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Project Management in non-profit organizations – is a “different” type of project management necessary?


Some of our projects are within the non-profit sector, e.g. in social organizations, associations or foundations. Project management? Yes, it is necessary in the non-profit sector as well. More? Less? Or simply different? What are the requirements that must be expected in non-profit organizations? Who are the stakeholders? What are the risks?

Many unanswered questions. The following blog article shall give answers to the main questions.

What are the projects about and what is the initial idea behind the request of project support?

Topics are diversified. Whereas a high professional standard within technology, process knowledge, communication or project management is necessary for economic and business projects, rather a certain cross-sectional approach is necessary for non-profit projects. Or in other words: Professional knowledge across all fields is necessary. Furthermore, it is essential to be able to give answers to customers and all interfaces at any time. What is this area all about? What can be the right approach in this particular organization? What are the next steps? And what about the necessary requirements? If you start to conceptualize the topics while answering the above listed questions, internal TEAMWILLE experts will be involved for development and review to substantiate the topics with certain expertise. Project topics are often complex and contain many interfaces such as legal requirements (e.g. from social security statute books; commercial law, association and foundation law, tax codes …) or an intensive collaboration with authorities.

What are the topics the non-profit organizations deal with for which they request support by TEAMWILLE?

It is simply about one’s own future sustainability. Organizations are often shaped by a traditional image. They come from a period where authorities were compared to non-profit organizations. And many projects underlie this image. Customers want that organizations are able to face the requirements of today and tomorrow. This is the moment when a church organization deals with questions about the right target groups, suitable offerings and services in the future. Those who want effective and sustainable answers to such basic questions must be aware that this is only feasible when the non-profit organization is ready to change completely in the sense of a total reinvention. This change must then be undergone within the project. And this challenge conquers project management.

What role does TEAMWILLE have in the projects of a non-profit organization?

TEAMWILLE’s roles are largely comparable to project roles within other sectors. TEAMWILLE controls or manages projects. All responsibilities within the project belong to the role of the project manager. The main difference is probably that you work on eye level with the management, executive boards or supervisory boards and that you are located on a very “high level” within the organigram. Mostly, the role is an “external project lead” or an “external project manager”. He or she takes care about developing and establishing necessary structures, that the project itself is structured, that informal targets are presented as formal target directions in a transparent way and that the necessary interfaces are integrated.

And what is the greatest difference between project management in non-profit organizations and business enterprises?

The main difference is the size of a project. Within the business sector it becomes clear that projects focus only on a small part of the company and shall develop or change just a small section of the great picture. Since non-profit organizations are mostly smaller and you work in areas of up to 1000 employees this projects directly have far-reaching effects.

Another essential difference is the high and noticeable degree of openness towards external support. It is quite logical to assume that this is above all because incorporating external competences and entering into cooperation is seen as a standard procedure. Within the business sector cooperation is always something that comes along with a loss of knowledge regarded as a limitation of own skills or an interference into self-development.

The voluntary structures in non-profit organizations are, however, one of the major challenges. In recent years, they have been undergoing momentous changes. Young people prefer not to engage in long-term commitments. They would rather help in emergency situations as their personal way to take over social responsibility. Since organizations have voluntary structures, these changes have also been realized – organizations struggle to find employees. Projects with voluntary employees regularly challenge a project management, since not only the project management is assumed but also public marketing in the name of the organization – multi-tasking is necessary.

What are the requirements for a project manager within the non-profit sector?

Having a full understanding for correlations helps considerably. TEAMWILLE turns only the smallest wheels with its project teams but with a high impact on society. This is actually a great responsibility, which is transferred. Face and assume it with care and humility. Keeping an eye on costs is also helpful since financial means in an organization underlie intended purposes and are not available in unlimited quantities for an unlimited project duration. You should definitely be aware of that at any time.

To put it in a nutshell, an outstanding know-how about organizations and human behavior is necessary, if you want to fulfill the role of a project manager appropriately. This is the core of activities and topics. TEAMWILLE is happy to take over further exciting non-profit projects to contribute to a better society with its expertise, commitment and enthusiasm.


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