Project Management

The Need for Care in Project Management Philanthropy

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

There have been a number of occasions during my career where I have been approached to volunteer my time and project management skills to help out a volunteer or charitable organization. I’ve found those initiatives to be incredibly rewarding, but I’ve also found them to be rather stressful because I’ve felt a lot more pressure on me than in a “normal” project for an employer.

There are a few different reasons for that, and I think it’s worth exploring them here.

The strength of your team
One of the first things that struck me is that in a volunteer environment, the team you have is very different from the team you are given in a corporate environment—and those differences can have a big impact. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • At least some (and often all) team members will be volunteers in a philanthropic environment. While that usually increases the likelihood that they will be enthusiastic about the project, it also reduces your ability to influence and manage them. If a volunteer decides they aren’t enjoying the work anymore, or if they want to do something else, then they can simply leave the team (without notice) and you have only a small chance of being able to bring them back onboard. This obviously has the potential to be highly disruptive.
  • Project roles will be based on preference, not ability. In a…

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