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Updated on May 9, 2013
Surviving In the nonprofit world can be contingent upon smart, strategic planning and use of all available resources.  Hiring an outside expert should be viewed as a sound  investment.
Surviving In the nonprofit world can be contingent upon smart, strategic planning and use of all available resources. Hiring an outside expert should be viewed as a sound investment.

Executive Director and Grant Writer - Two Separate Roles

Nonprofit organizations, particularly smaller organizations, operate with a limited budget, a skeleton staff and exist on donations. Although, these organizations rely on fundraising, grant funding, individual donations and volunteers to survive; the majority of these organizations do not have full-time grant writers or development personnel on staff. Unfortunately, the fundraising responsibilities then fall to the Executive Director, whose plate, most often, has long since, passed the point of full and has arrived at a destination known as, obligation overflow.

A depressed economy, declining monetary support and increased anxiety has led to a MASS DEPARTURE OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS.

When an Executive Director leaves a nonprofit organization, they often take with them vital information and partnership contacts. The affected organization may experience a decrease in donations, as well as, resignations by both board members and staff.

Typically, a nonprofit Executive Director is responsible for the overall operation of the organization, serves as a liaison between staff and board members and is responsible for promotions, fundraising and the financial health of the organization. While responsibilities may vary, depending on the size of the organization, ultimately the Executive Director receives accolades for success and assumes the consequences for all failures.

According to a nonprofit survey conducted by the United Way of King County in Seattle, Washington, the average tenure for an Executive Director, within the nonprofit sector, averages 6.1 years. In addition, a July 2011 article,, entitled Exodus of Executive Directors, highlights a Meier Foundation study citing “Sixty-Seven percent of executives plan to leave their jobs within five years.”

Stress, burn-out, low wages, lack of benefits and board member conflicts are just a few reasons attributed to this staggering, high turnover rate. Although these statistics are alarming, the departure effect on the nonprofit is, often underestimated, unsettling and sometimes tragic.

The relevance, of whether the Executive Director chooses to leave by his/her own volition or the decision is mandated by a Board of Directors, is moot; either way, the organization suffers as a direct result of an Executive Director departure unless a transition plan is in place.

Outsourcing grant- writing services can be an essential part of a successful transition plan. An independent grant writer can help provide stability during this pivotal transition time by allowing the Board of Directors the freedom to search and identify a qualified candidate to fulfill this vital role without worrying about the financial health of the organization.

Listed below are a few of the benefits of outsourcing grant-writing services:

1) Copy retention of valuable organization documentation including:

  • 501 (c) 3 IRS Determination Letter
  • Mission and Vision Statements
  • Non-Discriminatory Policy
  • Organization Operating Budget
  • Form 990
  • Staff Qualification Descriptions
  • Project and Program Budgets
  • Organization’s Target Audience, Demographics and Statistics

2) Awareness of programs, projects, expectations, ongoing and future initiatives

3) Grant monies requested, received and required reporting

4) Campaign and grant application deadlines

5) Funding resource strategies

Outsourcing grant- writing services can also be an asset once a new Executive Director is hired. Grant writing involves hours of research to identify funding opportunities that match both the funder and the organization mission, areas of interest (support), geographic location and monetary requirements.

By affording a nonprofit leader the ability to concentrate on implementing the programs and projects that benefit their respective communities, the organization can increase the likelihood that the Executive Director will remain in that position longer and a successful organization can once again, be realized and enjoyed.


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