion. Both can be developed, but you have to assess whether they are a good fit for your organization at the current time. Below are some considerations to help you make a decision.

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How Do You Define Full-Time?

Do your employees struggle to fit in kids’ activities, doctor’s appointments and errands during the work week? Do they use work time to talk to their kids’ teachers or to check in with their elderly parents? Are they feeling overwhelmed with all their responsibilities both at work and at home? Reduce the number of hours they have to work, and everyone wins. Flexible schedules is one benefit most nonprofits can offer, and it is highly valued by employees.

Somehow, American culture has gotten stuck on the idea that 40 hours per week is full-time. In reality, employers can choose to define full-time as fewer hours, and doing so has huge benefits for your workforce.

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How to successfully hire and transition a corporate candidate

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We’ve all seen the applicants: yet another middle manager has “found their calling” and wants to transition from a corporate job to a nonprofit position. It’s easy to be skeptical that they just need a job and will leave as soon as they find a higher paying position. But some people really are ready to make the transition from the business world into a cause they care about. How do you find those people and how do you help them make the transition?

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