Nonprofits around the world are contributing hugely to society. Where the governments aren’t able to reach owing to a lack of resources or expertise, these organizations fill the void and help people ease their struggles.
From health to social reintegration, and from safety to inclusion, these nonprofits and human services organizations continue to make life easier and worth living for millions.
Apart from the big social aspect, these organizations also have a significant economic impact. In the US alone, there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations possessing assets of over $500 billion (about half of the federal government’s assets).
They also account for roughly 10% of the country’s entire national employment.
The impact of such nonprofit organizations is so great that they can hardly afford any leaks or red tapes in the projects they handle.
So, project management and the tools they use for the job are of paramount importance. For such organizations, the development of a resilient system for the completion of tasks isn’t something that can be ignored.
Regardless of the domain or size of their organization, nonprofits must always prioritize improving their existing project management systems.
But before we delve into project management tools for nonprofits, let’s first look at what project management itself is.
A project, as defined by the Project Management Institute, is “a temporary, unique undertaking that has a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.”
A project may often involve diverse groups working together to achieve the desired outcome.
Furthermore, project management is defined by the PMI as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
So, project management for your human services organization is a core skill that your operations heavily depend on. Naturally, it makes project management something you can’t afford to compromise on no matter how small or big the scale of your work.
But before we move on to understanding the use of effective tools for project management by nonprofits, it’s crucial to understand how project management works.
And for that matter, we must look into the different phases a project is divided by organizations, especially nonprofits and social impact organizations.
Project management is a complex mix of many crucial steps from the very start till the completion of the project. The project management lifecycle typically comprises five phases, namely:
In the Project Initiation phase, organizations work on a new project’s feasibility. This helps them determine the value of the project, and that if it can be executed within a reasonable time and budget.
In the Project Planning phase, nonprofits and human services organizations create a plan for the project. This factors in all possible components of the project including timeline, resources, risks, and more importantly, the costs.
In the third phase i.e. Project Execution, the plan practically begins. The project manager allocates resources to yield deliverables to the client’s or stakeholder’s satisfaction. This phase will also involve the teams identifying and mitigating risks, tackling challenges, and tweaking the plan accordingly.
The fourth phase of project management is Project Monitoring & Control. It’s not a standalone phase, rather a concurrent one that runs alongside the Execution phase. The project manager keeps a close check on the progress of the project to ensure it’s on schedule and within the set budget.
The fifth and last phase of the project is Project Closure. This is the time when the project manager presents the final deliverables to the client or stakeholder. It is signed off upon approval and the project management team draws learnings from the project.
As discussed above, project management is the lifeblood for any nonprofit or human services organization. At a social impact organization, project management can take many forms including but not limited to:
Not all nonprofits house a big setup or resources and most of the time, they have to work with very limited resources and workforce. The goals are usually big but the capacity isn’t.
So, these organizations have to create a workable and sustainable ecosystem that’s a mix of highly skilled staff, passionate volunteers, and advanced project management tools to reach their short- and long-term goals.
The triple threat of time, cost, and quality is always looming over nonprofits and their project managers. The efficiency of the highest level is the only solution as there’s hardly anything that can be done on the resource expansion front.
This big business of helping people has so much power that even nonprofit managers and board members themselves often fail to realize it. Referred to as ‘the third sector, nonprofits are key to our survival as civil society and responsible for about 40% of all human services.
And since effective project management is key to their survival and success, any possible way of improving their efficiency can’t be ignored. That’s where effective project management tools come in.
If you’re a nonprofit, chances are you also look for ways to maximize results with the limited staff and resources that you have. You’re low on budget, high on risk, and have a few but very capable people working for your cause.
One thing that you must factor in when looking to improve in the project management domain is that technology is sweeping the nonprofit sector as much as it is transforming any other sector.
Smart software solutions are emerging that minimize the need for a large staff, automate routine work, and give you the lean agility you’ve always sought for higher productivity at a lower expense.
The nonprofit domain is also replete with advanced tools and systems that streamline processes and everyday work like never before. With smart project management tools, forward-looking nonprofits are increasing their efficiency by folds.
Used the right way, these project management tools expand your project management capacity by multiples and offer you seamless ways to complete a project with the desired outcome.
With these project management systems, you can easily coordinate projects, keep a real-time progress track, break down departmental borders, manage tasks remotely, and do a lot more. Plus, instant access to critical information from anywhere further adds to the agility of your organization.
A project manager’s job involves the holistic management of numerous critical functions. Some of these functions include the management of scope, tasks, resources, schedule, quality, cost, stakeholder, risk, status, and more.
A high-end project management software will integrate all these functions into a single seamless system, allowing project managers, as well as other team members involved in the process, to work like a well-oiled machine.
As discussed above, project management is a complex mix of many complex functions which project management software offers to simplify and streamline. Imagine all these functions coming to one place that’s accessible to the whole organization in real-time.
That’s the power of project management software solutions.
From coordination to progress tracking, automation of routine and repetitive tasks to smart and insightful reporting, and from reminders to countless other built-in efficiency tools, project management software solutions equip your organization with all the right tools.
Here are some of the key benefits of using project management software at your nonprofit organization.
The countless benefits that project management software bring to your nonprofit must now be certain.
Besides these core benefits, these solutions also help your nonprofit a great deal in reducing needless status meetings, engaging part-time employees and volunteers, creating better future estimations, reducing time spent looking for information, and doing a lot more.
But with the market currently flooding with project management software for nonprofits, choosing the right solution for your organization may prove tougher than you imagine.
It has to be a one-time investment that lasts long. Migration from conventional project management to digital one may be a long process for your organization. Your teams might take their sweet time in unlearning the old ways and learning the new ones.
Once it’s accomplished, moving to another system because the one you have doesn’t fit your new needs will only be a huge hassle and bid dent on your already struggling budgets.
So some of the key things to look for – besides all the capabilities that a project management system typically offers which we have discussed above – include flexibility, cross-channel integration, ease of use, and support you can depend upon.
Once you have chosen the right solution for your nonprofit, you’re already knocking on the door to the highest level of organizational efficiency you have ever experienced.