Project management in nonprofits – different or more of the same?
by Josefa Molitor-Ruckenbauer
To answer this question we should first have a look at the special challenges of managing social profit projects:
PRINCE2 defines two main interest groups in project management, in nonprofit projects is the situation on the first glance already more complicated: there are at least 3 main interest groups: that is the beneficiaries of the project (=clients), the provider of the activities (=supplier) and the donors, who finance the project.
Projects tend to solve complex problems – in non profit projects the situation is even more complicated: nonprofit projects aim to social and behavioral change – but the achievement of these objectives is extremely difficult to measure.
The representative financing through the donors leads to the situation that apart from the expectations of the beneficiaries also the conditions of the donors have to be fulfilled. The choice of the project management approach is often provided by the donors. Donors have special requirements, that cause additional efforts in project management.
The scarcity of resources – in funds and personnel – is another main challenge that fosters frequently alternative and creative solutions. Further main characteristics of managing projects of nonprofits are the composition of self-determined and committed employees and volunteers as well as the tight core structure of the organisation.
The above described challenges show that project management in nonprofit organisations is extremly demanding and require specific sectoral knowhow:
One main ingredient to manage this high complexity in social profit projects with success is a participatory approach in project management. The stakeholder management, participatory planning, clear and measurable objectives as well as transparent communication, flexibility and the continuous adaptation are the critical success factors for managing non profit projects.
Josefa Molitor-Ruckenbauer was working as project manager in non profit organisations in development cooperation, environment and regional cooperation for many years.
Since 2012 she offers project management services for non profit organisation such as trainings, coaching, facilitation of planning and review processes and temporary management of projects.