Understanding the Job of a Nonprofit Operations Manager | The Charity CFO (2023)

There are more than 1.54 million nonprofits globally. To ensure that a nonprofit runs efficiently, several people work behind the scenes to make things much easier, and one of those people is the operations manager.

The operations manager might be the secret weapon of the most successful nonprofits we know. By taking charge of getting things done, an operations manager helps executive directors focus their energy on the strategic big-picture that will move their mission forward.

If you’re looking to enter the world of nonprofit organizations with a background in operations management, you might be wondering how your skills can help you. Or, if you’re a nonprofit founder or an executive director, you might be wondering how an operations manager can help make your organization ruthlessly efficient and highly effective.

Read on now to find out what the job description of a nonprofit operations manager might look like.

What does an operations manager do?

A nonprofit operations manager, or director of operations for a nonprofit, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization.

They oversee the administrative staff and make sure that the office runs smoothly. They also develop and implement operational procedures and systems and manage budgets and financial reports. In short, they ensure that the nonprofit runs like a well-oiled machine!

Now, if that sounds like they do a bit of everything, it’s because that’s true!

An operations manager, by definition, is a manager. They don’t necessarily need to be an expert at any one thing. Still, they need to be able to be proficient enough at many things to manage a highly productive team to get results for their organization.

Here’s how Krysta Grangeno described her day-to-day tasks in operations for a nonprofit organization:

Who reports to the operations manager?
And who do they report to?

It depends on the organization, but generally, any department is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the entity. That may include

(Video) What makes a good non profit operations manager?

  • Finance Department
  • Fundraising Department
  • Program directors
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • And more!

You can see that, depending on the size and structure of your organization, the ops manager will have to oversee a large number of departments.

In turn, your operations manager will either report to the Director of Operations, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), or directly to the CEO or Executive Director. They may also have some direct interaction with the Board of Directors, although the board isn’t technically their supervisor.

What are the job responsibilities of a nonprofit operations manager?

As mentioned above, their primary role is to supervise and organize the efforts of the departments under their responsibility. Here’s a breakdown of what duties a nonprofit operations manager will be expected to handle:

Ensure the Office Runs Smoothly

The administrative staff is responsible for keeping the office organized and running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. The operations manager will make sure that they have everything they need to do their job effectively and that they are meeting all deadlines.

An operations manager must be exceptionally well organized, as they’ll be responsible for creating systems and processes that ensure every department is meeting its expectations. Often, they’ll also need to be aware of all legal or reporting requirements that the organization may have in executing their programs.

Implement Budgets and Oversee Financial Strategy

The operations manager will be responsible for spearheading the budgeting process for the organization and ensuring that the accounting department delivers timely and accurate financial statements for the board of directors or other stakeholders. You’ll also need to be intimately familiar with these statements as well and review them proactively to identify potential issues before they become problems.

As the operations manager, part of your role is to ensure that the financial department runs effectively. This includes ensuring that checks and balances are in place and that employees in the financial department are adequately trained to do their jobs.

The operations manager must also be acutely in-tune with the organization’s budget. Because their role is so wide-reaching, they need to be aware of how shortfalls in one area (like fundraising) may impact the ability to execute in others (like executing programs or meeting payroll).

That doesn’t mean that the operations manager needs to be an accountant. Generally, they’ll oversee the accounting team or work as a liaison with an outsourced accounting firm. But ultimately, they are responsible for ensuring that the accounting work is done correctly and on time.

(Video) What does an operations manager do?

Supervise Human Resources

Ideally, the operations manager’s role in human resources is limited to supervision, but that’s not always the case. In some smaller nonprofits, HR may get put completely onto the ops manager’s plate, but we’d recommend against it.

Human resources is a specialized field that requires experience and specific knowledge. You need to comply with employment law, collect the correct information, withhold taxes appropriately, and onboard and train new employees.

A knowledgeable HR professional should establish the policies and procedures for the human resources department, but many nonprofits can’t afford a full-time HR coordinator. That’s why many nonprofits choose to outsource their HR to external firms as well.

Even if you’re working with an external firm, the operations manager will probably need to be involved in many day-to-day items related to HR—like searching for employees to hire, interviewing, training, counseling, and terminating employees.

Manage Technology Integration

Technology is a massive part of the work that nonprofits do. Almost every person in your organization depends on technology. And the networks and systems that keep those people aligned take organization, security, and maintenance.

Depending on your mission, you may even be dealing with highly sensitive personal information that you have a legal responsibility to protect, even in digital form. As the operations manager, you’ve got to make sure the appropriate technology systems and controls are implemented throughout the business.

Not utilizing the proper systems could mean the loss of crucial data needed in the future. Or it could mean a crumbling IT infrastructure that can’t support the business model being implemented.

Nonprofits often don’t need, or can’t afford, an internal IT department. And relying on someone’s husband or nephew to fix problems isn’t an acceptable solution. Instead, many organizations outsource their IT department to a service provider. In this case, it’s the operations manager’s job to liaison with the IT provider to ensure the office gets the support it requires.

Ensure Compliance and Organization

Records need to be kept in order within any business. There are several reasons for this, but compliance is an important one for many nonprofits.

