So what makes fractional executives so appealing? One expert says that fractional executives can provide up to a 50% equivalent of full-time executives for a third of the price. That means you can hire a part-time executive that will help lead your organization with years of experience just as a full-time executive would—but costing significantly less. Of course, it all depends on your organization’s needs, but tight budgets and small organizational scalability can be difficult to manage without help.
In this guide to fractional executive services, we’ll discuss what fractional services are and what different executives like a COO, CIO, and CTO bring to the table for your organization. We’ll also talk about the benefits of hiring a fractional executive and why that might be the best option for your nonprofit.
What Are Fractional Services?
Fractional services are business services provided by a third party who assumes a role or completes a task as a part-time employee. This third party could be an independent contractor or a part of a company that provides services to other businesses. Typically, fractional services are only used when it doesn’t make sense to hire a full-time employee. However, the part-time employee still becomes a part of the team and, no matter their position, their roles are important to maintaining operations.
Not every CEO has the skills necessary to manage bookkeeping, human resources, technology, and marketing all at once, let alone while still running the company and concentrating on customers. Hiring a fractional service provider can get an organization back on track, so the owner or CEO doesn’t have to take all of the weight on their shoulders. Fractional services provide you with the executives you need to build up your nonprofit without placing the burden on one person.
What Is a Fractional Executive?
A fractional executive is a part-time or short-term executive that takes over business operations as a consultant for a “fraction”—or less than full-time—of the normal workload. While at a company, they would assume the roles and responsibilities of a C-suite position, like COO, CIO, or CTO, etc. Most often fractional executives have experience as full-time executives in their field. This means hiring a fractional executive provides you with the experience and expertise you need to run your nonprofit successfully.
Hiring a fractional executive gives your nonprofit the benefit of having someone in charge of operations or other duties without having to fully restructure. It typically helps organizations avoid the lengthy interview process, long-term obligations, large salaries, and the accompanying benefits provided to full-time employees. With that in mind, paying for fractional executive services might make the most financial sense to receive assistance while avoiding the high costs of a full-time, salaried employee.
Because of their part-time responsibilities, fractional executives often have several clients they serve whether they’re individually contracted or working through an agency. So working with someone doesn’t guarantee you’re their only client, but that gives them a unique perspective due to their varied experiences. However, they still have the same responsibilities as a full-time executive and will be fully involved with your organization. It’s important to note that NDAs are involved, meaning your information is safe and secure.
Ultimately, a fractional executive provides your nonprofit with the opportunity to have an executive structure and strong business operations while remaining conscious of finances. This article is going to explore different C-suite roles, starting with the COO. First, let’s answer the questions what does COO stand for and what do they do for nonprofits?
What Does a Fractional COO Do?
An organization’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) is responsible for administrative and operational aspects of a business. By implementing the company's business plan, which may include staffing, administration, and corporate strategy, the COO oversees all aspects of meeting the organization’s needs. The COO is often regarded as second in the chain of command and typically reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). However, a fractional COO job description changes based on the needs of a business and the type of services they provide.
Because they’re in charge of overall operations, the responsibilities of a COO include:
Directing daily operations and informing the CEO of important developments
Developing policies that achieve the company's objectives
Communicating strategies and policies to executives and employees
Analyzing and evaluating data and metrics to assess performance
Meeting with customers/suppliers to build strong relationships
What Are Fractional COO Services?
Fractional COO services should provide your organization with expertise in leadership skills above all else. As the main C-suite employee running operations, a fractional COO should offer and equip these services for your nonprofit:
Examining company operations to increase operational effectiveness
Formulating a workable strategy and carrying out the required implementation procedures
Enhancing operational procedures through process improvement
Enhancing your resources for a secure future via organizational development
Improving your investments in inventory and logistical infrastructure
Guiding you through changes to the organizational structure
Managing risk to identify and reduce hazards to profits and capital
Determining and evaluating KPIs and performance metrics
Creating a long-term vision for a safe departure
Receiving these services will ensure that your nonprofit is operating smoothly without the need to worry about these duties. A fractional COO should help you meet your goals and improve your organization overall.
Why Is a COO Important?
Apart from the CEO, the Chief Operating Officer is the highest-ranking executive within a company. They generally handle all of the business operations and report directly to the CEO. This means the COO oversees other C-suite executives and overall builds strategies and policies that affect the organization directly. Most importantly, without a COO, the CEO takes on much of the operational work and is unable to focus on development, negotiation, and leadership.
A COO is just one of several different types of executives used as a fractional service. A CIO is another essential piece within a company that oversees internal technology.
What Does a Fractional CIO Do?
