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Organization Administration, Paid Staff, Job Descriptions

At our conference this year my affiliate found that as we are experiencing wonderful growth we are also close to reaching the limit of growth we can do with out some administrative assistance and increased capacity. We currently function with a volunteer board made up for wonderful people with full time jobs, families, and other responsibilities beyond our organization like most affiliates. As prone in most volunteer organizations we have a group of workhorse board members and volunteers doing much of the heavy lifting in our organization and we want to be careful not to burn them out as they are all very valuable resources. What seems come up again and again is that to build capacity, grow our impact and further our mission across the state we are at the point of needing an administrator to handle the everyday (and not so everyday) tasks.

This has been our first full year since our state government shuttered the Virginia Office of Environmental Education and we have begun to transition much of the work handled by its staff of 4 full time employees onto the shoulders of our board and committees. This includes our work towards developing an NAAEE accredited certification program for our state, planning the annual Virginia EE Conference for our state, developing and maintaining a resource website, statewide event calender and monthly EE newsletters and finally establishing regional teams across the state. Unfortunately many other programs that were formerly administered by the state office have been abandoned due to lack of resources or our ability to properly devote the energy, time and capital to run those programs. With a paid administrator we might be able to provide them once more.

Over the next few months we are going to be investigating what hiring an administrator might look like for us. This could be someone part-time or someone who is on a stipend until we can organize, solicit and gain more steady funding sources. At first we would need the person to assist with administrative duties both generally for our organization and also duties specific to the development of our certification program which is experiencing a "chicken or the egg" situation as we attempt to move that process forward. This individual would also help our organization navigate the transition of our founding executive committee members to our second generation of board leadership and begin the planning process for next year's annual conference. As we begin this process I wanted to gain some insight to how our co-affiliates have handled this in the past, present, or in the near future.

-If you have an Executive Director or paid administrator what do their responsibilities look like?
-Do you have a job description that you could share from when they were hired or that has been developed in searches?
-Are they full, part-time or contract? What benefits if any are they offered? What was their starting salary range?
-What funders did you go to to fund positions? Any suggestions or success stories?
-Does your organization have a permanent office location or does your staff work remotely? If they have a permanent office where is it housed? How was that decision made?
-Any other suggestions for an organization considering paid staff?
-What kind of mentorships, professional development or other development have you found beneficial for either paid or unpaid staff?
- If you don't have a paid staff how do you maintain a group of reliable and hardworking board/volunteer corps to get all the tasks that need to be done accomplished without burning anyone out?
-What is a reasonable expectation of commitments for an organization to make on it's volunteer board?

Thank you in advanced for any insights you may offer. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any suggestions, clarifying questions or insights that you would like to share either to the public or privately.

Hi Bruce,
ICEC has had a part-time director in the past, and I was hired last year as their first full-time director. I'd be happy to talk to you about the transition and some insights I might have. Feel free to email me at execicec@gmail.com and we can set up a phone call.

Hi Bruce,
LEEF (Florida) hasn't yet hired an Executive Director, but we got our feet wet this year by hiring a year-long contractor with three specific tasks.

Florida is part of the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, which includes eight states. We pooled our money and hired Ashley Hoffman (moderator in this group) as our Executive Director. She has been fantastic at helping Florida with capacity building. She has conducted training with our board and keeps finding capacity building funds for us. I suggest that Virginia joins the alliance!

Thank Dustin. Good suggestion from my understanding SEEA is organized around your EPA region and unfortunately we are not in that region. We would be definitely interested in joining as the Mid-Atlantic states have organized a regional network quite yet as far as I know.

Hi Bruce,
Glad to hear your affiliate is having these conversations! Colorado has had staff for over 20 years now. Our staffing actually started with having another organization donate part of an employees time and then all of one of their employees time to the affiliate. It really helped us get off the ground.

I attached my current job description, so you can see what it looks like, but it is a job description based on having staff for many years. You can also look in the Affiliate Wiki, there are a few helpful documents in the employee management section. However, you proceed, I would recommend you have a conversation with the board about administrative vs. capacity building and what you want your staff to do and what's the better task for the board. If you want staff to do grant writing and fundraising, than the board may have to keep some of the more administrative tasks. Or the staff could take on the administrative tasks and free up time for the board to do capacity building. It probably depends on the skill sets of the board and what they are really committed to doing. But more than likely a first time staff member won't be able to do both.

