How to implement project management in a not-for-profit environment – 1?

As I mentioned in the last post, I have recently been corresponding with a colleague on project management and how to apply project management in the not-for-profit / non-governmental-organizations (NGO) environment. Our correspondence led to two questions:

  1. What are the basic project management mechanisms to implement projects in the private sector? This was the topic of our last post, and
  2. Focusing on the NGO sector, what project management mechanisms should be used? In other words, lets talk about the process of project development (from initiation through implementation to termination) … this is today’s article.

One clarification: in the context of this article we will use NGO to refer to not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations.


To better understand this article, we recommend reading the following prior posts:

  1. What are the basic PM mechanisms to implement projects in private sector?
  2. How to manage projects … project phases
  3. How to manage projects … project stages
  4. How to manage projects … stage gates

The above articles (2 to 4) are related to the SUKAD The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™), which we will use in this article to explain the differences and similarities for project management between private sector and NGO environment. The following is the “standard” model for CAM2P™.


The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™)


In principle, there are no differences in project management concepts between private sector, public sector, or NGO. In other words, the principles of project life cycle, project management functions, and project management processes are similar. However, due to the varying environment, even within the same sector or industry, there will be differences in the practices and how we apply project management. It is crucial to understand that unless we know the environment of the project, there is a chance that we will fail in delivering the required outcome.

Some make the mistake of saying that project management is the same everywhere, a one size fits all syndrome, but this is a recipe for failure. As we move from one sector to another (public, private, NGO), industry to another (oil & gas, real estate, technology, pharmaceuticals …), and even within the same industry, we will need to customize our approach since project management methodology has to be custom fit to organizational needs and requirements. Even within the same organization, we will need to adapt the method to the various functions. This is the main reason we named our approach The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™).

Similarities and differences for each stage


The first difference would be the terminology we used. We recognize that there are various global standards and some of them aim to unify the terminology but we think that is helpful but not always possible to have one language – one set of terms that are common everywhere. Therefore, it is expected and accepted that in each sector, industry, or organization the terminology might be different. In other words, whatever terminology we use below – can be altered. What is important is the focus and purpose of an item rather than what we call it.

The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™)

The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™ (CAM2P™): Phases and Stages

In the following, will use black font for private sector and blue font for NGO

Initial stage (pre-launch stage)

During the initial stage, there are three major deliverables:

  1. Idea Statement: The idea statement covers the what and why of the project, its business driver, usually translated into economic benefits. For NGO, the why is a “social” case and not a business case; although in some instances even in NGO the social case have an underlying business case. By “Social Case” it could be charity, environment, activism, or any “cause” that NGO have adopted.
  2. Feasibility Study: For the private sector – it might be easier to conduct a feasibility study with market research and economics. Whereas in a NGO how can we value social or community benefits? As a result – in NGO we might be driven by emotions more than science and this could be risky. However, even in an NGO environment, we can use science and other evaluations techniques to perform a decent feasibility; or social impact study.
  3. Project Authorization: In business, there are usually guidelines for authorizing projects, with profit as a primary factor. On the other hand, for NGO this might be a major challenge.  The reason for the challenge is that, it might be often the case where NGO would seek funding from outside agencies if they do not have internal funds. However, at this early stage, full funding is not yet required, therefore, the NGO might authorize the project to proceed into the next stage to develop the concept further, before formally request funding from external resources. In other words, the NGO must have enough funds (or volunteers) to do the initial project development.

Project launch stage

Will continue in the next article

  • This comment is By Marshall Gounden on LinkedIn:

    This is a really good “subject heading” that makes for very varied and interesting discussion.
    The fundamentals of PM remain the same. The techniques we use to arrive at our desired outcome becomes the challenge. Firstly,we must be mindful that we might be engaging with team members that are volunteers. Secondly, we might not be funded and the margin for error becomes less affordable.
    One needs to adopt the role of “motivational speaker” rather than PM. The level of communication and frequency thereof must be increased whilst at the same time one needs to continuously reward in a public platform all successful team players.
    In the most likely event where a team member errs in their task, one needs to play the supportive role rather than the reprimand role to ensure rectification and continuity of membership and activity.
    All of these measures will eventually add a lot more time to the project rollout but might give the project a better chance of success.
    It has the added advantage of teaching PM’s that adaptive approaches can and will be required all throughout projects and we must have the capacity to adapt to circumstances as and when they arise.

    • Dear Sir

      Thank you very much for this valuable input!