The Chief Information Officer (CIO) manages technology within an organization by overseeing internal operations and building policies around the needs of the company. Supervising IT infrastructure and strategies for the company are the main focuses of the CIO. This includes building core systems and automating processes within the organization. Important metrics used to measure CIO success are costs and uptime. This helps them to better understand how reliable the system is and its working availability compared to its operational costs.
Working as the main internal technology executive, the CIO roles and responsibilities include:
Developing and implementing department goals
Integrating emerging technology that can boost efficiency and business profitability
Creating and implementing IT policies, protocols, and standards
Coordinating the negotiation of contracts with IT suppliers, contractors, and service providers
Discussing the costs, benefits, and possible risks of new IT initiatives with other executives
What Are Fractional CIO Services?
While working with interim CIO services, an organization should expect the following out of a fractional CIO executive:
Evaluating a knowledgeable and impartial baseline to adjust IT approaches
Coordinating efforts with senior leadership to collaborate on internal improvements
Documenting IT strategy and future goals to meet expectations and company initiatives
Navigating the IT direction and technological operations
Organizing analyses of the budget and the future standards for clear outcomes
Developing and coaching employees to meet the needs of the company
By developing strategies and integrating technology, the CIO determines how that technology is used within the organization. A mix of technical proficiency, leadership, and communication skills are required of today's CIOs. A CIO should have a clear vision for the organization and have the ability to implement it company-wide.
Why Is a CIO Important?
Without the use of technology, it’s difficult to produce or innovate, making the Chief Information Officer role essential for a nonprofit. A CIO must be able to make important business decisions based on specialized knowledge and insight. One way to implement this would be by connecting technology with product development teams. The CIO also determines how to move the company ahead by getting the most out of the available information and integrating new information sources to help people make better choices more quickly.
Next, let’s discuss what is the CTO responsible for and why they’re important.
What Does a Fractional CTO Do?
Similar to a CIO, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) manages technology within an organization by overseeing external operations. They also help in developing tools and technology for customers. Ultimately, the CTO is in charge of growing the business through the use of technology and its solutions. This means the research and development, engineering, and implementation of these tools are a major responsibility of the CTO to maintain technology operations. An important metric used to measure CTO success is revenue and sales.
Because a CTO is based in technology externally, responsibilities include:
Overseeing data, security, and network maintenance for stable infrastructure
Implementing business strategies and technical roadmaps
Managing customer relations to meet the demand for products or services
Analyzing target markets using business models to determine goals
Improving research and development projects
What Are Fractional CTO Services?
CTO as a service for an interim CTO will build up your team and ensure you are using technology to your advantage and growing the organization in the process. Services of a fractional CTO should include:
Supervising performance by testing, documenting, and presenting a product
Developing architecture and technical solutions to assist with executing ideas
Planning projects by enhancing processes for features and timelines
Assessing the effectiveness of your technology and determining needs
Analyzing cost benefits and considering strategies to scale projects appropriately
A strong CTO will take the technology of your nonprofit to the next level and help your customers along the way.
Why Is a CTO Important?
When considering a CIO vs CTO, both create business strategies and evaluate and analyze different aspects of the organization’s technology. However, Chief Technology Officers are focused outward to external customers by developing strategies that grow business operations. A good CTO helps transform threats and opportunities into a successful and sustainable place in the market. With a deep understanding of customers (including networking), current and new technologies, and strong developmental skills, a CTO is essential to customer-facing successes.
What Does a Fractional CFO Do?
A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is the top financial executive at an organization who is responsible for the financial planning and management of cash flow. This means the CFO is a financial leader and strategist based on marketing and investments. The primary responsibility of the Chief Financial Officer is to optimize a company's financial performance.
A CFO is also the main communicator between the investors and board and is in charge of disclosing any financial business risks. Because of their roles in finances, CFOs must be well-versed in financial standards and regulations. Most often the CFO is third-highest in a company, beneath the CEO and COO.
A CFO’s responsibilities encompass all aspects of an organization’s financial health, including:
Preparing historical financial reports for shareholders, the government, and other regulatory bodies
Managing cash flow efficiently to hand liquidity-related decisions
Analyzing and planning for returns on investments by forecasting future cash flows
Negotiating with suppliers and vendors to invest wisely
What Are Fractional CFO Services?
A fractional CFO’s main focus for an organization is to assist in resolving financial issues that might be affecting investments and other financial decisions, such as:
Investigating cash flow and any abnormalities in spending
Determining the effectiveness of systems and processes
Reviewing high expenses and reducing wasteful spending
Navigating audits and other financial documentation
Developing strategies to increase profitability
Getting finances under control with the help of a CFO will assist nonprofit organizations in allocating financial resources efficiently and effectively.
