Why are written job descriptions important?

A job description is a general, global view of the job and its responsibilities. It should include the title of the position and a broad view of the requirements of the job; for example:

The executive director is the chief executive officer and is responsible for carrying out the policies established by the board, interacting with the philanthropic community, and administering the grant review and grantmaking processes.

This job description gives an overall picture of what the executive director does, but it does not give direction as to specific duties. A more specific list of job functions is necessary, such as:

  • Works closely with the board of directors in establishing specific program guidelines and areas of special programmatic interest
  • Prepares materials for and participates in the annual planning meeting, including the development of statistical reports, program documents, and trend data
  • Investigates special areas of program interest and keeps abreast of trends and developments in the home health care environment

Why written job descriptions are a good idea

In our field, boards rarely see directors—except at board meetings—and may not know what you are doing the other days of the year. A specific job list can show the board what you do and remind them of your value.

A list of job duties also is helpful during performance and salary reviews. It can serve as a built-in yardstick by which your performance is measured. Rather than merely saying, “I’ve been doing a great job,” you can prove it. By using the list of duties in your review, you can point out what has been accomplished, how you did it, and what you plan to do in the future.

An established job description also can make it easier and less time consuming to find a replacement for a staff member who leaves. If responsibilities are defined clearly, when a staff member leaves, it should not be hard for a new person to fill the role quickly. If responsibilities are not clear, it may take months for a replacement to learn the duties and get up to speed in the new role.

Creating the job description

The creation of a description and duty list should be a mutual process between the board and the foundation employee. We encourage people who are already in a position and don’t have written responsibilities to create a list. Work with the board to decide what the job is and what growth areas exist.

If the description is for an open position, the board must create it and look for a person who is willing to work within those parameters. By doing so, the foundation will save time and money by making sure the interviewing parties are truly interested in the position, and it can avoid needless misunderstandings about responsibilities.

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