Project Management for Nonprofits: How It Can Help + 16 Software Tools to Consider

Organizational Management October 15, 2021

Sayana Izmailova

By Sayana Izmailova

Your nonprofit organization has an important mission to accomplish and with that comes a never-ending list of initiatives to implement, events to organize, campaigns to execute, and relationships to maintain. 


The success of your organization depends on how well you can manage all these to-dos, how well your staff members and volunteers work together, and how efficiently you get things done.


Luckily, there’s a way to optimize the way you and your colleagues work so that you can build your community and advance your mission more effectively. 


In this post, we’ll take a look at project management—what it is, what benefits it offers for nonprofits, and how to implement it. We’ll also share a number of free and paid project management tools that can help your nonprofit improve your workflows. 


Let’s get started!

What Is Project Management?

A project is a temporary endeavor that has a specific set of operations and is undertaken in order to achieve a goal. This goal can be creating a new program, organizing an event, executing a fundraising campaign, or introducing a new membership management system. 


Projects usually involve a number of people working together to contribute their unique skills and expertise. They have clear objectives, timelines, and budgets. 


Project management, then, is a system used to make sure that the project is completed successfully. Each project has a project manager responsible for making sure that this system is followed, that everyone does their part, and that everything is completed on time and within budget. 


Why Does Your Nonprofit Need Project Management Tools?

While it’s possible to manage a project with a simple spreadsheet or word processing document, it is by far much easier and much more effective to use a dedicated project management tool. 


The software tools we have available today are incredibly powerful and can take care of all of the tedious, time-consuming administrative tasks that accompany any project. 


They allow you to:

 

  • Store information in a central place that’s accessible to everyone

  • Manage a calendar of deadlines and milestones

  • Keep track of the project’s progress

  • Easily see your upcoming to-dos 

  • Link dependent tasks together

  • Manage each team member’s tasks and responsibilities

  • Communicate and exchange files with team members

  • Manage resources (i.e. money and time) 

  • Successfully complete cyclical tasks like monthly newsletters or annual reports

  • And much more!


Without a project management tool, you’d need a full-time staff member who can dedicate 100% of their time to managing projects. For small nonprofits, that’s often not feasible. 


With a project management tool, you should still have a dedicated project manager, but they’ll also have time to focus on other responsibilities. 


7 Core Characteristics of an Awesome Project Manager

The success of any project depends heavily on the person managing it. In order to be an effective project manager, keep the following tips in mind:


  1. Set SMART goals

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. When you think about the project’s ultimate deadline, the milestones you’d like to hit along the way, and the metrics you’ll use to evaluate the project’s progress, setting SMART goals will help you create a realistic project plan and set everyone involved up for success. 


  1. Track Success

At every step in the project’s life span, it’s important to evaluate your progress and make adjustments. After the project’s completion, be sure to analyze what went well, what didn’t, and what you’ll do differently next time. 


  1. Choose the Right Software

The right project management tool for your team can make a world of a difference. You may not find the perfect one right away, so give you and your colleagues time to try out different options and find one that works best for you. 


  1. Get Software Buy-In from Your Team

People who don’t regularly manage projects may not understand the need for a project management tool. Some may be reluctant to try new technology or venture out of their comfort zone. As the project manager, it’s up to you to communicate to them the benefits that the right tool can provide and convince them to give it a try. 


  1. Always Communicate Expectations

Your team may require a lot of guidance from you, both in terms of how to use the new project management tool, and in terms of how to keep the project moving forward. Be sure to communicate with them regularly about how you’d like to see the project unfolding and what they can do to help move it along. 


  1. Ensure No One is Over Capacity

As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to manage the resources allocated to it. This doesn’t just include the project’s budget, but also the amount of time team members are dedicating to it. If someone has too much on their plate, be ready to step in and ask someone else to help share the load. 


  1. Keep Learning

Project management best practices and tools are always evolving, so make sure you keep up-to-date by participating in professional development opportunities. 


How to Implement Project Management Tools

Unfortunately, even the most useful and feature-rich project management tool won’t help your project if your team members aren’t using it properly and on a regular basis. 


To help ensure that the tool is successfully implemented and used by everyone, follow these steps:


  1. Get a free trial of the new tool and spend some time testing it out. Get a few colleagues to test it out as well.

  2. Research the tool’s pricing plans, nonprofit discounts, and which plan would be most suitable for your team.

  3. Put together a proposal to present to your leadership for approval.

  4. If approved, get everyone set up with the new tool. For best results, make its use mandatory across the organization.

  5. Host a few training sessions to explain how the tool will be used and how you expect everyone to participate. 

  6. Offer as much support as your team members need in getting acquainted with the tool. 

  7. Gradually transition old processes into the new tool and keep everyone in the loop as you do so.

Example: 5 Steps for Managing a Fundraiser

Before we get into software options, let’s quickly take a look at how you, as a project manager, could potentially use a project management tool to organize a fundraising campaign. 


