When you work at a nonprofit, you’ve got a lot going on. From fundraising to managing volunteers to filing legal documents — the list might seem endless. One of the things we’ve heard from nonprofit participants during our past hacks is that they’re curious about how our volunteer teams work so effectively together and about their project management styles. So, for our latest workshop, we took some of those concepts and broke them down.
Every project has it’s essential elements — its priorities. Think of it like baking a cake. The components of a cake are the cake itself, the frosting, and the sprinkles (or other decorations). If you don’t have the cake base, you don’t have anything to frost. And if you don’t have frosting, sprinkles won’t stick. Now, you can have a cake itself, a cake with frosting, or all three, but if you show up to a birthday party with a plates of sprinkles … it’s not a party. You can serve a plain cake for dessert, but you can’t serve sprinkles.
Projects can be thought of in the same way. In a project, you have three categories:
One way to develop workflow and priorities is by creating a story map. What’s a story map? It’s a pictorial way to outline everything you need to get done.
These are all the things that need to happen to complete a project — any kind of project! Think about it this way: say you’re planning an event. Think of all the tasks you’ll need to do to make that event happen.
You might have 20 stickies, or you might have 100. Regardless, if you walk away from them now, the whole system falls apart. To effectively execute these tasks, you’re going to build your board. This is done in a visual way through the use of different columns: “To-do”, “Doing” and “Done”.
Each tasks starts in “To-do,” but as you begin to work on the task each sticky represents, move the sticky into the appropriate column. This way, you and your team know what’s happening and what’s been accomplished. It’s okay to break tasks down into smaller tasks to keep things moving. We all like to see things get ticked off a to-do list!
Build your board 2.0: Once you’re used to the process, don’t be afraid of creating new columns to help organize your work. Does a lot of your work need to be reviewed by a supervisor, or board of directors? Give them their own column – that way you know what you’re under control of (“Doing”) and what you can’t control.
It might be hard to prioritize your steps. Usually, to accomplish a project, you have a lot of different tasks in varying states of completion. Often, you have very complex tasks and then you have easier, time-dependent tasks. The complex task might take three weeks, while the time dependent might take one week. Which should you do first: the tasks that needs to be completed first, or the one that will take more time? The answer: In a workflow, start the complex task first and budget time later, before the deadline, for the time-dependent task.
There are a lot of online resources that can help non-profits start working in a task-centric model. Both Trello and Stories on Board were recommended in the workshop to accomplish these organizational methods in a digital format. But sometimes, pen and paper can’t be beat.
Review the slides for more information on our presentation. And, keep an eye on the dsmHack Facebook page for information on future workshops for nonprofits like this one!