The Nonprofit Challenge

Laura Dallas Burford is the founder of LAD Enterprizes, a management consulting firm that partners with consultants as well as internal and external consulting organizations to successfully build the operational and delivery aspects of their practices. Laura appreciates feedback on her articles and can be reached at laura@ladenterprizes.com. She is the author of Project Management for Flat Organizations.

Another Monday morning and the daily commute into the city has begun. As I wait on the platform for the next train, a small service nonprofit executive director approaches me asking, “Do you have a few minutes? I would appreciate it.”

She explained that an operational grant to upgrade their network infrastructure was approved. Money is tight and a board member demanded that the upgrade be treated as a project. The board member stated we need to create a charter, but we have a charter. Like most nonprofits, we have few employees and none are project managers. There is a volunteer who has managed technical projects and another volunteer who has worked on projects. The executive director then stated that she knows very little about project management and has no idea how to proceed. However, she is receiving lots of advice from board members and employees. “Any ideas or suggestions?”

As I listened, the red flags went off in my head—small nonprofit with few employees, terminology differences, limited project knowledge, grant funding, active board member and reliance on volunteers. I knew that every one of the red flags needed to be addressed before the project began. What suggestions could I provide to an organization new to project management? This article discusses the red flags noted in the story and…

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"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

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