Book Review: Practical Project Management for Agile NGO’s
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I was a volunteer. Over 13 years, I lost track of how many hours I spent in community service, whether it was providing first aid at school fetes, amateur drama theatre productions, Remembrance parades or teaching others. But I no longer volunteer. Instead, I have an ongoing order that pays a monthly amount to charity. I don’t think about it except to wonder if I should cancel it during the worst financial crisis (I didn’t).
If I’m not unusual, the face of charity support is changing dramatically. That’s why Karen R. J., a PMI Fellow, wrote this book. White’s new book focuses on how nonprofits can do more using limited resources by applying Agile project management principles.
The book is designed to help nonprofits “learn just enough project management to aid in your decision-making as you face ongoing economic pressures.” This book is a niche one, but it’s useful for those working in the sector.
What makes your nonprofit agile
The book acknowledges the evolution of volunteerism and addresses the “what’s in the for me” component that is so vital today. These are key elements to moving your nonprofit towards agile thinking. White also suggests the following important shifts:
To include social media outreach
To minimise bureaucracy
To recognise volunteers’ efforts
To adopt business practices that make the most of volunteers wherever they are located.
This last one is crucial as she talks about tapping into volunteers across the country and further afield. Previously charities relied on local support.
The book isn’t a sham. White writes that non-profits often fail to focus their efforts on the things that really matter. They instead focus on the projects that volunteers are interested in. She continues: “Their resources have been spread too thin, and the most important projects are affected by that lack of focus.”
She says portfolio management is the best way to do this. You can also create a resource pool to help you match volunteers with projects that interest them. This will ensure that your strategic focus is not lost.
Chapter 5 introduces the project management lifecycle, including a project charter-style template and status report template. Other chapters include templates such as a communications matrix and risk log, as well as a milestone schedule.
The next chapter focuses on planning. New terms such as project artifact or scope are defined in clear boxes throughout the text. This book is intended for non-experienced project managers, people who have just been given the job title and need help in a nonprofit setting.
Chapter 7 is where White really begins to talk about agile. She states that a project manager in this type of environment should be:
A leader who is active
You will also need to have good project management skills.
One of the tech project management skills is the ability to integrate Social Media in projects. You can read my book, Social Media for Project Managers, for more information. This skill is especially important for nonprofits as it allows you to engage with younger volunteers and tap into current ways of communicating outside your area.
Managing a volunteer workforce
Nonprofit project managers face a unique problem that many other managers don’t: their project teams are mostly made up of volunteers. White devotes Part 3 to managing volunteers, and in particular the resource issues that projects face when they include volunteers.
She discusses motivating volunteers through leadership opportunities that take into account local law (f).