Your organization needs to comply with accounting regulations, legal restrictions, employment rules, and other industry-specific regulations. And the operations manager is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the company is prepared to prove its compliance when audited.

(Video) How does an operations manager balance so many roles?

Not only does record organization help when something needs to be located, but it also speeds up business efficiency. Instead of wasting time hunting for something, it will be easy to access the record database. All you’ve got to do is type in some information and locate the data needed.

How to evaluate performance and further development

Whether you’re building the leadership team to include an operations roles, or you’re currently in an operational leadership role — it’s important to regularly evaluate performance as well as work on developing to further improve your work.

If you’re evaluating your ideal candidate, after they’ve been in the position for a certain period (a year, for example), it’s important to compare their achievements to the job description. For self-evaluations, read resources (like this one) to find usable knowledge to help improve your performance.

Key areas to concentrate your efforts include:

  • Purposeful communication: In operations, too much communication is nearly as problematic as not enough. What you say, how you say it, must be as useful as possible. That’s where developing purposeful communication tactics come in handy.
  • Organizational processes: As someone who ensures compliance and handles intricate areas of a nonprofit, the ability to develop processes takes precedence over nearly every other aspect of your role.
  • Continuing certifications: There are a number of nonprofit certificate programs available for leadership teams. Those instructing the programs often have robust experience in the sector. Taking these programs helps you find the additional knowledge to improve your performance.

A Note on Outsourcing Professional Services:

We’ve mentioned outsourcing a few times here, related explicitly to bookkeeping/accounting, human resources, and information technology. That’s because this is an emerging trend we see gaining steam in the industry.

Traditionally, many nonprofits had a scrappy, do-it-all mentality when it came to these areas. So, an operations manager or financial director frequently ended up having responsibility for everything— from making bank deposits and firing employees to troubleshooting network issues.

But this approach causes more problems than it solves. Having trained professionals handling complex tasks that are outside their area of expertise is hugely inefficient. And it’s just asking for mistakes.

Yet most organizations can’t afford a full-time accountant, HR coordinator, and IT professional. And that’s where the operations manager comes in.

When organizations outsource these 3 functions and have the operations manager work directly with each team, they can get the full professional support of each team without paying a full-time salary. Often, these teams are more talented and efficient than an internal team member would be.

We believe this is the operational business model of the future for successful mid-sized nonprofits in the $1M to $15M/year range. If you’d like to talk to us about outsourcing your bookkeeping and accounting to The Charity CFO, send us a message to set up a free consultation.

What Qualities Make a Good Operations Manager?

(Video) Being An Nonprofit's Chief Operations Officer

Let’s turn to Krysta again, to offer a first-hand perspective on what skills an operations manager needs:

What A Nonprofit Operations Manager Does: A Recap

A nonprofit operations manager has many responsibilities, but their primary role is to coordinate all the various departments to ensure that business runs smoothly.

The operations manager will oversee the finance department, human resources, information technology, programs, fundraising, and more. And they must grasp how each department impacts the other to ensure that the entire organization runs harmoniously.

By doing their job well and assuming responsibility, they free up each department to focus on what they do best, rather than overlapping tasks or getting tied up in work that’s unrelated to their department. They also help free up the directors to focus on strategy rather than the day-to-day minutiae of each department.

Understanding the Job of a Nonprofit Operations Manager | The Charity CFO (4)

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What does an operations manager for a charity do? ›

A nonprofit operations manager has many responsibilities, but their primary role is to coordinate all the various departments to ensure that business runs smoothly. The operations manager will oversee the finance department, human resources, information technology, programs, fundraising, and more.

What are the four 4 responsibilities of operation manager? ›

The specific duties of an Operations Manager include formulating strategy, improving performance, procuring material and resources and securing compliance.

What are the three most important roles of an operation manager? ›

Here's a look at some of the major roles and responsibilities of an operations manager.
  • Organizing events to increase staff motivation and engagement.
  • Analyzing data to calculate the cost-benefit ratio.
  • Locating problems in the company's supply chain through quality control checks.
12 Sept 2022

What are the roles of an operations manager give 5? ›

Operations manager duties and responsibilities may include interviewing, selection, and hiring; training new and existing employees; planning, assigning, and directing work; authoring and discussing with employees performance appraisals; addressing employee performance and corrective action plans; employee motivation ...

What are the three most critical qualities of an operations manager? ›

At its core, the skillset needed for operations managers includes thinking analytically, communicating effectively, and executing efficiently.

What does a operations manager do on a daily basis? ›

In most businesses, operations managers oversee the big picture of their organization. They are responsible for managing processes, purchasing, accounting, human resources, inventory, and IT. There are different levels to an operations manager's career path.

What are the six 6 strategies in operations management? ›

Components of Operations Strategy include below main six components:
  • Designing and Positioning the Production System. ...
  • Focusing Production/ Manufacturing and Service Facilities. ...
  • Design and Development of Product/ Service. ...
  • Selection of Technology and Process Development. ...
  • Resource Allocation.

What are the two key drivers of an operations manager? ›

Organization and productivity are two key drivers of being an operations manager, and the work often requires versatility from the operations manager.

