Looking back, I recall a time when I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of projects and ideas that were coming my team’s way. The excitement of starting new projects was often dampened by the reality of what our team could realistically handle.
Ideas and projects were dying in the implementation phase, executed poorly, or they didn’t get off the ground at all. This didn’t sit right, considering how much impact some of these projects and ideas could have had. I was determined to get to the root cause and find solutions to the barriers that were stopping us from executing these important mission-forward activities.
A common thread among these unfulfilled projects was a lack of organization, among other things. This was critical because it was compounded by the fact that we were also facing very limited budgetary and human resources.
And it wasn’t just us feeling the chaos; our colleagues and stakeholders shared frustrations about what could have been if only things were more streamlined.
In the nonprofit sector, we marketers are all too familiar with this. You’re expected to deliver creative campaigns that resonate and drive donations, as well as support programmatic initiatives, all while operating on shoestring budgets and other limited resources.
I craved well-executed events and innovative initiatives with clear processes and consistently met goals (don’t we all).
Here is where I found myself embracing project management. It’s a methodology with a real structured approach—clear goals, defined roles, and measurable milestones that improve planning and execution.
Earning my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, I incorporated these methods into our internal projects and operations and advised other teams to do the same. The result was better collaboration, clearer communication, deadlines met, and the ability to measure and learn from each project.
How to Get Started with Project Management
You don’t have to pursue your certification to start incorporating useful project management techniques now. Start here:
- Always Define Your Scope – Clarify what you want to achieve with your marketing project. Is it awareness, donations, or community engagement?
- Break It Down – Create a work breakdown structure (WBS) for your campaign. What are the key deliverables, and what tasks are needed to accomplish them?
- Assign and Schedule – Determine who does what and by when. Use tools like RACI charts for the division of labor and Gantt charts to visualize the timeline and dependencies of tasks.
- Monitor and Adapt– Implement regular check-ins like the project manager’s popular 15-minute stand-up meetings to assess progress. Use this data to pivot your strategy when necessary, ensuring you and your team stay on the right trajectory.
Project Management in Nonprofit Communications
Let’s dig deeper into some tangible scenarios:
Creating Event Planning Precision
Picture gearing up for your next gala. You could use a project management platform like Monday.com to list tasks and embrace the Task Identification principle of project management. Throw in a Responsibility Assignment Matrix or RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) chart, and you’ve got Resource Allocation in action—where everyone knows their role, you are using your human resources effectively, and your event runs seamlessly.
Developing Content Calendars
Think of building a content calendar with tools like ClickUp or Google Sheets as more than scheduling—it’s applying the concept of Regular Monitoring and Evaluation. You’re crafting a content journey that tracks the evolution from idea to impact, ensuring the transparency and utility of every piece toward advancing mission awareness.
Supporting Volunteer Coordination
When it comes to volunteers, a tool like VolunteerHub or SignUpGenius is your go-to for Stakeholder Engagement. It’s about more than just who can help on Saturday—it’s ensuring everyone’s in the loop, active, and recognized for their part (also good for Resource Allocation).
Producing Donor Engagement Campaigns
Using a CRM system such as Salesforce for Nonprofits demonstrates Quality Management at its finest. It’s not just about keeping tabs on your donors; it’s about nurturing relationships with insights that turn one-time givers into lifelong supporters with the right communications at the right time.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
While it is easy to delve deep into project management and feel intimidated (I certainly was in the beginning), it’s helpful to keep in mind that project management isn’t just a series of complicated processes; it’s a strategic approach that gives your marketing efforts and organizational projects clarity and action. And who doesn’t want that?
With project management, obstacles become navigable challenges.
Is your budget tight? Sharpen your resource management to plan carefully and use what you have more effectively.
Are deadlines looming? Create an integrated schedule that will establish a clear timetable so that everyone knows what to do and when.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Start with practicing the basic elements of project management first, and watch things begin to fall into place.