Last Updated:

April 21, 2023

Exploring Nonprofit Job Titles & Descriptions: A Comprehensive Guide


April 7, 2023

Exploring Nonprofit Job Titles & Descriptions: A Comprehensive Guide

Working in nonprofits can be incredibly rewarding. It may even feel like a dream—you get paid to make a difference, fueling your passion and paying your bills.

However, it can be difficult to navigate the nonprofit industry if you’re not familiar with common nonprofit job titles and roles. But that’s where this guide comes in handy.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of various nonprofit job titles and breakdown their descriptions so that you can gain insight into potential roles you might be interested in pursuing.

Let’s get started!

Importance of Job Titles and Job Descriptions for a Nonprofit Organization

Job Title

You may know you want to work in the nonprofit sector, but you’re not sure where to start or what positions are available.

Typically, nonprofit jobs will be focused on several key areas, including, but not limited to:

  • Leadership (executives, directors, management)
  • Fundraising (development, advancement)
  • Operations (program management, administrative support)
  • Communications (internal and external communications, including marketing)

Knowing titles and job descriptions can make it easier to find career opportunities in the nonprofit sector. It can also help you understand an organization once you’re there.

Either way, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the nonprofit industry once you’re armed with the knowledge of different jobs and what they entail.

Executive-Level Nonprofit Job Titles and Their Roles


Executive nonprofit positions are the highest in an organization and require years of experience.

Below we break down two of the most important roles at a nonprofit organization—the Executive Director and board members.

Executive Director

The Executive Director is the highest-ranking person at a nonprofit.

They will be highly regarded in their field, often with decades of experience leading other for- or nonprofit organizations. They should be passionate about the mission of the nonprofit they lead because they will set the tone for the organization moving forward.

Executive Directors are often recruited, though sometimes you can find the listings publicly available. If you are looking for an Executive Director role, you should possess the following skills and qualities.

  • Strategic vision, ability to set the course for an organization and provide guidance to ensure it is achieved.
  • Board relations, collaborating, influencing, and persuading key stakeholders to get buy-in.
  • Public speaking skills, as often the CEO is the face of the organization to all external outlets.
  • Business acumen, helping to oversee and manage the financials and overall health and success of the organization.

Good nonprofit leaders, just like in business, are highly sought after because they can steward an organization, translating vision into strategy and guiding the nonprofit to success.

As an example, check out the job summary below created by United Way of White County in their search for an Executive Director.

United Way Executive Director of White County

Board Member

A nonprofit’s Board of Directors helps govern the organization, providing guidance and oversight to promote the organization’s well-being. The board votes on new programs, hires executive leadership, approves budgets, and more.

To be successful as a board member, you need to possess the following.

  • Strong financial mindset, connecting the vision of an organization to operations through different strategies.
  • Collaborative leadership with an ability to speak your mind, listen to others, and make fair judgments to push the organization forward.
  • A passion for mentorship, providing guidance to the nonprofit to promote its success.

Board positions are almost always volunteer positions, meaning they are unpaid. In fact, board members often make substantial donations to support the nonprofit’s operations.

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Program Management and Administration Nonprofit Job Titles and Their Roles

Project Management

Program management and administration roles help oversee specific projects and initiatives, managing the behind-the-scenes work to ensure operations are properly executed.

Program Manager

Many nonprofits have various projects going on at the same time, which is why a program manager role is so important. They lead these projects from end to end, ensuring the objectives are met while also staying within the scope of the project.

If there are any regulations that need to be followed, the program manager is responsible for adhering to them, as well as helping guide the program to success. They can even help recruit and oversee volunteers to ensure projects are fully staffed.

The skills and competencies that make a program manager successful are:

  • Project management, helping to oversee the entire lifecycle of a project while keeping all stakeholders on task.
  • Strong relationship management skills, collaborating across many divisions to ensure the vision is achieved.
  • Written and verbal communication skills paired with strong critical thinking to help solve barriers to execution.
  • Ability to perform data analysis, converting raw findings into measurable outcomes to drive progress.

Program managers will typically have at least four years of experience in relevant fields.

Here’s an example of a project manager job description for Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity Project Manager

Program Coordinator

Program coordinators are a great entry-level position for individuals looking to start out in the nonprofit world.

This role often assists a program manager with specific tasks while also helping to provide day-to-day support to all involved with different projects. Program coordinators can help oversee volunteers, be on-site to assist with events, manage accounts payable, and more.

To be successful as a program coordinator, you should have the following skills and competencies.

  • Strong attention to detail, successfully managing multiple tasks and deadlines with proper organization and prioritization.
  • Written and verbal communication skills, often serving as the first point of contact for many issues within the nonprofit.
  • Ability to work independently while taking direction on how best to accomplish goals and tasks.
  • Industry-specific training and awareness, as often programs are tied to specific issues or regulations.

Program coordinator positions often require a few years of experience and a college degree, though many organizations will accept translatable skills.

Fundraising and Development Nonprofit Job Titles and Their Roles


If your organization depends on donor dollars to fund a majority of its operations, then fundraising and development positions will be among the most important.

Here are two of the most common fundraising roles within a nonprofit organization.