What are the 3 stages of operation management? ›

Production and operations management involve three main types of decisions, typically made at three different stages:
  • Production planning. The first decisions facing operations managers come at the planning stage. ...
  • Production control. ...
  • Improving production and operations.
19 Sept 2018

What is the ideal skills of an operations manager? ›

They should also possess strong motivational skills in order to effectively motivate their teams. Strong negotiation skills, organisational skills coupled with a sound awareness of internal and external customer needs are equally important.

What are the 7 main function of operational management? ›

We can distinguish seven main functions of operation management in the industrial enterprise: planning, scheduling, purchasing, controlling, quality control and inventory control. In each of those fields operations managers should conduct many decision affecting of-organization effectiveness.

What is the hierarchy of operations manager? ›

Operation management hierarchy structure consists of three levels of management systems - First Level Managers , Mid Level Managers , Upper Level Manager.

What is the major challenge for an operation manager? ›

Managing conflicts or competing business practices within an organization is a major challenge for an operations managers, who are often left feeling like a school principal.

What are the 15 essential operational management skills? ›

15 types of operational management skills
  • Technical proficiency. ...
  • Data processing skills. ...
  • Product development. ...
  • Risk analysis. ...
  • Strategic planning. ...
  • Budget management. ...
  • Staff management. ...
  • Decision-making skills.
15 Mar 2021

What are the three core issues of operations management? ›

Operations Management performs three major groups of activities that are deriving from its planning, organizing, and supervising functions. All activities take into consideration assets, costs, and human resources, and are started with a thorough analysis of processes.

What are the 8 M's of operation management? ›

Change management is the strategy for the organization to maintain the equilibrium between external and internal environment by managing efficiently and effectively the 8Ms i.e. Man, Machine, Material, Money, Maintenance, Methods, Measurement, and Market.

What are the 4 competitive priorities in an operations strategy? ›

What are the 4 competitive priorities in an operations strategy? The four competitive priorities for operations strategy and management include cost, quality, flexibility, and speed.

What are the Six Sigma in operations management? ›

Six Sigma is a set of management tools and techniques designed to improve the capability of the business process by reducing the likelihood of error. Six sigma is a data-driven approach that uses a statistical methodology for eliminating defects, defect reduction and profits improvement.

What are the four 4 basic management processes? ›

They were initially identified as five functions by Henri Fayol in the early 1900s. Over the years, Fayol's functions were combined and reduced to the following four main functions of management: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.

What title is higher than operations manager? ›

A director of operations is a management professional that supervises general managers and other high-level staff. Their primary duties often include hiring managers, supervising and leading departments, implementing policies and making long-term decisions for the company.

Who is the boss of the operations manager? ›

Operations Managers usually report to the leadership and executive teams. If they work in a larger company, they'll often report to the Chief Operating Officer.

Is operations manager a high position? ›

The duties performed by operations managers are diverse and often complex, and these high paying positions are usually given to business leaders who have extensive experience within a particular organization, industry or sector.

What is operations in a charity? ›

An operational charity, as opposed to a grant-making charity, is one which carries out charitable activities directly, such as helping disadvantaged people or working in some other way to improve society.

What is considered operations for a nonprofit? ›

These critical areas include: Legal, Human Resources, Accounting/Financial Management, Fundraising/Development, Board of Directors/Governance, Technology, Planning, and Training.

Is an operations manager higher than a manager? ›

General Manager vs.

While a GM is responsible for all aspects of a business, an operations manager is only responsible for operations and production. A GM's responsibilities are broader in scope and include HR, marketing, and strategy.

What are the 4 categories of operation? ›

The 4Vs – the 4 dimensions of operations are: Volume, Variety, Variation and Visibility. They can be used to assess all different types of business operations and understand how any why they operate, their key competitive strengths, weaknesses and different approaches.

What are the three components of operations? ›

This is shown in Figure 1, which represents the three components of operations: inputs, transformation processes and outputs. Operations management involves the systematic direction and control of the processes that transform resources (inputs) into finished goods or services for customers or clients (outputs).

What are the three categories of operations? ›

Key Takeaways to 3 Types of Business Operations

The 3 main types of business management include service, merchandising, and manufacturing.

What makes a good nonprofit manager? ›

A good manager is one who sees potential in workers and sets an environment that allows them to prosper. The nonprofit manager who can think creatively in this area, knowing the best way to communicate and motivate effectivity to each employee, will experience a team that is engaged in the mission of the organization.

What is next to operations manager? ›

After gaining experience as an operations manager, you'll be able to advance in your career, eventually moving into the sought-after position of a COO, one of the highest-ranking executives in a company, who works alongside and reports to the chief executive officer (CEO).

What is equivalent to operations manager? ›

It's common for an Operations Manager to become a Sales Manager, Office Manager, Salesperson, Chief Operating Officer, Program Manager, Plant Manager, Project Manager or Service Manager.

What position is below Operation manager? ›

An Operations Assistant is an entry-level role and completes administrative tasks that are related to the day-to-day activities of an organization. An Operations Assistant works directly with an Operations Manager to ensure a smooth workflow.


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