Managing your project

Author: Elisa Warner

Nonprofit organizations face special challenges in project development and management.

Project management in the non-profit world carries unique challenges. While comparisons can be made to corporate teams, the unique structure of a non-profit creates special conditions for project leaders and supervisors. The non-profit leadership structure may create a divorce between project development and project management.

Project Management

Due to the top-down leadership structure, the foundation of successful project management is built long before the project idea surfaces. At the staff level, a successful project manager utilizes the individual strengths of team members to develop a project mission statement, to delegate responsibilities, and to evaluate progress toward the project goal. Depending on the type of project and organization, the manager may use a variety of techniques to shepherd the project to successful completion. In the process, he or she will effectively manage team members so that they are motivated to perform, and will act as a bridge for effective communications among team members and between the team and other groups or leaders in the organization.

Project Development

In the non-profit world, project development begins with an organization’s top leadership – its board of directors. The board of directors, in concert with the executive director, is commissioned to develop an annual strategic plan, mapping the overall mission, vision, values and goals of the organization.

Following the strategic planning meeting, the executive director serves as the staff/board liaison. The executive director is responsible for communicating the strategic goals to staff. This process ensures the successful initiation and management of meaningful projects by teams comprised of staff members. It is crucial that non-profit board members understand that their role is one of governance and oversight, and not delve into operational matters reserved for staff.


Elisa Warner develops research and training programs for non-profit and educational organizations. She is the former editor-in-chief of The Educational Facility Planner.


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