Life as a Nonprofit Executive Director

pensive black woman with notebook and laptop at table
Director's desk with two colleague chairs.

After spending the last six years running my own nonprofit, I thought it would be fun to share a glimpse into what life as a nonprofit executive director is like. This post will discuss everything from the benefits to the challenges of working in this field, with an emphasis on how each of these has impacted me personally and professionally. The information shared here can help you decide if the nonprofit sector is right for you!

My role at the Ubuntu Village

As Executive Director, I verify projects and visit programs to make sure they’re aligned with Ubuntu Village’s mission and can resolve the issues that we hold dear. I also keep in contact with donors and have networking opportunities at galas, fundraisers, etc. Being the executive director can be hectic because there is always something going on. It’s so important to stay organized when working for even a small organization like ours! We have three other Board members besides me, so it’s important that we are all on the same page during projects. Of course, since the majority of my job requires me to be in the office, being organized makes it much easier to keep track of what I am doing and how long each task will take; otherwise, I’d never leave work!

What I do on a daily basis

These days, for better or worse, we live in an online world. It’s not just that everyone else is connected to me digitally; I am connected to them too. I use social media and digital tools to stay on top of current events and trends, share our work with potential donors and partners, and make sure my board members know what’s going on. In addition to writing blogs, blogging comments on other people’s blogs, and sharing our projects across social media platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I try to make at least three posts per week through our website. That way we can put out fresh content for new and old visitors several times a week.

How I got started in grassroots activism

I started out as a grassroots activist while living in Brooklyn, New York.  Mine and 200 other homes were to be demolished to gentrify the neighborhood in the 90s.  I volunteered with other groups also at that time and worked on affordable housing advocacy for low-income families and seniors before creating Ubuntu Village in 2015 with the aim of starting an intentional community.  In 2017 Ubuntu Village began work in Uganda to supply first aid, routine healthcare, and educational assistance for a village.  Later we began working with Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and now Kenya to assist where we could to stabilize a community, family, or individual.

How to have a successful career in the nonprofit sector

One of my primary goals in being a nonprofit executive director is to promote and advance social welfare. With limited time and funding, it can be difficult to determine how to do that best. Over my career I’ve learned that there are three ways you can have a successful career in nonprofits: by doing excellent work, engaging your community, and networking.

About fundraising for nonprofits

Knowing that your nonprofit is about to run out of cash can be scary. And it’s something that I personally know a lot about. When I started, we ran low on cash every month (which was very stressful). Now, however, things are different since covid: We are going to establish a way to sell indigenous goods to the public to assist in keeping our projects alive.

1 mistake you should avoid when working at a nonprofit.

One mistake you should avoid when working at a nonprofit is not keeping track of your expenses. This can lead to financial problems down the road. Also, make sure to have a clear understanding of your organization’s mission and goals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure about something. And finally, remember that you are not alone in this–there are plenty of resources and people out there who want to help you succeed!  However, you must do the hard part and use your persistence and mission to propel you forward and keep you focused.–Michele Mitchell

if you think my blogs are worth a read, please think about donating to Ubuntu Village to help us help others.

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Ubuntu Village will be traveling to Africa soon and we would like to document this trip and any other trips taken in a blog format.

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