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Practice Areas: Business Case, International Development, Organizational Project Management
Is nonprofit project management different?
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I've been working with NGOs for some time and I read a couple of references about it. I wonder what are the major differences, if they exist, between for profit (private companies) and nonprofit project management.

If you have any tips, references or experience, please share in your comments.

Thanks.
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Mario: I think the Project Management methodology is similar regardless of the industry. The proximity and motive of some stakeholders to the project may vary from industry to industry and from organisation to organisation. Both the profit driven and non-profit organisations have to manage similar project dynamics such as scope, cost, schedule, quality.
While profit driven organisation have project sponsors located within the organisations, the non-profit organisations may have their sponsors located outside the organisation.
While profit-driven organisation may have human resources for every role, the roles still exist in non-profit organisation although in some case played by one person.
While profit driven organisation most of the time commission projects to improve the wealth of shareholders (except compliance and sustainability projects), non-profit organisation commission projects to improve the wellbeing of the project beneficiaries. Both the two goals can be measured mostly quantitatively in the former and mostly qualitatively in the later.
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2 replies by Anupam Ganguly and Satish Sharma
Jul 28, 2016 5:22 AM
Anupam Ganguly
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I agree with John. Well explained.
Feb 20, 2017 6:08 AM
Satish Sharma
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I agree as well.
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Jul 28, 2016 4:58 AM
Replying to John Malatji
...
Mario: I think the Project Management methodology is similar regardless of the industry. The proximity and motive of some stakeholders to the project may vary from industry to industry and from organisation to organisation. Both the profit driven and non-profit organisations have to manage similar project dynamics such as scope, cost, schedule, quality.
While profit driven organisation have project sponsors located within the organisations, the non-profit organisations may have their sponsors located outside the organisation.
While profit-driven organisation may have human resources for every role, the roles still exist in non-profit organisation although in some case played by one person.
While profit driven organisation most of the time commission projects to improve the wealth of shareholders (except compliance and sustainability projects), non-profit organisation commission projects to improve the wellbeing of the project beneficiaries. Both the two goals can be measured mostly quantitatively in the former and mostly qualitatively in the later.
I agree with John. Well explained.
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Hi John and Anupam, thanks for your comments. I was thinking about particular comments on real projects. In theory, project management best practices would work well for all projects and industries, as John mentioned (scope, time, cost, etc). However, projects are very different, which results in tailoring and new methodologies.

If you take Shenhar's NCTP model, or any other typology of projects, it is easy to spot a variety of needs among categories of projects. Take research and development projects. Using the same approach of a civil engineering, construction, project wouldn't work well.

I don't know if you managed nonprofit projects before. They are made of part-time volunteers, little or no formal authority to the project manager, as you would in a company or government. There are specific categories of stakeholders. Funding, and even to project life cycle might need some adaptation, just to name a few.

I found some references, in case you want to take a look:
http://pmief.org/learning-resources/learni...rofits-and-ngos
http://www.pm4ngos.com/the-guide-to-the-pmd-pro/
http://www.pmi.org/learning/library/projec...fit-sector-3267

I am looking for adaptations, tailoring, specific best practices for NGOs, tools and techniques to cope with challenges of nonprofit projects in the real world.
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I made it from years. There is no differences if you perform project management in professional way.
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Excellent, Sérgio. Professional project management is a great contribution indeed. What were the nonprofits you worked with?
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Let me try to reformulate my answer. While people work as project managers in a professional way we can say that project management is not a profession because the lack of some requirements to be consider as a profession. What I tried to said is that when you work as project manager in a professional way then there is not difference when you work in that role in any type of organizations (profit and non-profit). I have been working in international development nonprofit organizations.
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I worked at MDA for 12 years, a non-profit, and I've worked for government. I had a small exposure to private sector work as well, for Artisoft (software peer to peer networking) and manufacturing - Weiser Lock (hardware - door knobs).

In my experience, for-profit projects have much more pressure on costs and time. Changes that increase costs with no proven return on investment often lead to the drive to shorten your time to produce a product. The reason why I didn't do much for-profit work in my career is because I got burned out by so much overtime! The bottom line and deadlines were serious! If there was a bad quarterly earnings report heads rolled.

In non-profits, while you do care about costs and time, there isn't quite the same motivation for that sort of pressure. Same for government. There seems to be more emphasis on realistic expectations because people assume there is no money and the resources are fixed. If something hasn't already been budgeted in a fiscal year, you can't get more money or resources until the following year, and that is not always guaranteed.
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Very nice, Pamela. Did you use a specific approach or project management methodology at MDA? Any particular challenge or tips you could share with us? Thanks.
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I mainly did waterfall software development at MDA. It worked well for me.
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Having split my 30 years between public service and private companies, I found the biggest difference was that leading internal government project involves mostly achieving the objectives/results. As Pamela explained, cost and time rarely matter for internal government projects.

I never had to deal with fixed scope/price projects until I switched to private industry.
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