How Many “Hats” Can A Nonprofit Professional Wear?

Sections of this topic

    I have found it necessary, far too many times during my years in the nonprofit professionals’ world, to face/deal with the nearly impossible challenge of helping an organization maximize efficiency and effectiveness when a single person is required to be the executive director, the fund-raising development professional and the marketing/communications/PR professional … all at the same time.

    This is the classic, and often deadly,

    “One Person Shop.”

    Coming exclusively from a fund-raising background, I felt that was where I could only place my total focus because of my scores of dealings with those two other types of professions.

    I am acutely aware of the many organizations that have an Executive Director who is not only responsible for but must function in all other operational activities.

    From extensive personal contact with such heroes and heroines, I have nothing but the fullest admiration and regard for them — regard that is always accompanied by deep concern … because many of their Boards often insist that they apportion their duties to focus mainly on fundraising.

    Good Executive Directors work hard to see that the organization fulfills its mission effectively and efficiently. It becomes all the more impossible for them to succeed when they need to represent each of the different parts of the organization at different times in different ways.

    To consider that one person is driven by the Board to meet programming and operational needs, be responsible for raising the money to keep the books in balance, and market and publicize its programs and services, has me taking off my own hat to such people — while, at the same time, heaping deserved scorn/criticism on a Board of Trustees that would create/allow such a deplorable situation.

    Organizations would be far better off if leadership would recognize the unreasonable and counter-productive demands they are placing on the one individual who is responsible for management, marketing, and fundraising.

    To employ a “One-For-Three” fix for those needs is penny-wise and pound-foolish. If an organization is cash-strapped and unable to pay for three professionals’ salaries, they must accelerate their fundraising activity and make provision in the operating budget for three professionals performing their respective duties 100% of the time.

    You cannot get 300% from anyone, and you risk burnout if you try.


    If you have a question or comment for Tony, he can be reached at There is also a lot of good fundraising information on his website:

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