Nonprofit Chief Executives Should Have Title: President/CEO, Updated & Expanded

Nonprofit Chief Executives Should Have Title: President/CEO, Updated & Expanded

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 and strategies.

Controversy still surrounds this proposal, although the benefits of providing the title for appropriate chief executives remain clear, for several reasons. In some instances, an ED is comfortable with the lower levels of responsibilities h/she currently has and doesn’t want the full operational responsibilities designated by the title. In other instances, the habit or culture of the board prevents tho utilization of the title. Finally, although some state laws restrict the use of the title by a full time paid managers to executive director, the issue becomes further clouded when the board also wants to make any management or staff member a voting member of the board. Positive change can be difficult!
Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips – Third Edition (2011) :

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


  1. Eugene, not quite right. If you title your ED as CEO, legally in the state of Missouri the Chairperson of the board must be titled President and Chairperson of the board.


    1. Thanks for the information. Good to have this example for future blog-posts and articles. Appreciate your taking time to set the record straight for Missouri.



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