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Project Management for Nonprofits: Where To Start

While the term may seem self-explanatory, the Project Management Institute defines “project management” as “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.”

Basically, project management is the process of guiding your team through established steps to reach your nonprofit’s goal within a certain time. Project management can also bring together people in your nonprofit who don’t normally work together. In turn, that boosts collaboration and establishes a sense of harmony in the workplace.

Your team will typically have a designated project manager who oversees the execution. However, it can be beneficial for the entire staff involved to understand the process of project management for nonprofits.

[Related: Monitoring: An Integral Component to Internal Control]

Why Is Project Management So Important?

Project management is important for nonprofits because most of these organizations depend on the success of factors like fundraising and special events to boost membership.

Plus, project management can help with many other goals, including these:

  • Creating a new program
  • Implementing a continuous learning initiative
  • Setting up staff trainings
  • Introducing a new membership management system
  • Planning volunteer activities
  • Debuting advertisement campaigns
  • Rolling out a new system or software tool

Project Management: Where To Start

Tackling a new project can be overwhelming for a nonprofit, which is why project management usually follows a structured approach. 

Five phases break down the project management process to help manage resources and streamline proceedings.

Phase 1: Project Concept

Detail the project idea and make sure it’s feasible. Consider filling out a project initiation document, which defines the scope, tasks, team and criteria for the project’s success. You might see this document deemed a “project charter.” 

If needed, you can find examples of project initiation document templates for free online.

[Related: Internal Control Spot Checks]

Phase 2: Project Planning

It’s extremely helpful to set measurable goals and criteria for your project. Define these goals and what deliverables and milestones you need to look out for. Create a schedule, a potential timeline and a risk management plan that includes time and cost estimates. 

This phase can also include listing resources and tools your team may need to finish the project.

Phase 3: Launch and Execution

This step is all about delegating tasks to your team and deciding who does what — and with what resources. You further develop teams and track work. Modify and update your plans as needed, and focus on key performance indicators to track your progress and outcome.

Phase 4: Performance and Monitoring

Check on the project’s overall performance, and determine whether you need to update your project schedule. Consider all deliverables, efforts and costs, as well as any obstacles that may have popped up during the process.

[Related: Four Reasons You Should Work for a Cause Your Care About]

Phase 5: Project Close

At the project’s close, you release and pay contractors, as well as recognize teams for their contributions. Set up a post-project meeting to discuss how it all went. Complete the final budget and project reports, and collect all deliverables in one place to review.

Remember these tips:

  • Communication is extremely important when it comes to project management. Without it, your team’s collaboration and trust can suffer.
  • Be proactive about mistakes and hurdles. Ideally, your project management plan will go seamlessly. But sometimes things happen, so be flexible about adjusting timelines, budgets and task assignments. 

Helpful Project Management Tools

Luckily, we live in a time when technology has taken leaps and bounds to bring us the best in project management tools. These project management tools can help improve collaboration, task delegation and progress evaluation.

Here are our favorite (and free!) tools to assist in project management for nonprofits:

Partner With Jacobson Jarvis Today

At Jacobson Jarvis, we have decades of experience helping not-for-profits on the West Coast just like yours reach their goals. Our high-quality services include audits, financial health checkups, consulting, training and more. 

Whether you’re a small charitable organization or a large association, Jacobson Jarvis can provide customized assistance to help you feel confident about your nonprofit’s success.

Contact us today to get started!

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