Reissue: Nonprofit chief executives should have a title, PRESIDENT/CEO

The overwhelming international response that I have had to my blog, “What’s in a name? Benefits of the President/CEO Title,” has motivated me to reissue this blog, which originally appeared in March, 2012

Nonprofit chief executives should have a title, PRESIDENT/CEO

By Eugene Fram

When nonprofit organizations reach a budget level of over $1 million and have about 10 staff members it is time to offer the chief operating officer the title of PRESIDENT/CEO. In addition, the title of the senior board volunteer should become CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOARD, and the title of EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR needs to be eliminated. Experience has shown that with a reasonably talented PRESIDENT/CEO at the helm, he/she can provide the following benefits:

Build a trust culture between board, management and staff.
Solve many operational problems that have previously been referred to the board.
Operate with fewer standing board committees.
Form a well-structured fund-raising partnership with board members.
Develop an entrepreneurial theme internally
Improve operational communications.
Assist the board chair in conducting meetings in a more effective manner.
Make certain board members have meaningful involvement in the affairs of the organization.
Develop more cost effective programs and processes.
Allow the board to focus on its major responsibilities, development of policies, strategies and generative thinking.

Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips – Third Edition (2011) Amazon. Com.

A complete list of my blogs on nonprofit boards/management is available at:


  1. I could not disagree more. The effectiveness of the person at the helm is not directed by the title he/she operates under. Does changing the title make him/herperform better? I don’t believe we need to feed into the myth that title equals performance, and that the more lauded the title, the more important the person. With so many issues facing non profits today, spending time and energy on who has what title seems trivial at best.


    1. Good point internally, but external perception is very important. President/CEO allows the chief executive recognition in senior circles that ED does not. The duties of an ED vary substantially in practice.


  2. I agree with Dr. Fram; the title of the top position should be in tune with the authorities granted by the board (I think that’s what he meant). I believe the word “executive” should not be used unless the board has granted substantially all operational authority (do and report) to a qualified and competent executive. In the credit union segment, I’ve seen titles go from Manger to General Manager to President and then to CEO with no increase in authority. As a result, networking is wasted trying to know if we are talking to the position who can do something about the topic.


    1. Thanks Dan. That’s exactly what I meant. Also if the organization is medium to large (See cases B & C), there is no question the operating chief executive should be President/CEO.

      BTW: Some are still called Executive Secretary!! Changing culture on many boards is very difficult.


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