Your nonprofit can benefit from agile project management
ag·ile | \ ˈa-jəl , -ˌjī(-ə)l \
- marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace: an agile dancer
- having a quick resourceful and adaptable character: an agile mind
Agility isn’t something you see a whole lot of when it comes to project management. Most companies and nonprofits are stuck in a very rigid mindset where everything has to move along as planned.
But things are changing. At least they are for organizations that have adopted the Agile approach to project management.
We’re talking all about Agile in nonprofits, including what it is and how it can benefit your organization.
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile started out as an innovative approach to software development but is quickly being adapted for project management in all industries and sectors, including the nonprofit world!
To put it simply, agile project management is a way for organizations to increase flexibility while still maintaining efficiency when teams work on a project.
The Agile Project Management Manifesto:
The original Agile Manifesto states:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
What Is the Goal of Agile for Nonprofits?
But what about the overall goal of using the Agile project management methodology?
Rather than creating what’s supposed to be a “perfected” product from the get-go, the idea of the Agile method is to deliver something quickly to then get feedback on it.
As a nonprofit, that might be your social media content. It could be a new nonprofit website. Or it could be a Google Ads campaign.
Instead of releasing the “perfect” end product, Agile for nonprofits relies on creating what’s known as a “minimum viable product” for the public. This product meets the basic needs of what you created it for.
And from there, users and supporters interact with it and then provide feedback. Based on their feedback, your team can then go back and improve it.
The foundation of improving the product, though, is based on the feedback of your supporters. That’s infinitely more valuable than any other input you may receive on it! Because it’s your supporters who drive your nonprofit organization based on their contributions.
Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools
Misunderstandings and misinterpretations are a thing of the past. When you adopt Agile for nonprofits, you inherently move towards direct, improved communication between team members.
The goal here is to keep steps for communicating between individuals to a minimum. This is especially important if they’re working together on the same project, even if they’re not in the same department.
This is such a great value for nonprofits since they often “silo” departments.
Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation
While the term “software” is a remnant of the Agile project management method for tech development companies, this value still works for nonprofits!
Consider the term “software” to mean the service or product you’re creating. That could be your nonprofit website, nonprofit videos, or any other project you’re working to release to the public.
The main takeaway from this value is that success is found in the end product you’re releasing. Making sure the product works and meets your supporters’ needs matters more, rather than documenting the procedures and steps you took to get there.
Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
This is key to the Agile for nonprofits methodology. Since the main goal of Agile project management is to create a product that meets your supporters’ needs, you need to be willing to collaborate with them.
That usually includes gathering feedback from your supporters. And our sister site, Nonprofit-Apps, has a great article all about how to do that using nonprofit surveys!
Responding to Change Over Following a Plan
In years past, many organizations, including nonprofits, created a plan for something and never budged from it. But that’s not always the best way to handle project management!
Instead, being flexible and allowing yourself (and your team!) to adapt results in a better product for your supporters. And that results in an increase in benefits for your nonprofit, including increased funds!
The fourth value is more or less an umbrella for the top benefits of working in an Agile for nonprofits mindset. It allows for, well, agile thinking and nimble responses when changes come up. The team isn’t glued to “the plan” at the expense of creative thinking and better solutions.
7 Key Benefits to Agile for Nonprofits:
There are plenty of benefits to adopting the Agile for nonprofits approach. Here are 7 of the key benefits we love:
1. Your nonprofit supporters are always at the forefront.
Your nonprofit’s supporters are the lifeblood of your organization. That means your nonprofit team should think of what they need and take into consideration their feedback for almost everything in your organization.
One of the great things about Agile project management is it keeps your nonprofit’s supporter feedback at the forefront of all projects. Rather than team members guessing what donors want to see, Agile for nonprofits actually incorporates feedback into the project life cycle.
2. Everyone’s work is visible to all, which improves communication.
There’s no need for status reports because team collaboration is heavily valued. Not to mention, there’s rarely any confusion around what’s happening in the project. And because all work is visible and continuous communication is prioritized, there’s a reduced amount of misunderstandings.
3. Teams plan for the right amount of work.
No need for burnout! With the Agile for nonprofits method, team members don’t have to stick to one single plan and follow every single task on it.
Instead, they prioritize the end product. Which means they only need to do what’s necessary to get to that end product.
There’s no overworking! Only sustainably-paced work that reduces overwhelm among your nonprofit team members.
4. Teams are empowered to figure out on their own the best way to do the work.
According to the Agile values, what works for your nonprofit’s supporters is more important than vigorously taking notes on how the project was completed.
And staying flexible is prioritized over sticking to one single plan.
That opens the door for creativity and innovation among your nonprofit team members! They can figure out how to do tasks for the nonprofit project that works best for them and that meets your donors’ needs.
That’s an incredible benefit for your nonprofit team members! They’re free to work the best way for them, rather than needing to mold to a plan.
5. They are no longer spending an excessive amount of time on planning and replanning.
Since the Agile for nonprofits methodology values responding versus planning, there’s no need for excessive planning (or re-planning).
In fact, the project management method found that taking time to plan every last detail results in teams being less productive!
6. The focus is on continuous improvement in both the work itself and the way the team works together.
Customer and supporter feedback are what keep the project moving forward. And the Agile for nonprofits method knows and incorporates that into its system.
Every time teams receive feedback, processes and the way the team works together improves. And that’s what helps create more amazing supporter experiences for your donors!
7. Adaptability is prioritized, so there’s no rushing to meet deadlines.
The root definition of “agile” is flexibility. Allowing your nonprofit to move and adapt as needed means your projects can handle any hurdles that are thrown your way. And since project deliverables are never set in stone, your nonprofit team can always adjust plans and goals based on nonprofit supporter feedback.
Curious to learn more about Agile for nonprofits? For more on the original Agile process, you can check out agilemanifesto.org.
Otherwise, we have a free training on how to make the best of the Agile framework for your nonprofit organization!
– Your friends at NonprofitLibrary
P.S. Make sure to take a look at this recorded demo for more info on how to make the best of the Agile framework for your nonprofit.