IE Network

Interim executive directors (interim EDs for short) are usually thought of as “those folks who hold down the fort” at nonprofits when boards expect a long gap between executives. But what do interim EDs do, exactly, and how do you know when – and if – your nonprofit needs one? If you do need one, how do you choose the best one?

The Center's Interim Executive Network (IENetwork) acts as a referral service and source of information for nonprofits in transition. The Network provides training, mentoring, and support to professional interims and individuals entering the field. 


What is the IENetwork?

The IENetwork is network of former non-profit executive directors and interim executive directors who can be hired temporarily to lead nonprofit organizations through leadership transitions.

The IENetwork provides connects and refers experienced former executive directors and interim executives to non-profits in the metro Washington DC that are experiencing a change in executive leadership. Whether the organization is facing a sudden and unexpected change in the leadership, or implementing a succession plan, the IENetwork provides access to interim executives who specialize in change management.

What is an interim executive?

An interim executive is an experienced non-profit leader who is hired to manage an organization during a period of transition – usually after an executive director leaves and a new one is hired.

What are the advantages of hiring an interim executive?

 An interim executive director can ensure that the opportunities and new ways of doing business that can emerge during a transition are identified, and leveraged. By taking a fresh look at the organization and, speaking truth to power, the interim can help the Board to make difficult and necessary changes before the permanent executive director arrives – essentially doing the hard work for them before they even walk in the door.

 Drawing on the experience of working with many different Boards and organizations and as a member of a network of professional interim executives, an interim executive director can suggest best practices for maximizing Board and organizational effectiveness.

 Boards often miss valuable growth opportunities when they rush to fill a vacant position. An interim executive director can provide time and opportunity to step away from the past, and reflect on the current and future needs of the organization.

What are the disadvantages of using someone already involved with the organization to run things temporarily?

Board member? Most volunteer Board members do not have experience as an executive director. When a Board member takes over the leadership role, they find that they do not know enough about the role of an executive director to do so effectively. This solution can also make it difficult for the Board member to step “back” into their Board member role once a permanent executive director is hired.

Existing staff member? Adding executive responsibilities to an existing workload frequently means neither job will be done well. It may also encourage expectations if the staff member is interested in the permanent position, creating tensions and even loss of valuable staff if they are not hired. In addition, the perception that there is an internal candidate with an “inside track” can limit the number of qualified candidates willing to apply for the position.

It is for this reason too that a DCIEN referred interim executive is required to pledge not to apply for the permanent position in any organization where they are serving as interim.

How will hiring an interim executive impact my budget?

An interim executive will probably have little to no impact on your overall budget. Each interim executive approaches this issue differently. For example, some prefer to work as independent contractors, and others work as contract employees. In many cases, the organization finds that hiring an interim executive for only a few days each week meets their needs. In the great majority of cases, the interim executive will negotiate wages and hours that fit within, or are very close to, the amount of money you have already budgeted for your executive director’s salary, benefits and taxes.

An interim executive can also save money lost when a Board feels pressured to hire a permanent executive director too quickly, and later finds that it is a bad match.

How can the DCIEN help me?

If you or your organization is currently looking for an interim executive director, please fill in this form. The position will be sent to the DCIEN’s Referral List of experienced executive and interim directors. Interested applicants will contact you as directed in your job announcement.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about interim executive services, please fill in this form – and check the box for “More information please.” A DCIEN member will contact you.

If you or your organization is interested in hiring an interim executive, or learning more, but you are concerned about confidentiality or “timing” in posting a position, you can also check the “confidential” box. All forms submitted on this page are confidential and reviewed before forwarding by the DCIEN project director. If the confidential box is check off, the DCIEN project director will contact you personally.

Quotes from the Interim Executive Network (IENetwork)

"Our small non-profit was in a "state of flux" as we sought to fill our Executive Director vacancy. We realized that internally we needed someone with experience, enthusiasm and energy to assist us with the transition. The idea of an Interim ED and its timely implementation proved to be a most positive solution, which has provided the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow". 
– Eve Byford -Peterson, Ed. D. Board President Operation Understanding DC (OUDC)

"An interim ED can help a board take stock and guide the organization into a stronger future. Using an interim ED allows for A smoother transition in instances of strong personalities or difficult situations"
– Julia Torrey-Board chair Thompson Markward Hall


Questions? Contact the IENetwork.