Does the Third Sector need a boost in project management skills and techniques?
It’s quite deliberate that, within this blog, we’re talking about project management skills and techniques rather than just talking about Project Managers. This is because it’s not just Project Managers who use or benefit from project management skills such as communication, negotiation, planning, meeting deadlines, problem-solving, team-working and influencing/managing people. While these skills are the same across any sector, there are challenges that are specific to the Third Sector.
What is different about project management in the Third Sector?
The focus tends to be on outcomes rather than budget.
While securing enough funding to deliver your service is, sadly, an ongoing issue for many charities and Third Sector organisations, making money isn’t the focus of why they exist. Instead, they exist to provide a specific service about their charitable purpose. For example, the NSPCC exists:
1) TO PREVENT THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WRONGS OF CHILDREN AND THE CORRUPTION OF THEIR MORALS;
2) TO TAKE ACTION FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF LAWS FOR THEIR PROTECTION;
3) TO PROVIDE AND MAINTAIN AN ORGANISATION FOR THE ABOVE OBJECTS;
4) TO DO ALL OTHER SUCH LAWFUL THINGS AS ARE INCIDENTAL OR CONDUCIVE TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THE ABOVE OBJECTS
The scope of work that the organisation carries out is defined by these activities and should be the reason for any piece of work. This means that success criteria depend more on how much the work supports these objectives rather than monetary gain.
Grants are commonly used to fund work.
And with grants comes a set of success criteria that you need to demonstrate adherence to. It also lengthens the initial phases of any new project or piece of work because you’re reliant on securing the money first before you can commit to work. Identifying the right grants, completing the paperwork and staying on top of the information needed to demonstrate outcomes in time-consuming and can be a challenge to manage.
It’s frequently about volunteer management instead of employee management.
Volunteers and employees are different to manage. If you work or volunteer within the Third Sector, you’ll know this and you’ll understand just how different it can be. The paramount difference being that volunteers choose to help out, often in their spare time and employees, no matter how much they love their job, get paid to be there. Volunteers are often a really passionate bunch but can sometimes argue that ‘they’re only volunteers’, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to manage them.
The sensitivity of the services being delivered.
There needs to be additional caution and consideration for the sensitivity of services being delivered and how ongoing work or new changes could affect those services or those using the services. Think back to the example of the NSPCC and the sensitivity of the work they carry out with children: a lot of projects won’t be defined by a sensitivity of this nature.
The need for additional skills in the Third Sector.
The UK Small Charity Sector Skills Survey, undertaken by the Foundation for Social Improvement, concluded that skills gaps still present “a major barrier for small charities across the UK”. It stands to reason that what is true of the wider general skills gap, is also true of the specific project management skills.
While employees within the voluntary sector are considered to be highly qualified...
...skills gaps still exist within the workforce. Almost six in ten (58%) of voluntary sector employers who had skills gaps within their organisation reported job-specific skills gaps, while just under half reported problem solving, team working and customer-handling skills gaps (43%, 46% and 44% respectively). Two of those are considered to be project management skills.
Boosting project management skills and techniques in the Third Sector.
Is there a need for this?
- Because the stats suggest so.
- Because it brings benefits to your organisation
- Because of the unique challenges faced by the Third Sector.