Strategic importance of Managing Services in a non-for-profit organisation: addressing IPMA-Operations!
In many non-for-profit organizations (NPOs) which are essentially driven by volunteers, it is important to help the organization flourish with a sustainable approach. This is both valid for an umbrella organisation as for all its members which are usually separate legal entities (NPOs, Charities) governed through a federal and decentralized approach.
In order to achieve their missions and strategic goals, non-for-profit organisations increasingly rely on their professional managing services in addition to their volunteers.
Managing services are performed by persons who work on a full-time or part-time basis for the organisation based on working and service contracts with different roles and responsibilities.
As an NPO grows and implements its strategic goals approved by the General Assembly (named Council of Delegates in the case of IPMA) managing services play a critical role. This is why the expectations from the governing bodies regarding managing services need to be clarified on a regular basis. This is even more important in a context of strategy update some priorities and related projects under to be implemented might change . Managing services need both involvement and guidance so that their roles and responsibilities can be adjusted and recognized by the whole community of volunteers dedicated to the organization. The alignment of expectations between volunteers and managing services on roles and responsibilities are therefore essential.
In the case of IPMA with its 71 international member associations, managing services are growing slowly but steadily over the past 5 years. The functions covered by the managing services are marketing and communication, administration and finance (including legal, compliance and IT), awards, certification and events.
Managing services also need to meet different expectations from IPMA member associations addressing recurrent questions such as: what is the value of being part of IPMA? How and in which format are revenues redistributed to member associations (MAs)? How can MAs be best supported to achieve their objectives at the local level in the various functions and areas covered by managing services? In order to clarify and update the roles and responsibilities of the managing services, the IPMA management called for an annual Operations meeting which first took place in Paris in 2018. This year, the annual meeting took place on March 8th in Lisbon, the hometown of the VP Operations and Projects. There were various topics addressed: Sharing IPMA vision, mission and values approved by IPMA Council, operational topics proposed by attendees such as the effectiveness of internal accounting and reporting processes, managing costs, roles and responsibilities of the managing services, database management, working styles and level of delegation required for the functions. In this context, it can be mentioned that 10 participants from 8 different cities worked in teams and the workshop was facilitated by Vice-President Operations and Projects and Executive Director of IPMA. “To consult and decide” happened to be the common delegation style identified by two teams working on this topic during the workshop.
As in many organisations, communication was perceived as an essential management and alignment tool in geographically wide-spread managing services. Although email and virtual communication tools are mastered and used on a daily basis by all participants, the face-to-face meeting demonstrated once again how important it is to build and maintain interpersonal connections and relationships. This, in turn, allows for a better understanding and recognizing each-other and to value a solution driven approach after intensive discussions on daily relevant topics.
The contributions shared by the participants to IPMA in general over the past years and to the workshop, in particular, are professionalism, experience, commitment and motivation to address challenges of today and the future.
The operational competences of IPMA are increasing each year with new conceptual approaches, tools and working instruments which could be of benefit for IPMA member associations looking for quick technological solutions and wishing do not reinvent the wheel. The Project Place, a cloud-based project management tool is a very handy working platform where its 300 IPMA users from 71 member associations can find already the Operations handbook, Events and project management handbook, various useful links and other documents and information. These are prepared and provided by IPMA Operations for the use of IPMA Member Associations. Just click to download it and let it be your inspiration in the local context!
Even if mutual understanding and acceptance are essential for IPMA volunteers who in addition to their daily job and family responsibilities dedicate in some cases more than 500 hours per year to IPMA, it is critical that persons from managing IPMA services and volunteers understand and accept each other. As project managers, we are tempted to recall and apply IPMA values and project management competences as individuals. The operations meeting in Lisbon was such an occasion where some of the competences from practice, people and perspectives as described in the individual competence baseline could be demonstrated by the attendees.
The operations meeting of IPMA has also shown that informal communication is essential in an NPO to build trust among the persons from IPMA managing the services. This, in turn, builds confidence and helps to understand the educational, professional and cultural background of the attendees coming from eight different European cities with their cultural peculiarities.
Cultural wise, we must underline that Lisbon meeting was also the occasion to appreciate Portuguese hospitality with colleagues from APOGEP (the Portuguese Member Association), Portuguese cuisine and, of course, the traditional Portuguese Fado music. Fado is melancholic songs of men and women which address the text of famous poets such as Luis Vaz de Camoes, Jose Régio and Pedro Homem de Mello.
As Luis Vaz de Camoes who died in 1590 reminds us, “time change, as do our wills, what we are –is ever changing; all the world is made of change, and forever attaining new qualities.”
And so do the managing services of IPMA.