Executive Directors, You Are Not Alone

As an ED, you face situations every day that require you to be at your best. Hopefully, none of these situations sound familiar:

  • The board chair doesn’t want to meet regularly and doesn’t run meetings well, but no one else will take on the position.
  • Your board is made up of the executive directors of your partner agencies, but you also manage funds for those same agencies, causing inevitable conflicts
  • After you are hired as an ED, you find out that your predecessor had neglected to pay the IRS payroll taxes for quite a while.

Or it can just be minor situations that are causing you headaches:

  • A key staff member has given their two week notice
  • Your major fundraiser is coming up in two weeks and there are a million things left to do
  • A board approves an extension of a contract, but doesn’t tell you until the bill is due, and then just says you should figure out where this large sum of money should come from.
  • You know you need to learn the rules around sales tax collection in your state, but you just don’t have time
  • The printer is acting oddly and you are somehow supposed to be the IT department.

As an ED, you have a lonely job. You don’t have any peers at your organization – your staff report to you, so there are just some things you can’t say to them. Your board are your bosses, so you don’t want to discuss everything with them. It’s a challenging situation.

Here are some real solutions:

Make sure you are taking regular time to connect with other executive directors in your community or on-line. They are the ones that truly get it. No matter what their mission is, they understand about getting financial reports done on time, writing grant proposals, dealing with the frustrations of the board, etc. Each time I’ve been able to talk to a peer, it is so comforting to be told they have been through something similar.

Ask for help. Cultivate an honest and open relationship with your board chair and ask them for help when you need it. Your chair should be your best ally when you need to vent and if you have regular meetings with them, you’ll build up a relationship so you can. If that relationship is strained, find someone else so you have a regular check in with someone whose opinion you value.

If you are looking for an outside person who can provide you support, please contact me. With twelve years of executive director experience, I know what it is like. I can relate. I can be a confidential source of assurance that you will get through this, but I can also help you develop real solutions so you can work through your challenges.

You can reach me at (402) 730-2532 or ingrid@ingridkirst.com.

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