Project Management for Nonprofits: How It Can Help + 18 Software Tools to Consider

Organizational Management May 03, 2022

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.


That includes finishing projects within deadlines without going over budget or wasting donors’ money. Unfinished projects can leave the team with low enthusiasm and make the public lose trust and interest. 

 

But have no fear, this blog post is here to explain the importance and benefits of effective project management and software tools that can help handle your projects.

It'll cover:

  • What is Project Management
  • Why Does Your Nonprofit Need Project Management Tools?
  • Top 5 Benefits of Project Management Software for Nonprofit Organizations
  • 7 Characteristics of an Awesome Project Manager
  • How to Implement Project Management Tools
  • Example: 5 Steps for Managing a Fundraiser
  • 18 Project Management Software Options for Nonprofits

Let’s get started!

What Is Project Management?

Project management is focused on making sure projects are completed successfully and with its goal in mind. This goal can be creating a new program, organizing an event, executing a fundraising campaign, or introducing a new membership management system. 


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?

According to the project management institute, only 16% of nonprofit projects are completed on time, 53% of projects go over budget and are completed late, with 31% of projects canceled altogether. 

Though the work of nonprofit organizations might seem easy to do, it comes with its own unique challenges. Around 80% of the work goes into arranging volunteers, creating setups for fundraising, searching for sponsors, and getting permission from the officials.

Sounds like a lot? This is where project management tools come in. Sure, it’s possible to manage a project with a simple spreadsheet or word processing document, it’s definitely much easier and much more effective to use a dedicated project management tool.

With a project management tool, you'll be able to:

 

  • See all tasks at once quickly and easily

  • Get an overview of ongoing tasks, as well as upcoming and finished projects

  • Save time and energy that you could spend doing other important tasks

  • 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. 

Top 5 Benefits of Project Management Software for Nonprofit Organizations

Project management tools are known for their usefulness in the corporate world, but how can they be beneficial to nonprofits specifically? 

Here are the top 5 ways they help with nonprofit project management:

1. Work Remotely

Remote work is slowly becoming the future. And for many nonprofit organizations, this comes with its own benefits, like keeping operational costs down. With the help of project management software, nonprofit organizations can easily handle most work from their home. 

Whether it be sending letters to sponsors, getting permission, or raising funds, project management software makes it all possible. These tools also remind you of every important task so that you don’t miss out on any.

You can schedule meetings with delegates, gather volunteers via online forms, and conduct seminars with sponsors. Even if the tasks are way different, you can manage them all with the help of a single project management tool. 

2. Effective Communication

No matter where you are, you can effectively communicate with your team members with the help of project management tools. It helps you to stay on track with every task that’s going on and attend meetings from anywhere.

Nonprofits are known for having a wide range of programs throughout the year. So it’s important to remove communication barriers. One miscommunication can cause a lot of harm to the project. But, with the help of these tools, you can easily communicate and collaborate with your team members from anywhere. 

3. Easy Tracking

One of the major benefits of using project management software is being able to track each and every task on one screen. You can monitor the progress of your projects with custom project dashboards and track them easily. That includes seeing their progress and handling any upcoming hurdles.

Instead of running around for updates, you’ll get a detailed report of all tasks on your screen. Some even allow you to track email activity. All of this saves you a lot of time

4. Information Storage

PProject management software stores all past projects, so you can dig up information on any past fundraiser or services. Instead of rummaging through old files for information, you can search for a project on your screen. Most of them also have advanced search filters that make it easier for finding information. 

Project management software also helps you store important files, documents, and letters for future use. These tools serve as a library for nonprofit organizations with all updates on work done in past years.

5. Maintain Consistency

The majority of work of nonprofit organizations is the same year-to-year, so it’s important to maintain consistency. For example, if you’re planning for an event like an annual charitable party or festival, you’ll be using a similar format and the process so you don’t miss out on anything.

With the help of project management software, you can store those processes and formats in files, making it easy to reference them in the future. You can also use reports on past events or projects to set up goals for upcoming projects.

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)


18 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. SmartTask

Cost: Free plan for unlimited tasks, projects, and users. Paid plan starts at $5 per user per month, billed annually.

Nonprofit Discount: 10%

Trial/Demo: N/A

Great for: Customized project dashboards, project management, task management, time tracking, team collaboration, CRM, analytics, and reporting.

3. 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

 

4. 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

 

5. 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

 

6. 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

 

7. 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

 

8. 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

 

9. 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

 

10. 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

 

11. 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

 

 

12. 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

 

13. 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

 

14. 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

 

15. 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

 

16. 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

17. 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

18. Keela

Cost: $90/month for up to 1000 contacts when paid annually.

Nonprofit Discount: 23% when pay annually

Trial/Demo: Free demo available

Great for: Streamlined communication, task management, event management, donor and volunteer management



What’s Next?

Project management software tools can be a huge help and benefit for nonprofit organizations. It makes tedious tasks more manageable and saves you time, money, and energy. As more people work remotely, project management tools are becoming the best way to connect with your team members. Plus, they make your projects easier: whether it be charity programs, fundraising, annual events, or executing social projects.

If you’re thinking about using a project management software tool for your nonprofit, there are a ton of options out there. Most 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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