Nonprofit president/ceo vs executive director title

What’s In a Name? Benefits Of The Nonprofit President/CEO Title

Note: This article has received constant attention since being published in May 2010.  I am reissuing it here in the event some new readers might have missed it.

What’s in a Name? Benefits of the President/CEO Title

Insights into Nonprofit Governance and Nonprofit Management


Over the last 100 years, senior managers of nonprofits typically have held the executive director title. For about the last 30 years, many nonprofits have changed the title to president/CEO, following a common business practice. Many more nonprofits need to consider the same change to obtain some subtle but useful organizational benefits.

A recent study reports that only 22 percent of trade association chief staff officers hold the president/CEO title. For professional societies, the proportion is only 9 percent.1 Many chief staff officers in larger faith-based human service and health-related organizations still hold the executive director title. Even the senior manager of Carnegie Hall in New York City still carries the executive director title.

A wide range of nonprofits use the executive director title: churches, human service agencies, trade associations, and medical facilities. (more…)