Working With Volunteer PMs

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Most of what is published about project management philanthropy is presented from the viewpoint of the person performing pro bono PM services. Little is focused on the process of selecting and working with philanthropic PMs. So, I thought it would be appropriate to do so in this article.

You might think that reaching out and securing the services of a well-intentioned PM is all about finding someone—anyone—who is willing to help an organization with project management needs. But there is more to it than that…much more.

Non-profit and charitable organizations, while often doing good works and providing needed services, are still businesses. They have all the issues, challenges and concerns faced by most other organizations. Their revenue, while not always based on sales and services, is usually derived from donations, endowments and the like.

Many rely on volunteers to help keep costs down. Relying on volunteers comes with its own complications in terms of turnover, reliability, competency, commitment and more. When it comes to using volunteers to manage key or mission-critical projects, things like reliability, competency and commitment can become crucial—and damaging if lacking in the project manager engaged.

It is therefore imperative that the organization choose wisely and perform proper vetting and diligence when selecting a volunteer PM…

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"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."

- Mark Twain