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Performing Arts Executive Director Job Description

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Performing arts organizations are nonprofit corporations that present live events aimed at culturally enriching the lives of their audiences. Examples of these organizations include theater companies, symphony orchestras and opera houses. These institutions cater to a specific region, such as a local arts center. Alternatively, they may provide programming to an international audience, as is the case with a touring dance troupe. In either case, a performing arts organization is helmed by an executive director.

Executive Responsibilities

Performing arts executive directors are the nonprofit equivalent of the chief executive officers found in commercial enterprises. Hired by and reporting to the board of directors, these professionals manage all aspects of the business, including the recruitment and hiring of staff members, as well as the creation and implementation of organization-wide policies and procedures. Executive directors are also responsible for developing and administering the annual budget.

Fundraising Responsibilities

Funding is the primary concern of performing arts executive directors. Once the annual budget has been approved, it is their responsibility to find the necessary funds to meet those monetary expectations. Although some income is generated through ticket sales and admission fees, the vast majority is usually raised through multiple sources. This may include a campaign, in which an executive director spearheads a time-limited solicitation of donations from individuals and businesses alike. Directors may also employ grant writers to solicit monies from government programs and nonprofit funding groups. Performing arts executive directors also build relationships with community business leaders, soliciting their partnerships as major corporate donors.

Getting the Job

Performing arts executive directors must typically possess a college degree. Common fields of study include arts administration and business management. A master’s degree is often preferred. Previous experience in a nonprofit environment is usually required. Employers specifically seek out those with demonstrated success within the areas of fundraising, strategic planning and budgeting.

Other Requirements

Many performing arts organizations are nonprofit corporations. As a result, fundraising is typically top priority. It is important for an executive recruiter to have exceptional interpersonal skills, as he serves as the organization's mascot and champion throughout the calendar year and during the organization’s fundraising season. He must be able to gain credibility, as well as building and maintaining positive relationships with board members, his staff and the external community, which consists of current and potential donors.


KJ Henderson has more than a decade of HR and talent acquisition experience. He has held roles at a Fortune 100 investment bank, a media conglomerate and at one of NYC's largest executive staffing firms. He currently heads recruitment sourcing at a major movie studio. He read literature at Oxford.

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