You are here:

Best Practices for Nonprofit Project Management

Posted Sep 22, 2023 04:00 PM
Nonprofits need to run like clockwork to effectively cover their many projects, internal processes, and stakeholder management. Given this, they often have to anchor on project management to keep their wheels turning.

Successful project management can help with crucial factors such as time, resources, budget, and risk management, among other important facets. Consequently, the Project Management Institute reports that the demand for individuals with project management-oriented skills is also expected to rise to 25 million by 2030. As it is, professionals with project management capabilities are now among the highest paid in their respective fields. This further illustrates how integral project management is to an organization.

For nonprofits that want to further optimize their own project management strategies, here are four best practices to apply:

1. Create an environment conducive to problem-solving

The solution to a problem does not lie with an individual, making it crucial for project management initiatives to focus on collaborative efforts. In a project focused on research and development, for example, tools like Google Workspace can make things easier by letting up to 20 users work together on collecting learning resources and summarizing data and insights.

Meanwhile, applications like Meet and Hangout can continue the collaborative experience with messaging and video conferences. These are great options for remote operations when some members are in the field, for instance, and need to communicate developing problems that need immediate resolution.

Nonprofits themselves can further coax this type of environment in the workplace by adopting project management frameworks like the logic model, where collaboration can be more structured by collectively identifying priorities, inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts. This not only fast-tracks any solutions but also boosts team morale.

2. Build and sustain lasting relationships with stakeholders

Considering stakeholders (or donors) provide a significant portion of a nonprofit's funding, it helps to create solid relationships to keep projects running smoothly. Among the viable strategies that can achieve successful donor stewardship is sending appreciation letters or phone calls during and after a project. If your project involves constructing a new facility or procuring new supplies for your organization, you can even go further by inviting the donors for a tour or demonstration, allowing them to witness the impact of their support in person.

Since project managers have both outstanding communication strategies and strong multitasking abilities, they are most capable of being transparent with stakeholders and keeping them updated on a project's milestones and performance metrics. Their expert organization skills can also ensure the project stays grounded and aligned with the stakeholders' goals throughout its implementation.

3. Utilize project management software

Project management can be extremely tedious, which is why taking advantage of available software is critical toward enhancing outcomes and optimizing resources. The Project Management Institute found that 11.4% of resources are wasted due to poor project management.

This is why nonprofits should consider using basic software tools such as Google Workspace, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Teams, Confluence, Jira, Asana, and Freedcamp to streamline projects involving large teams, including community development projects and capital campaigns that typically include a pool of volunteers. These tools provide real-time data tracking and planning that can organize the huge deluge of work that project management entails. You can also use IT specialists to design custom software that meets your organization's specific needs. For instance, a programmer can create a curated landing page for your team that makes navigating online data easier.

On a simpler note, they can also help introduce software solutions, as mentioned above, and onboard members on how to operate them. Overall, their digital skills can support a nonprofit's direction and help project management teams acquaint themselves with software programs when required, maximizing resource use and efficiency.

4. Keep everything on record

Apart from maintaining order and transparency, recording the experiences and events during both the highs and the lows will serve as a chance for everyone to learn. This is especially true for recurring projects like awareness month celebrations and yearly fundraisers, where every iteration must address the weaknesses and build upon the strengths of the previous one.

Fortunately, there are various tracking tools to streamline the documentation process, starting with Basecamp and its intuitive features that make it nearly impossible to miss out on information. With comments on all files and tasks, message boards for announcements, and chat rooms for even more reminders, nonprofits can post the lessons learned and have team members comment on areas of improvement. In doing this, an atmosphere of accountability and forward-thinking can be cultivated.

Despite all this, do not forget to emphasize success! This recognizes each team member's contributions, which helps foster engagement and motivation—both of which are very important given that many nonprofit teams include volunteers. Remember, in all areas of business, lessons are learned. Keep everything on record and easily accessible for all to review and grow from.

Nonprofit project management is not an easy process. That said, following these practices will help ensure that progress, efficiency, and continuous learning are achievable.

About the Author

Ruthie James is a financial advisor who specializes in crafting budgets to help a variety of clients get the most out of their hard-earned savings. When she's not crunching numbers, she likes to head out to her local park for an afternoon of birdwatching.