Team Up: Roles of Your Core Founders Group

You could call this a leadership group, but some may not prefer that. This page is about defining and assigning the roles of your core founders group. These can be rotating or fixed, but you are advised to agree on assignments. If a certain job is everyone’s role, then it’s no ones. The best way to keep the workload equitable is to have periodic accountability discussions about it. This doesn’t need to be framed as scrutinizing each other’s work, because just as importantly, you’re coordinating group efforts.

Naming the Roles of Your Core Founders Group

As you begin interacting with organizations and individuals outside your core team, it may help others to understand your roles if they match typical titles that the work world is familiar with. This can give your team a sense of legitimacy to funders. Yet, you’re allowed to name yourselves whatever amuses you and helps you communicate about your roles. The following are ideas for titles that will be easy for others to understand. Identifying unassigned roles can help guide your search for new members. It may help you determine which applicants will be given priority if you have limited space.

Business Management Roles

Let’s borrow from the C-suite to think about the roles that are necessary to assign each other as you get started. As needed you could add a chief officer for the following standard corporate roles: operating, product, revenue, security, risk, and compliance.

  • Chief Executive Officer: coordinate the operation of the group’s business, making sure everyone’s actions are in alignment with the current plan
  • Chief Information Officer: track down the information your group needs for effective decision making and action (this role usually means something else in the corporate world, but make it mean what you want it to)
  • Chief Financial Officer: track down sources of funding, trade, or salvageable resources
  • Chief Technology Officer: set up and manage your group’s presence online
  • Chief Marketing Officer: strategizes about group advertising, coordinating with CTO
  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) or Chief People Officer (CPO): keep track of membership criteria, lead the discussions about who is applying and what next steps to take toward full admission of applicants

Board of Directors Roles

Alternatively, you might assign yourselves titles based on roles of a board of directors. These role labels tap into the common language of the non-profit and business world. This can give your team a sense of legitimacy to funders. Well-known titles helps you communicate easily with those outside your group. It will be clear for outsiders to know who to talk to about what.

  • President (AKA chairperson): public face to talk with anyone external
  • Vice President: whatever needs doing that no one else is doing, especially if the president is supposed to and can’t get to it
  • Secretary: keep notes of decisions and make them available to everyone
  • Treasurer: keep track of expenses and contributions; set up and manage credit union account

The president and other roles may be designated to rotate. If your leadership team needs one paid member to start with, you might follow board tradition to make this position a non-voting executive director. This can prevent conflicts of interest where the exec has outsized power to work more on the projects they personally prioritize.

Alternate Founders’ Team Roles

  • Chief Meeting Coordinator:
  • Chief Notetaker and Document Keeper:
  • Chief Outreach Coordinator:
  • Chief Factfinder:
  • Chief Bean Counter:

Roles of Your Core Founders Group as an Established Ecovillage or Farm

  • Meeting coordinator: Someone needs to round up the crew, get everyone to the same place at the same time and plan for who is going to talk about what. This person needs to have the capacity to make sure there are good reasons for absences and to make sure missed information is filled in.
  • Office manager: Someone should know where the stamps, files, and scissors are. Tip: have one pair of scissors on a chain at a common desk, and you’ll save hours of personnel time and personal gripes.
  • Bookkeeper: This member should make sure you don’t spend more money than you bring in. This member will keep compile records to give to a tax accountant. It might be helpful to have one other member always signing off for purchases and doing a regular audit, so that this member doesn’t feel all the responsibility when a mistake happens.
  • Webmaster: It’s an outdated term, but some like that. This member will likely initially be who does online marketing and communication.
  • Membership manager: This person might manage recruitment and keep track of everyone meeting their membership obligations.
  • Hospitality manager: This member might manage visits and might be the public face aside from business dealings.
  • PR person: This member could double as hospitality manager, but maybe an assertive no-nonsense person is needed to connect with government bodies and businesses. It’s also important to connect with neighbors, because friendly explanation can prevent a lot of misunderstandings, rumors, and reports to authorities.
  • Kitchen manager: This member might manage food purchase and guide the meal planning chore allocations.
  • Property manager: This member could look after maintenance. This member could make sure no conflicting land uses are planned for the same time, such as meditation retreats planned during a construction project or kid’s camp.
  • Master gardener: You might assign this role to one who has the most skills or is willing to keep track of tasks most needed and coordinate the day-to-day work each of you contributes.
  • Livestock manager: This member has a difficult job of (a) knowing the local livestock laws and (b) keeping the livestock safe, fed, and out of the garden.
  • Programs directors: You might have an education program, a CSA, or retreats that take substantial planning and coordination.

Program Director Roles

Some of your founding members, once the community is established, may have agendas that require a very different focus than continuing to be constantly available to guide the community direction. It’s not as if this first five or so people who help set the direction are going to necessarily become the intentional community’s C-suite. Some may want to fill more boots-on-the-ground roles that don’t allow them much time to be in leadership meetings. If some of your members know this about themselves from the start, they could be assigned as directors of their program development, and possibly “interim” as another role title. That way your group can stay clear on what additional leadership roles need to be filled.

Outsourcing to Fill Needed Roles

If you need certain roles filled that aren’t doable by your current core team, state that in your group profile in our Team Up page. At our Match for Free page, check profiles for members whose skillsets include those your team is lacking.

On a related note, paid outsourcing could be a better option. It is risky to bring in a team member who is not a great fit in other aspects, but who has the skills you’re looking for. Carefully consider whether the eventual disruption to your team is likely to outweigh the benefit of a free worker. They may well end up feeling taken advantage of when you finally admit to each other that the value alignment or vision is not close enough. You really want to have full trust that you have each other’s backs. The success of your venture long term relies on this probably more than any other element.

Check out our consultants section to see who might be capable to fill in the gap until you find a new member for a needed role. The consultants pages also describe two roles in detail, which may help your group members function in these roles when needed: group facilitator and marketing expert. A local consultant may know someone qualified. Upwork, Fiver, Eloquenti, and other freelance platforms can be a great way to find external talent.

Founder’s Syndrome

There are varying definitions of founder’s syndrome, but in general it can refer to several difficulties faced by start-ups, where “one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the organization, leading to a wide range of problems” according to Wikipedia. Read also their list of symptoms. Their references section offers a wealth of links to relevant leadership articles. To some extent, the energetic founder is necessary at the start, but failing to share decision-making and responsibility eventually hinders the growth of the organization. Nepotism and micromanaging are common complaints.

As a negative example, Communities Magazine offers a cautionary tale about a group that allowed one energetic person to do most of the work but at the same time resented the power that leader had. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t benefit the leader in the end. Hopefully this won’t discourage you from trying, but will emphasize the need to have common values, vision, and mission, as well as an agreed-on strategy for working out differences. As a positive example, an episode of the Leadermorphosis podcast titled relates one business leader’s shift to share power and decision-making, which alleviated tremendous pressure from him, gave the work team the capacity to coordinate helping each other more, and improved his relationship with them all, including his daughter.

Resources Matched to Roles

So that you can get the most possible benefit from the information and databases at, here are the site pages we recommend getting familiar with, based on your role within your founder’s group.

Readings About Team Building

Interpersonal skills for team building