Project Management

Project Managers Without Borders

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This blog provides project management content and tools for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Our objective is to inspire project managers to volunteer and make a positive difference in the world through project management.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Aliki Courmanopoulos
Deanna Landers
Romiya Barry
Marisa Silva
Jeffrey Cox
Veroni Brussen
Filipe Bergami
Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton

Past Contributors:

Chelsa Dornian
Tony Van Krieken
Mario Trentim

Recent Posts

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Why Water?

The Art of Asking Questions

Lending Your Expertise When You Have Limited Time

Millennials: Your Best Resources for Project Management in the World of NGOs

Viewing Posts by Mario Trentim

Is Non-profit Project Management Different?

By Mario Trentim


A project, in a broad definition, is a temporary endeavor to produce a unique result, product or service. Project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the project requirements” (PMI, 2013).



According to PMI, “public sector projects can have unique characteristics and notable complexities”, justifying the need for a Government Extension to the PMBOK® Guide (PMI, 2009).

Although project management principles, best practices, and standards are applicable to a wide range of projects, different industries need to adapt best practices to their particular projects. As a matter of fact, tailoring is one of the cornerstones in all respected project management methodologies.


Is non-profit project management different than for-profit?

It is not that non-profit project management is different from for-profit project management. Let’s consider  an IT project, for example. It doesn’t really matter if you are implementing Enterprise Resource Planning - ERP software in a private company or in a NGO (Non-governmental organization), those projects should be very similar. However, the organizational context is extremely different.


Project management in non-profits is different because:

  • The majority of NGOs depend on volunteers, posing new challenges to project human resource management. Moreover, hierarchies tend to be less structured, forcing project managers to rely much more on influence and leadership.
  • Budget life cycles and finance management are usually less predictable because NGOs depend on donations and grants. Restricted funds, constraints, and legal regulations pose another layer of complexity in non-profit project management.
  • Strategic planning, governance, processes, and key performance indicators are adopted by high maturity NGOs. However, reality is different for a large number of NGOs, negatively impacting portfolio and project management with shifting priorities.
  • Nonprofits have to adopt different project life cycles to accommodate for special needs related to funding (grants, donations, etc) and acquiring project team (volunteers), for example.
  • Stakeholder management is crucial because nonprofit organizations frequently interface with government, private companies, regulatory agencies, communities, and more.


In summary, there is a variety of stakeholders and processes that may impact NGOs, which demands some tailoring to non-profit project management.


From my experience with NGOs, I feel the need for project management approaches better suited to non-profit project management. Below are some references on NGO project management that I found very helpful:


Please share your experience and references in NGO project management below. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: August 27, 2016 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

4 Steps to Effectively Engage Stakeholders in Non-profit Project Management

By Mario Trentim

All projects and organizations struggle with getting stakeholder engagement right. Unfortunately, there are few guidelines, techniques, or case studies available to overcome this common obstacle . A successful project depends on stakeholders’ expectations and perceptions and satisfying these expectations is crucial. Most of the time, stakeholder engagement is considered synonymous with soft skills rather than methodology, which leaves engagement up to chance and the luck of having a charismatic project manager.

But stakeholder engagement does not need to be left to chance! Here are 4 steps to improve stakeholder engagement and obtain valuable support in non-profit sector projects.

Figure 1 – Four steps to engage stakeholders effectively (Trentim, 2015)


#1 Establish What Results Your Stakeholders Care About

The first step is to identify stakeholders, document their expectations and engage them in a collaborative effort to define project purpose and value propositions. Uncovering needs and aligning realistic expectations right from the start is paramount.

To identify stakeholders, there are different tools and techniques, such as brainstorming, organizational analysis, categories, checklists, lessons learned, historical information, benchmarking and expert opinion.

One of the most effective tools is to create and update a Stakeholder Breakdown Structure with common categories or types of stakeholders. In Figure 2, you find a suggestion of stakeholder breakdown structure for an IT project.

Figure 2 – Stakeholder breakdown structure (example)


#2 Develop A Plan to Deliver to those Expectations

Once you have a long list of potential stakeholders, it is possible to analyze and prioritize based on importance and influence. Sometimes, there is a large number of stakeholders and it is not possible to involve all of them in the same way.

That’s when analysis and categories are useful. Based on common interests, individual and group contributions, the project manager can decide on the best strategies to involve and engage persons, groups and organizations.

There are various tools and techniques to collect requirements and define scope. We will discuss some of them in a future article. If you’re curious, take a look at problem structuring methods, collaborative approaches to combine different perspectives into a “big picture” in problem solving.


#3 Work Your Plan!

     Now that you have your project plan in place with all the input and help from your stakeholders, it is time to put engagement strategies to work. Project execution is always challenging because it depends on a variety of factors.

It is not uncommon that stakeholders lose interest along the way because they engage in new ventures, raising issues in commitment, buy-in, participation and contributions that were agreed in the beginning.

Never take planning and commitment for granted. Always confirm along the way and frequently review the stakeholder register for new stakeholders and to analyze changes in attitude.


#4 Follow-up and get Feedback (Please Keep in Touch)!

     In daily activities of running a project, it is easy to forget the importance of keeping in touch and getting feedback. It is essential to have a process in place to review stakeholders’ satisfaction at every phase or milestone. This prevents problems from growing bigger and jeopardizing the end of your project.

What challenges have you faced in creating stakeholder engagement, and how have you managed them?? What are the main challenges of project management in nonprofit organizations? Any suggestions of tools and techniques we could add to those steps? Please leave your comments below.


Posted by Mario Trentim on: July 29, 2016 07:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Conformity's an obsession with me.

- George Costanza