How PM-Volunteers Give Back to NFP Community

Published July 17, 2017 by Scott Hirsch

One of the core values of the project management community is giving back to the community itself. I can’t think of a single organization that lives this value better than PM-Volunteers (PM-V).

Non-profits can be one of the most challenging environments for project delivery, which makes it especially rewarding to find and secure experienced project management resources. That’s where PM-V steps in. Their team of volunteer project managers helps non-profits like United Way, YMCA, and others with project delivery, while simultaneously building capacity within these non-profits through training and workshops. Much of this, including examples of the deliverables provided to some of these clients (in true project management fashion) can be found in the “success stories” portion of their site.

I chatted with Shawn Hawkins, Executive Director with PM-V, about what the organization stands for, how and why people should get involved, and where the organization is heading now that it has grown and become a separate entity from the Project Management Institute’s Canadian West Coast Chapter (PMI CWCC).

About PM-V

PM-V was founded by Bob Prenovost, a social enterprise consultant and active member of the project management community in Vancouver. It was born out of the conviction that professional project management had a lot to offer non-profit and charitable organizations, while simultaneously, these non-profit projects provide opportunities and benefits for volunteer project managers.

In many ways, PM-V’s history reflects the values of volunteerism that the project management community holds. Founded in 2009, PM-V was successfully ‘incubated’ within PMI CWCC starting in 2010 while it developed its clientele and capacity, because PMI CWCC saw the positive impact PM-V was having on the community and the project management profession. Also supporting PM-V in its infancy (and to this day) were dozens of experienced project managers – highly sought-after resources – who were willing to donate their time to benefit the community, either out of a desire to try something new, give back to the community, or because of some personal connection with the nonprofit in need of support.

Like many, Shawn’s decision to work on a volunteer project was borne out of altruism and the desire to try something new: “I first became involved in 2011 when I volunteered to lead an implementation project at bc211. It was a great project, very rewarding, and I still keep in touch with the people there” That feeling of giving back is not the only thing that comes from the volunteer effort. Shawn notes that in several cases, “the non-profit hires the PM” after PM-V’s initial engagement. In others cases, project managers have a personal connection to the non-profit’s cause, and are able to support them using their particular set of PM skills.

Grunt Blue Cabin Relocation

Grunt Blue Cabin Relocation Project: The cabin was sitting on pylons on Port Metro Vancouver property which was to be developed - PM-V’s project involved coordinating several companies that had agreed to contribute to saving the cabin. More info on their site!

Getting involved today

After years of steady growth, PM-V has recently separated from PMI CWCC to further expand its reach though their relationship remains very close – an exciting time to get involved. The organization has 8 projects underway at the time of writing, and is looking for 5 volunteer PMs to deliver these projects – these can be found on their website.

“We encourage PMs to apply even if they aren’t an ‘expert’ in the subject area, or don’t have a lot of experience as a lead project manager” says Shawn. I’ve personally heard from many volunteers that PM-V offered them an opportunity to deliver a project outside of their usual knowledge area, enabling them to transition from say, construction to IT, something which would have been challenging to do if transitioning in a paid environment.

In addition to the volunteer PMs who work directly with non-profits, 25 individuals dedicate their time to PM-V, covering leadership, advisory services, administration, finance, marketing, and communication functions.

The future of PM-V

This grassroots, side-of-the-desk idea has now surpassed over 200 projects, and 6 workshops a year are performed to help build project delivery capacity within non-profits. Recently, it hit a new milestone by leaving PMI CWCC, and is now incorporated as an independent non-profit in late 2016. This move was seen as a win-win with PMI CWCC, and the relationship is now acting as a model for PM-V’s relationship to other PMI chapters.

PM-V’s primary goal remains the same: serving the non-profit community with high value project management support. Its scope, however, has grown: expansion and satellite operations are underway, with discussions in Victoria (with the PMI Vancouver Island Chapter), Kamloops/Kelowna, and Calgary (with the PMI Southern Alberta Chapter).

Do you know someone who could dedicate their time for one of PM-V’s projects? Or, do you know a non-profit that could use some project management support? Check out their website for testimonials and ways to reach out directly to this unique Vancouver success story.