SOCIAL FUND RAISING: Adopting Project Management Best Practices
Social Organizations in developing countries are mostly involved in raising funds for community projects. Organizational sustainability among these organizations is totally dependent on the fund raising and sourcing. In African countries, most Non-Governmental Organizations, Social Enterprises and Community based establishments can only perform at their peaks if they raise funds with best expertise, and yet, I have consulted a few that have compromised best industrial standards which in turn have led to a creep in the system of raising funds. I must admit with all godly sincerity that these organizations are doing great jobs changing the world, but the fundamentals of my debate is that those who will provide corporate assistance for these change projects are business folks. To say the least, they simply see them as beggars.
Okay, does that break your heart? Every business tycoon wants to do more business and that should always be our great point of selling.
Most times, when discussing with leaders of social organizations as described above, I like to let them understand what a Portfolio is and what its management entails.
According to Project Management, we simply refer to Portfolio as a collection of Projects or Programs and other works that are grouped together to facilitate effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives. Every organization has a Portfolio Manager- it could be the CEO or the President, but they think business.
This is simply clear. We must understand that every potential funding organization has a strategic mission, and until your project meets the demands of the strategic objectives of the establishment, funding is limited. When I ask the Project Leader of the assumed project, “why should your project be funded?”. They simply reply, “it’s a good initiative”, and I simply answer, “Who cares?”
The word ‘good’ is relative. To a society driven organization, “it sounds good because it meets the needs of the people and it helps”. But to a business organization, “it’s good because it facilitates the profit flow of the company”. “It’s good because it helps us reach our market faster and better or it creates a scene for us”.
So it is of great essence to understand why your projects, as much as it meets the needs of people and helps the society develop, should also be tied to achieving the strategic objectives of the potential sponsors. This is a part of Project Management called ‘Project Selection’ from the sponsor’s perspective or better called ‘Sponsor’s Business Case Analysis’. You must quickly admit that your project will be analyzed and its chance of meeting the company’s requirement will be considered. It may not necessarily be in terms of figures and profits but at least in some other professional business demands.
Having said that, I want to highlight few mistakes of Social Organizations in raising funds from the Project Management point of view. As best as marketing skills help you get attention, Project Management helps you get a serious detailed discussion with who matters. Let’s do this NOW.
1. Quarks on Projects: You don’t want to hand over the surgery of your only son to an undergraduate medical student even if he claims good in the theatre. Corporate Organizations easily get comfortable with your proposal if it details the expertise of your team. I bet you, everyone wants to put his money with a safe team. With a trained and qualified Project Manager on your board, the sponsoring organization takes you more serious. Its professional project engineering, the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. You can employ a professional on your team; you can get a volunteer Project Expert, get the pro-bono service of a Project Manager in case you can’t pay huge. How about sending one of your team members on a Project Management Training?
2. Obsolete and Ambiguous Estimations: It is unprofessional to do estimation without adopting the Best Practices of Project Management. In Project Management, we respect the power of estimations and we totally disagree with those obsolete ways of estimating. You must understand that the estimators should know those who will be doing the work, when possible; for large projects. However, the estimators are more often the members of the project team. I have heard people say, “I have no idea how long it will take or how much this work package will take so i will take my best guess and double it or add some figure to it”. Do you also consider this practice a normal or appropriate one? It is not. Many people rely on this practice, but padding undermines the professional responsibility of a Project Manager to develop a realistic schedule and budget. Padding is totally unacceptable. Why should you just do a budget that can kill the reputation of your outfit? Most of the serious sponsors have independent estimation experts- they do their estimations and conduct a Variance Analysis. If you have considerably high difference between yours and theirs, the story changes. It’s either they assume you are not as professional as they desire or you are cut out to cheat. There are couple of estimation methods in Project Management. Starting from Analogous or Top-Down Estimation – which is agreed to be faster, cheaper, easier but less accurate. (this type of estimation benchmarks on historical records and past projects estimates), to Bottom Up Estimation. Bottom Up estimation involves estimating from the work packages (the smallest component of the whole project) – with this method the team can estimate from the bottom (i.e. the smallest component of work.) and with a degree of confident estimation to the lowest component of the project work. It’s as simple as breaking down the project into smaller components until you get to the smallest part and estimate from that smallest part. Other intelligent estimation techniques include Three Point Estimation Technique, Parametric Estimation, the use of Reserves etc. Why not get a project Management Training.
3. Our Struggle with Quality. The essence of Project Management on your project is to improve on the quality and give customer’s satisfaction. Here is the competition; you have a pool of beneficiaries and sponsor/sponsors to satisfy. My next question is, “how best does your project conform to requirements and your initiatives fit for use?”. With Project Quality Management you are totally sure of the quality delivery on your project. A lack of attention to quality means more rework or defects. The more rework you have to do, the more time and money you are wasting, and here is the game struggle- no investor or sponsor takes someone who spends on rework serious. It’s a waste of resources and time. One secret is this: the more attention you give to quality, the more likely you will save time and spend less and in turn, deliver to beneficiary satisfaction.
I wouldn’t want to delve into the concept of Lean VI Sigma and how to apply the knowledge in the social entrepreneurship and ventures creation (one of my expertise) but I am convinced that having an educated Project Manager in your team gives you better delivery as regards quality. For instance, the application of the ‘Just in Time’ concept on your social initiatives saves a lot of money because it simply explains how best you can decide to get materials needed for a particular project, the exact time they are needed and not necessarily spend a lot on inventory. The concept of Value Analysis helps every organization to watch out for better scope with lesser cost, the knowledge of Cost Benefit Analysis helps the project Manager weigh the benefits versus the cost of quality effort to determine the appropriate quality level and requirements for the project. Among other quality knowledge, it is imperative to admit that business entrepreneurs may want to only consider dealing with social establishments with understanding of Project Engineering.
As much as I want to pour down more and most of the minor concepts of Project Management, I would sincerely recommend the Social Outfit Leverage on better Project Management knowledge techniques to battle the Global Funding Fatigue using the Best Practices of Project Management.