Why Is a CFO Important?
A CFO is the main source of financial guidance, managing a team to ensure the financial health of an organization. While a CEO or COO might have some knowledge of accounting or financing, a CFO has a background in the industry and can be precise in their leadership. With their industry experience, they can help nonprofits scale their organizations to increase profitability.
What Is the Benefit of Hiring a Fractional Executive?
Understanding what fractional executives bring to the table demonstrates their worth, but what are the benefits of hiring a part-time consultant beyond their responsibilities?
As a nonprofit, it only makes sense to maintain a budget and not be wasteful with spending. Of course, executive salaries can reach beyond the means of some small organizations, and it might not be the most cost-effective. Because fractional executives serve as consultants, they are only paid for the time you use them, instead of a full salary. That means you can save the money when your nonprofit needs it and only spend when it makes sense. A fractional executive solution can bring down overhead because you don’t need to pay out full-time employee benefits like health insurance. Not only that, but fractional executives, like a CFO, can enter a business and help develop a financial plan to avoid any unnecessary spending.
Believe it or not, fractional executives typically come from a background of being an executive in their industry for ten to twenty years. Some have also built their own businesses and understand what it takes to grow and support a company. This means they bring many years of experience to the table that you might find difficult to find elsewhere. A fractional executive might use their years of experience to coach and manage a team of employees that have less experience. By boosting internal organization and setting the team up for future success, they may help in setting and accomplishing company goals. The majority of fractional executives manage several organizations and find solutions to conflicting problems, so their experience translates easily as a fractional executive.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a fractional executive is the ability to take the burden of business operations off of your and your employees’ shoulders. This allows everyone to focus on their own responsibilities, while the part-time consultant handles the big picture ideas of their respective department. You can also employ a fractional executive to fill in a position part-time during a transition period. This gives you time to find the right executive to fill the position full-time without frantically searching for a replacement.
When a small organization needs to scale up operations, a fractional executive can use their experience to guide the company in the right direction. Because it is high-risk, scaling is a delicate process that should be approached with expertise. These executives can provide support during specific times of need, typically during a growth or restructuring period. This input can give you a precise answer on when to scale, how fast to scale, and at what proportion.
Oftentimes a fractional executive is invested in one thing: helping an organization succeed. Without a stake in the nonprofit as a full-time hire, fractional employees are focused on realizing tangible results in a short period of time. This means they don’t get sidetracked from their goals of addressing immediate priorities and developing a better business plan. This helps them determine what works and what doesn’t, so they can make any changes necessary to business processes. By shaking things up, with the organization’s best interest in mind, a fractional executive can foster a stronger environment for change that leads to happier employees and improved outcomes.
Training and mentorship can be expensive and time-consuming when hiring new or investing in experienced employees. However, fractional executives can use their skills to not only help employees and owners, but also they don’t need the training themselves.
When Should I Hire a Fractional Executive?
Determining when your nonprofit needs to hire a fractional executive is different for everyone. The best way to decide when to hire a fractional executive is when your organization is struggling in a certain area, like business development or overall operations. Of course, that looks different for every company. So when one organization might hire a fractional Chief Information Officer to help with innovation and implementation, another might delegate that to a research and development team—or even the Chief Technology Officer.
A few scenarios in which a nonprofit should consider a fractional executive are:
They want leadership and experience, but need a hands-on approach to tackling problems.
They need an outside perspective to analyze current operations and processes.
They want the flexibility to use the services only when needed instead of hiring full-time.
They need to develop strategies and roadmaps for future operations management.
However, it ultimately depends on your budget. If you feel like your team is stuck on a project or processes are not scalable, hiring an executive makes sense. But if it’s not in the budget, it might be time to consider a fractional executive as the solution. That way you get the expertise and guidance you need without overextending your means.
Get the Executive You Need With CIM
At CIM, we understand the important role fractional executives can play in modern business. That’s why we offer CIO/CTO services for nonprofits, so you can focus on operations while we take care of the technology. Whether your budget doesn’t allow for a full-time executive or you only need services during a particularly challenging time, CIM provides the right solution tailored to your nonprofit’s needs. We offer a variety of CIO/CTO services for our nonprofit partners:
Tech Research + Evaluation
Leadership + Management
Capital Allocation + Budget
Goal + Roadmap Creation
Org. Objective Alignment
If your organization needs assistance with technology, CIM offers the appropriate technology leadership, strategy, development, planning, integration, and implementation to help your nonprofit scale and meet goals. We help your company stay on mission by offering training, technology, and leadership services. Visit our website today to see how we can help your organization prosper.