How to be agile in a nonprofit organization?

agile, nonprofits, scrum, project management, social impact

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Is agile only for software projects?

No, of course, it’s not. Agile becomes very popular in the last few years and many non-IT organizations are provided they are agile. But are they? What does meaning “agile” and why it became so trendy? 

Since everybody has access to the internet, communication, information and entertainment are at your fingertips. Everything changes very fast. Trends come and go, we get bored and lose our focus faster. And if you want to be on a track you have to be flexible and follow trends. You might say that you do it, but really do you try new sources, programs, technologies?

Agile Principles

Process of adoption is easier for young people who live normally fast and want to get things immediately. And these young people in the early 2000s decided to create something new, different that has values like experimentation, iteration and speed. They prefer: 

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • responding to change over following a plan.

I know that some people prefer stability, constancy and clear plan with rules. But being able to change a plan and adapt to a new situation is the most important skill in the 21st century. Often it defines the success of organization and long-term plans. And if nonprofits want to do big things with small resources they have to catch on and take the opportunity.

To not get lost in that world and be agile you should adapt quickly, be creative, focus on business values and at the same time focus on customers. During all these, you should try to be as much effective as you can. I know that it looks hard but will small steps you can master each of it.

The opposite of “agile” is incompetence to change, feeling fear of innovation, doing the same things even they aren’t working but are “checked and tested” and at the end opacity in what you do. All these make your work slower and hard to share with somebody else. Do you want to work like this?

Or do you prefer to try agile?

How to be agile in a nonprofit organization?

First of all, you had to think about what is your main long-term goal. And how you can achieve it. Next steps will be about designate smaller goals and triumphs which will motivate your team to take action. Focus only on the one most important thing and task, because smaller goals have to bring you closer to the main. So everything you will do has to be linked and have common features. It should be a simple and ambitious plan with a good chance of success. 

You can’t anticipate when you will achieve smaller or main goals, because that means strictly following the plan. As we said before you have to have your goal in head and incessantly remember about it. But still, be flexible, search for opportunities and enjoy the benefits.

Sprint? – I’m not Usain Bolt

Organise your work in 1 or 2 weeks “Sprints” (at first you can do it for 1 week and when you master it create for 2 weeks), remember to take it easy and enjoy it. You don’t need to hurry up.

  • Create tasks for your team, but remember that if you work for 5 days in a week you should organize tasks for 4 days. In other words, duties should take you 80% of your work time. You need this 20% for unexpected and very very important things which are often called “fires”. If nothing like this won’t happen and you have some time, take another task.


  • If you don’t know how to create chores think about daily responsibilities, future and present projects, plans and contacts. Visualize how you can achieve your goal and what you have to do. Create from these tasks. By creating them you can arrange work and with tangible tasks, you will remember about them. Tasks should be short and easy to understand. It’s better to split one big into two than create huge duties. Also, you can create chores lonely or with your team, it depends on how you feel with being a leader.
  • Before every Sprint meets with your team and discusses what would like you to do in this week (this is called “planning”). You can’t assign tasks to somebody, but every member should choose few by yourself. So you should have it more and in Sprint choose only the most important which bring you closer to the goal. 
  • Every morning discuss with your team what will you do from your tasks. This is also a great time to talk about blockers, problems etc. Group talks bring transparency and openness to your organization. Everyone will know what others do and you avoid misinformation and a lot of questions.
  • At the end of your week organise a meeting which is called “review”. Talk and discuss with the team about done things and why others couldn’t be done. Tell others about the problems which you met during your work and how they have changed your work/task. Share knowledge in the group and try to solve problems together. 

Every undone task should be finished in next Sprint.

agile, principles, nonprofits, scrum, project management

How agile can drive impact in nonprofits?

Being able to change and adapt to a new situation can be a nonprofit’s biggest stronger and power. Agile help you organize work, prioritize tasks, introduce measurability, responsibility and clear rules. After 2 weeks you will see the effects of your work and how many things you did! This will be the biggest motivation for your organization. 

Limit your workday

Prioritize tasks and allocate a proper amount of time to everyone because each person has only a certain amount of capacity. Also, you avoid taking too many things than you can bring and do. Many nonprofits have a tendency to doing too much with too fewer resources. They work look like total chaos, too many to do and after all, nothing is done. Focusing only on the most important tasks let you achieve the main goal and stop the chaos of nonprofit work.

Launch clear rules

Don’t set up big goals like “raise 20 thousand dollars” or “find new sponsors/grants”. This should be your main or medium goal. At first, you have to provide materials and launch accountability to help accomplish these goals. Agile is about self-sufficient, breaking big tasks into manageable bits. That’s all.

Look through the lens of another person

Don’t be scared to do something different than others. Innovation is the mother of success. You won’t move forward if you don’t ask yourself “How could I do this better?”. If you don’t try, you won’t find a better way to do a job. Try brainstorms, they are great because allow to open, share thoughts, ideas and solutions. Also, your peers may have a solution for your work and help you see things in a different lens. With each Sprint try to find a better path to do duties and make small steps to improve all your work. Week after week you will be better, more efficient and more productive. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

If you link your motivation + willingness to help + great team + agile Principles you get fantastic work and see the real impact of your organization. If you aren’t sure if it’s for you, just try. I’m sure you won’t regret it. And after a few months, you will be laughing about your fear of agile. 

If you have any questions feel free to ask 🙂 You can also check out our other articles about Jira and social media

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