Step 1: Make a list of all possible tasks associated with organizing your fundraiser. This should include everything from small tasks like ordering envelopes to big tasks like contacting your local newspaper to place a print ad. 


Step 2: Start with your go-live date and work backwards to create deadlines for each task. Don’t forget to put in tasks that will happen after the fundraiser is over, such as having a debrief meeting, analyzing results, and executing stewardship activities. 


Step 3: Assign each task to members of your team. Most tools will automatically send them an email notification once you do this. 


Step 4: Ask your team members to update each task’s status on a daily basis—this way you can see where the bottlenecks are or if something needs to be reassigned to someone else. You team members can also upload files directly into the tool for approval from you or your leadership.


Step 5: When the project is complete, you can duplicate it, populate new deadlines, and have it ready for the next time you organize a similar fundraiser. 


Read More: 13 Productivity Tools for Nonprofits (2021 Update)


16 Project Management Software Options for Nonprofits

1. Monday

Cost: Free plan for up to 2 users, premium plans start at $33/month.

Nonprofit Discount: Available upon request

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Organizing fundraising campaigns, managing grant applications, automating emails, and managing donor profiles. 

 

Monday

2. ClickUp

Cost: Free plan with limited storage, premium plans start at $5 per user per month. 

Nonprofit Discount: 35% off

Trial/Demo: N/A

Great for: Managing volunteers, collecting applications, collaborating with team members. 

 

ClickUp

 

3. Asana

Cost: Limited free plan, premium plans start at $10.99 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 50% off

Trial/Demo: N/A

Great for: Managing workflows, task-related communications, and exchanging files. 

 

Asana

 

4. Basecamp

Cost: Limited free plan, premium plans start at $99 per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 10% off

Trial/Demo: Free 30-day trial

Great for: Communicating via message boards, checking progress, keeping team members in the loop. 

 

Basecamp

 

5. Trello

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $5 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 75% off

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Managing to-do lists, collaborating with others, staying productive. 

 

Trello

 

6. Evernote Business

Cost: Free limited plan, premium team plan is $14.99 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: Available upon request

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Note taking, managing to-do lists, working on the go across multiple devices.

 

Evernote

 

7. Jira

Cost: Free plan for up to 10 users, premium plans start at $7.50 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 75% off

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Collaborating with web and software developers. 

 

Jira

 

8. Wrike

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $9.80 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: N/A

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Collaborating remotely, streamlining approval processes, and tracking performance. 

 

Wrike

 

9. SamePage

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $7.50 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 37% off

Trial/Demo: N/A

Great for: Communicating with team members and donors, optimizing workflows, and video conferencing. 

 

SamePage

 

10. MeisterTask

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $8.25 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: Available upon request

Trial/Demo: Free trial available upon request

Great for: Building Gantt charts, setting up recurring tasks, and automating workflows. 

 

MeisterTask

 

 

11. Airtable

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $10 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 50% off

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Managing large amounts of data, volunteer management, event planning. 

 

Airtable

 

12. Smartsheet

Cost: Plans start at $9 per user per month. 

Nonprofit Discount: Available upon request 

Trial/Demo: Free 30-day trial

Great for: Managing grant applications, strategic planning, and event planning. 

 

Smartsheet

 

13. Notion

Cost: Free limited plan, premium team plans start at $8 per user per month. 

Nonprofit Discount: 50% off

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Custom databases, sharing pages with board members, volunteers, and members. 

 

Notion

 

14. Freedcamp

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $1.49 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: Available upon request

Trial/Demo: Free 14-day trial

Great for: Managing vendors, storing and editing files, and tracking issues. 

 

Freedcamp

 

15. Slack

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $6.67 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: 85% off

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Instant messaging, message boards, and voice or video calls

 

Slack

16. Teamwork

Cost: Free limited plan, premium plans start at $10 per user per month.

Nonprofit Discount: Available upon request

Trial/Demo: Free trial available

Great for: Remote collaboration and working with third parties. 

 

Teamwork


What’s Next?


As you can see, most of these great project management solutions offer a free limited plan and a very reasonable discount on premium plans for nonprofit organizations, so there’s no reason not to try one of them today! 


Have you used any of these in the past? Do you have others to add to the list? Let us know in the comments! 



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