Director of Development

The Director of Development is responsible for creating a development plan for an organization and executing it. They help ensure that there is funding to bring the nonprofit’s mission to life.

The actual day-to-day responsibilities of a Director of Development will depend on the specific organization and its fundraising needs.

Here are some key skills and qualities needed to be successful in a development role:

  • Strategic thinking, translating high-level plans into measurable outcomes.
  • Ability to motivate and inspire donors to give and believe in the organization’s mission.
  • Strong written and verbal communication.
  • Cross-functional collaboration, connecting different partners to execute the same goal.

Director of development positions will often require five years or more of professional fundraising experience, though even more experience is preferred.

Grant Writer

Grant writers are critical members of a nonprofit’s staff because they help secure funding that makes a lot of great work possible.

Grant writers do a lot of funder research, identifying prospects and writing applications to secure financial support for the organization.

Grant writing is an art—it’s more than just filling out an application. There is nuance to knowing how to navigate the grants-world, and to be successful, you need to possess the following skills and competencies.

  • Research and critical thinking skills, creatively connecting organizations to funding opportunities.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, translating reports to compelling stories to capture funding.
  • Attention to detail and an ability to juggle multiple projects and deadlines, successfully delivering on all in a timely manner.

Grant writers should be able to thoughtfully translate facts and data to tell the world why their organization deserves funding.

As an example, check out the screenshot below that lists the key responsibilities for CureSearch for Children’s Cancer grant coordinator position.

CureSearch Grant Writer

Communications and Marketing Nonprofit Job Titles and Their Roles


Communications and marketing nonprofit jobs help oversee branding strategies and help get your nonprofit’s message out into the world.

These roles often also manage outreach and help foster community engagement.

Director of Communications

The Director of Communication sets the strategy for how your nonprofit organization connects with the world around it.

They will also help their team execute strategies to maximize the impact of communications.

The Director of Communications is responsible for all communication efforts, including emails, letters, website content, social media, videos, advertising, and more. The scope of the role depends on the size of the organization.

Some of the skills and competencies you need to be successful in this role include:

  • Strategic thinking, connecting efforts to the mission and vision of the organization.
  • Planning and executing short- and long-term plans to help drive the success of the organization.
  • Diverse communication skills, working across all media to connect with audiences and achieve core objectives.
  • Proficient in job-specific software and style guide standards.

A Director of Communications role often requires 10+ years of communications experience.

Social Media Manager

Social media can play a critical role in how nonprofits show up in the world around them.

Social media managers help maintain an organization’s image and share its story, growing its digital footprint while advancing its mission and vision.

Social media managers are responsible for overseeing digital strategies to drive engagement across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and more. Additional responsibilities may also extend to creating digital branding and advertising campaigns while integrating SEO in all to optimize performance.

Here are some skills and competencies that can help you succeed in this type of role:

  • Deep knowledge of social media, public relations, and digital marketing to effectively communicate across various platforms.
  • Creative thinking with a passion for staying up to date with trends and understanding when and how to appropriately engage to maximize visibility.
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills with the ability to effectively tailor messages across media to best target key audiences.

Social media is about more than just sharing a few things online. You need a strategy and a method behind the madness to be effective.

The screenshot below is a job summary for a social media content creator at Charity: Water.

Social Media Charity_ Water

Support Staff Nonprofit Job Titles and Their Roles


Oftentimes, support staff roles make the magic happen, ensuring others are able to do their jobs effectively.

These are some of the most important—and often overlooked—positions.

Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants help support the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit as a whole or of a specific function.

This could include calendar management, answering phones, planning meetings, running reports, filing, and other duties as assigned. Roles and responsibilities will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit.

There are some key skills and qualities that an aspiring administrative assistant should possess. These include:

  • Organization with great attention to detail.
  • Resourcefulness with the ability to multitask.
  • Adept at communication, both written and verbal.
  • Basic computer skills, including Microsoft Office and other job-specific programs.

You may own projects as an administrative assistant, but primarily, you will play a support role for multiple projects at any given time.

Executive Assistant

Much like an administrative assistant, an executive assistant is another supporting role within a nonprofit organization with one key exception. An executive assistant typically supports leadership rather than the general organization. Some executive assistants may support multiple leaders, while others only focus on one.

Whatever that leader needs, the executive assistant helps with. This can include scheduling, pulling reports, writing communications, and more. The day-to-day responsibilities vary, and to be successful, you should possess the following:

  • Organization skills, with the ability to juggle multiple priorities and projects to effectively prioritize. 
  • Communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Calendar and time management, with the ability to successfully arrange schedules.
  • Computer skills, including high proficiency in email, Microsoft Office, and other job-specific programs.

At the end of the day, executive assistants are critical to the success of leadership at a nonprofit organization.

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Wrapping Up: Next Steps to Take


This is just the start of nonprofit job titles, so if you’re serious about taking the next step, there are several different ways that you can break into the field.

Volunteer with the organization you’d like to work for. That can be a fantastic way to make connections and be ready when a position opens up. Network with others in the industry. And lastly—simply take the plunge!

Nonprofit organization positions can be incredibly rewarding, so what are you waiting for? Put your skills to good use at a nonprofit!

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