What Does an Education Nonprofit Director Do?

A woman leads a team meeting.

Education nonprofits work with schools to help fulfill the promise of equity for all students. By creating opportunities for both educators and students, these organizations help bridge opportunity and achievement gaps, bring state-of-the-art technology into classrooms, and provide teachers with specialized training that strengthens their ability to enrich student learning. Whether helping kindergartners from underresourced communities build literacy and language skills or using data to help a school district better recruit top talent, education nonprofits have remarkable transformative potential. At the head of these organizations are highly skilled and knowledgeable nonprofit directors—leaders ready to support educators with innovative solutions and programs.

The Role of an Education Nonprofit Director

An education nonprofit’s success depends on its leadership. Nonprofit directors must have not only advanced management skills, the ability to plan education initiatives, and an in-depth understanding of education, but also strong, informed, ethical leadership to accomplish their nonprofits’ mission. A commitment to values such as accountability, compassion, service, and transparency is key to rallying support for and establishing trust in a nonprofit’s integrity.

Duties and Responsibilities

Education nonprofit directors serve as their organizations’ top executives. As such, they often work with boards of directors and act as their nonprofits’ key representatives when engaging with the public, funders, and the media. Nonprofit directors both advocate for their organizations’ mission and oversee operations. They deploy management strategies that are collaborative and use critical thinking skills to assess the progress of their programs and make changes when necessary.

The tasks education nonprofit directors engage in include the following:

  • Supervising the heads of the marketing, program development, human resources, and accounting departments
  • Informing the board of directors of operations and developing strategies that address challenges
  • Hosting fundraising and other public relations events
  • Articulating their nonprofits’ mission and garnering support and participation through communicating with donors, community members, and the media
  • Building partnerships with schools, other education nonprofits, and businesses that can help further their organizations’ goals
  • Overseeing their nonprofits’ programs and organizing staff and activities
  • Managing their organizations’ budgets
  • Implementing policies that guide ethical behavior and support their organizations’ goals and vision

Nonprofit Director Salary and Job Outlook

Education nonprofit director salaries can vary according to region and years of experience. However, according to recent PayScale data, yearly salaries range from about $37,000 to $99,000, with the median annual income coming in at about $72,500. California, New York, and Texas tend to offer the highest salaries.

The most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that since the economic downturn in 2008, the nonprofit sector’s growth has significantly outpaced the for-profit sector’s growth. In fact, nonprofit employment between 2007 and 2016 grew by 17%. This suggests a promising job market for education nonprofit directors.

How Education Nonprofits Make a Difference

Education nonprofits work to address shortfalls in the education system. For nearly every problem in education, dedicated individuals have established nonprofits that aim to fix it. For example, some nonprofits seek to address the “homework gap,” which is a term applied to the nearly 30% of K-12 students who lack access to high-speed internet and are at a great disadvantage when completing assignments.

The fact that resources, opportunities, and challenges aren’t equally distributed across American schools is hardly a secret. According to Funding Gaps 2018, the nation spends 7% less on students in the highest poverty districts compared with students in the most affluent districts. As a result, students from low-income backgrounds face greater obstacles to achieving academic success. In addition to attending schools with high teacher turnover rates, more overcrowding, and fewer resources, low-income students come from families with less money for tutoring, school supplies, and educational trips. Low-income students also tend to experience higher levels of toxic stress as a result of greater economic instability and more exposure to violence, potentially interfering with their ability to learn.

To help mitigate these obstacles, education nonprofits collaborate with schools to address the challenges that keep all students from reaching their full potential. The mission of these organizations can focus on:

  • Providing needed resources and supplies
  • Giving students greater access to learning opportunities
  • Training and supporting teachers
  • Helping districts use data to improve their strategic plans and management
  • Conducting research and advocating for policies that reduce educational disparities

Examples of Education Nonprofits

Education nonprofits abound, conducting vital work that changes the teaching and learning landscape.

TNTP: The New Teacher Project

TNTP collaborates with public school systems across the country to end inequality in education by making sure that all students have great teachers. Using data it collects, TNTP gives advice; develops solutions; and helps districts implement programs that address school culture, strengthen leadership, and improve retention. TNTP concentrates on bolstering curricula, building supportive teaching and learning environments, and bringing talented teachers into every classroom.

For example, TNTP’s Good to Great program trains experienced teachers to become even more effective in helping students master high-level content. Through coaching, practice, and real-time feedback, teachers learn how to use high expectations and effective instruction to make challenging material accessible to every student. Participating schools have seen academic gains big enough to raise their state accountability ratings.

Farther Foundation

Farther Foundation offers travel grants for economically disadvantaged high school students to participate in educational travel programs. The programs allow students to expand their horizons; experience new cultures; and develop their artistic, foreign language, scientific, or academic abilities. Opportunities range from learning about sustainable development in Nepal, to outdoor travel expeditions in North America, to learning about documentary filmmaking and photography.

Farther Foundation boasts a 100 percent graduation rate for program participants and believes the confidence and skills acquired during the programs contribute to high numbers of program participants graduating from college.

Learn More About How to Lead a Thriving Education Nonprofit

Meeting the needs of students across the nation requires innovation and commitment. Education nonprofit directors play an important part in finding solutions that bring greater equity to education. By developing leadership skills and cultivating expertise about issues impacting teaching and learning, they can help transform the field.

Explore how Mills College’s online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership prepares graduates to head pioneering education nonprofits.

Ethical Leadership: What Is It, and How Can We Master It?

How to Promote Change and Equality in Education

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Educational Leadership?


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