post-title How I Became an Executive Director of a Nonprofit: Elin Ross

How I Became an Executive Director of a Nonprofit: Elin Ross

How I Became an Executive Director of a Nonprofit: Elin Ross

How I Became an Executive Director of a Nonprofit: Elin Ross

Ever wondered what’s happening behind the scenes for Downtown Frederick’s most recognizable faces? Take a peek behind the curtain with the Partnership’s “tell-all” blog series.

This week we’re sitting down with Elin Ross, Executive Director of Federated Charities, an organization that provides a range of strategic support services to nonprofits. Their offices are located at 22 S Market St in Downtown Frederick.

We took five minutes to ask five questions, and have published her answers as they were originally provided. Take it away, Elin!

NAME: Elin Ross

BORN: Indianapolis, IN

RESIDENT OF: Downtown Frederick (17 years)

FAMILY: Husband and a needy dog named Dutch

WORK: Federated Charities (1 1/2 years)

TITLE: Executive Director

FAVORITE PART OF JOB: Working in this beautiful building.

LOVE MOST ABOUT DOWNTOWN FREDERICK: Downtown Frederick is filled with interesting characters, beautiful architecture, and a community that really gives back.


When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 10 I wanted to be a probation officer or a prison guard. I thought that was going to be a really interesting job. I think I watched a 60 Minutes piece on the prison system and I thought, “Oh! I could make that better.”


What would you say now to your 10-year-old self?

That it was going to be a really hard job, but I still work in a business that believes that the world can change.


What path did you take to land in your current position?

Well, oddly enough my undergraduate degree was in Biblical Archeology and my masters was in Applied Anthropology. I started working for an international nonprofit that also had a US-based organization that dealt with child welfare issues. So that’s how I got to be in this particular field of human services, then I eventually used that experience to gain knowledge on the different roles individuals play in a nonprofit.

So I really do credit that organization, and no one would have thought it at the time, but it helped me understand how to become a leader of an organization. I worked there over 25 years ago and I continued to take positions with increasing management and leadership roles in the nonprofit industry in order to know how to make programs run effectively and efficiently.


What advice would you give to a job-seeker interested in your field?

This is the most rewarding job you’ll ever have and it is the most difficult job you’ll ever have. It’s rewarding because you get to give back to a community of people who are sometimes under-served where we live, but the hardest thing is as an Executive Director a lot of the weight of the decision making of an organization falls on your shoulders and it can feel very overwhelming sometimes.

So you have to be an expert in finance, an expert in facilities management, you have to know how to run programs, how to manage relationships with your board of directors and the public, you have to be comfortable asking for money.

There are a lot of responsibilities and I think that people in the for-profit sector don’t always understand how diverse our backgrounds are when we enter the nonprofit sector. They think, “Oh well you just care a lot about other people,” and it’s like yeah, we do, but we also have to learn skills in a wide variety of areas because we have to run businesses as well. In many cases, all aspects of our business.

Also realize in your first Executive Director job, you weren’t actually ready to be an Executive Director… but go get another one.


Name one thing your current job has taught you that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

That is a hard one. The thing this job has taught me…. well, the one thing this job has taught me is to always look in every closet because you never know what you’re going to find.



22 S Market St, Frederick MD