We currently use an office in a shared nonprofit office space. Over 40 nonprofits are housed in the building and share a lot of services. That way you don't have to provide your own printers, etc. We have one permanent desk there (three staff), and its a fraction of the cost of having your own office. We work primarily remotely but share the space when we are in the office and there are plenty of shared work spaces we can use, if there are more than one of us there. Many shared office spaces now offer virtual tenancy or "hot desks". They don't book you a permanent desk and you can't leave anything there, but you get a mail box, you can use conference rooms, and they will let you use a desk when you are in the office (it just might be in different places on different days). At our office, I think virtual tenancy is only $60/month.

Let us know how you end up moving forward!

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Hi Bruce,

I was the first ED for Kentucky after having been a volunteer board for many years so we dealt with some similar struggles and probably have some insights to share.

-If you have an Executive Director or paid administrator what do their responsibilities look like?

I would really put some thought into your job title because an Executive Director is going to have a lot more "clout" to raise funds and build partnerships than just an admin position. I always encourage calling the position an ED even if its only part time. I also hesitate to have that person doing all of the administrative work that is currently being done by volunteers because then you are just paying someone to keep your organization at the same place it is now. You really want someone who can go above and beyond what you are currently doing to build capacity. When I started, I was bogged down by all the administrative work that the board previously did and instead of growing, we became stagnant for a little while until the board started taking back some of those tasks so I could focus on fundraising and building partnerships.

-Do you have a job description that you could share from when they were hired or that has been developed in searches?

I am happy to share my job description if you'd like. I also know North Carolina, California, Georgia and Wisconsin I believe have all been getting ready to make this transition as well so they may have job descriptions that are a better fit for you as they will be for a first time ED position. Email me if you'd like to see ours though! director@kaee.org

-Are they full, part-time or contract? What benefits if any are they offered? What was their starting salary range?

I caution against hiring a contract position as you can get into some legal trouble. Legally you really don't have any authority over what a contractual hire does. You can give them deliverables but then it is up to them how they meet these and gives you little control. They also have to be very specific tasks. So you legally cannot hire an ED as a contractual position.

I was hired half-time when I started with no benefits. Since then, we have added vacation, sick leave, and retirement. We still don't have health care because we were not able to find a provider that would give coverage for just one to two staff. We also now offer a computer and phone stipend rather than providing the equipment because it is less cumbersome for us to do that when our staff work out of their own home and we cannot track where and how equipment is used very well.

-What funders did you go to to fund positions? Any suggestions or success stories?

Starting out, we primarily funded the position from conference revenue. We generally profit around $15-20k on our conference. From there, I raised additional funds through different grants and we have had quite a bit of success raising funds through an annual fundraising luncheon (~$7k) and an end of the year social media crowdfunding campaign we do each year ($10k by year 3).

-Does your organization have a permanent office location or does your staff work remotely? If they have a permanent office where is it housed? How was that decision made?

No, our staff work remotely from home and we actually live several hours apart so we try to have staff meetings once a month or so by meeting halfway. We do not feel a permanent office is necessary or worth the cost for us.

-Any other suggestions for an organization considering paid staff?

My suggestion would be to really think about what you want for this position in 3-5 years. Are you hiring someone half time but you hope that it will move to full time soon (we moved to fulltime within 2 years)? If so, make sure you hire someone who has the same vision for the organization. If you hire a retired teacher or someone who is content to work half time and has no desire to work more than that, then consider what you will do when you are ready to increase their hours? Will they have the motivation to grow the position? I have seen other organizations make this mistake and it has hindered their growth so just something to consider.

-What kind of mentorships, professional development or other development have you found beneficial for either paid or unpaid staff?

After I was hired, I went on to pursue a Masters in Nonprofit Administration which has been immensely helpful. I would say that having EE background has been secondary to my need for nonprofit management skills so if you hire someone with no experience running a nonprofit, be sure to give them the opportunity to get some PD in this area. I also think the most important thing to look for in your staff is not their skills or area of expertise, but their passion. Skills can be taught but a passion for this work cannot.

- If you don't have a paid staff how do you maintain a group of reliable and hardworking board/volunteer corps to get all the tasks that need to be done accomplished without burning anyone out?

I think burnout is probably inevitable with a working board but I think having a really good strategic plan and, more importantly, a structure for implementing it is crucial. I'm happy to share more about the model we use in Kentucky and the southeast if you are interested.

-What is a reasonable expectation of commitments for an organization to make on it's volunteer board?

Even with 2 fulltime staff, I feel like we expect a lot out of our board but they come into it with their eyes open and that helps. Here is a list of expectations for our board members: http://www.kaee.org/board-nomination.html. One I think is critical is that everyone on our board makes a financial contribution to the organization. We purposely don't specify how much but this way when we approach other funders, we can say we have a 100% giving board, which is really important. If your own board doesn't support your organization, why should anyone else?

I hope this is helpful. Good luck and I hope to meet your new ED soon!

Ashley