Successful, well-planned projects are essential to all organizations, especially nonprofits. But with so much on the line, relying on spreadsheets to manage long-term projects like campaigns or events often isn’t enough.
In fact, by some estimates, more than 50% of projects fail.
When a nonprofit project fails it can be incredibly demoralizing for your team members, your community and your volunteers. It can also decrease the public’s trust in your organization and is often a huge waste of your donors’ money.
That’s why proper project management software is key for nonprofits. It can improve everything from project timelines to risk mitigation, scalability, and effective resource allocation. With the right nonprofit project management software, you can organize your tasks, track your progress, and guarantee accountability and transparency in your workplace.
But with so many tools available, it can be difficult to determine what the top project management software tools are for nonprofits. Where do you start?
In this article, I’ll share the best project management software options for nonprofits to help you get more done, faster for your organization. Read on to learn more.
Head straight to the section you need most
- What is project management software for nonprofits?
- Other project management software considerations
- The best free project management software for nonprofits
- The best project management software tools for small-to-mid nonprofits
- The best project management software tools for large nonprofits
- Custom project management app: the best option for many nonprofits
Prefer to skip the reading and learn about creating a custom project management app? Get in touch and let us help!
What is project management software for nonprofits?
Project management software — often shortened to simply PMS — has the capacity to help nonprofit organizations plan, organize and manage resource tools and develop estimates more efficiently and effectively.
Depending on the sophistication of the software, it can support with:
Estimation and planning: Break down your tasks and estimate how much effort each part of the project will take.
Scheduling and time management: Identify your main deadline and work backwards to more effectively delegate tasks among your team.
Budget and cost control: Keep track of your project’s financials by monitoring your spending and overall budget.
Resource allocation: Schedule activities and resources based on people’s availability and time so that you and your organization are set up for success.
Collaboration and communication: Help your team members work together on common tasks with a shared online platform.
Documentation control: Have all of your important documents and progress reports housed in one place for easy reference.
Other project management software considerations
The first step when buying or creating software is to understand what problems you’re trying to solve and how the software, in this case the project management software, will solve it.
Identify what prompted you to look for a solution in the first place. Making a table or listing all the problems and how a feature will solve that problem is a good exercise.
Here are a few key things to consider:
Organization size: Apart from features, you should take a look at the size of your nonprofit. If you’re just starting out, then a lot of the features of more complex products might be overkill. The nice thing about cloud-based software is that well crafted plans can grow with your organization as your needs change.
Data policy alignment: It’s important to know where a platform may store your data and if it aligns with your organization’s data policy. Are you able to easily export your data if you want to move to another product? Is it possible to collaborate with others while restricting access?
Reporting needs: Project management software can be great to collaborate and work towards a common goal but sometimes it can be hard to share the status of a project with others. Does the software allow you to run reports on project statuses? Is it customizable?
Customization requirements: Most cloud-based software are limited by how much you can configure because they are tailored to a mass audience. Having said that, you should be able to add new fields to track all of your data, and create workflows or automations to reduce manual work. Can it be configured so that the UI fits your needs?
Integration abilities: Does the platform have an API or can it integrate with external systems? Can you export your data easily if you need to move to another platform?
Ease of usability: Introducing a new product into your organization can be a daunting, uphill battle. People often resist change. How easy is it to use? Is there lots of documentation to help people onboard and use the new software?
Note: The project management tools mentioned in this article are all cloud-based or software-as-a-service. Although some of these are initially free with entry-level accounts or basic plans, it’s important to understand that as you require more features or space, they can get quite expensive. It can be helpful to take note of this before committing to any one platform.
The best free project management software for nonprofits
If you’re looking for a project management tool for your organization but don’t have the budget to pay for one, there are some free PMS options out there. In my opinion, the top two free software include Trello and Coda.
Trello offers tiers of service with their entry-level investment being $0. This free version of the project management tool is ideal for individuals or small teams.
The pros of Trello
Visual platform that’s fun and easy to use
Multiple ways to view your project, such as boards
Great for nonprofits looking to organize any project
Power-ups allow you extend functionality and integrate with other products
The cons of Trello
Cumbersome for larger, more complex projects
Coda is an all-in-one collaborative workspace that allows you and your team to get started for free. Once you’ve signed up, it also offers an AI assistant to help support your organization.
If you decide to upgrade your workspace, the pricing model is really great. You can have unlimited collaborators and you’ll only pay for users creating documents.
The pros of Coda
Embed any type of external data
Create visual documents with calendars, gantt charts and tasks
Lots of templates and packs for extended functionality
The cons of Coda
Limited flexibility for organizational structure
Packs are expensive unless you upgrade to paid accounts
The best project management software tools for small-to-mid nonprofits
Small-to-mid nonprofits need a way to stay organized and plan projects. With limited resources, it’s crucial that you’re able to make the most of your precious little time. Having an easy-to-learn project management tool that works with your workflow is the ideal solution.
My vote for the best project management tools for nonprofits that are small-to-midsize are Asana and Notion.
Asana is a project management software that helps organizations collaborate on tasks and projects, giving them the ability to communicate and coordinate all in one place.
The pros of Asana
Intuitive and easy to learn
Tasks are easily customizable
Manage multiple projects at once
Free for up to 15 different users
Good integration with other tools
The cons of Asana
Not ideal for organizing and sharing documents
Some of the more useful features are paid
Similar to Coda, Notion brings a document-style approach to tracking all of your data, including projects. It’s a workspace that allows team members to collaborate on documents, projects and internal comms.
The pros of Notion
Collaborate on documents and wikis
Track tasks and assign deadlines
Visually appealing and easy to use
Very customizable set up
Brings all types of data together, including resources, tasks and projects
Integrations and automations allow you to visualize data in one place
The cons of Notion
Hard to organize complex projects
A lot of work to set up your organization
Time consuming to learn the interface effectively
Only offers checklists, so there’s no way to monitor a project’s progress
No built-in reporting tool to track your team’s performance
The best project management software tools for large nonprofits
Lots of large nonprofits have multiple teams working on different projects all at one time. Some of these projects need to be shared across all teams — while others don’t.
These larger organizations therefore need to plan projects ahead of time, schedule resources and track their progress along the way. This means having the ability to easily communicate with each other in order to avoid roadblocks and overcome challenges.
Many larger nonprofits also need to be able to report the status of various projects to their board members. So, having the ability to easily generate reports is a must.
For this size of nonprofit organization, I’d recommend Zoho Projects or Airtable.
5. Zoho Projects
Although not the most popular tool, what I like about Zoho Projects is that it gives nonprofits a software full of all of the features you might need. Organizations can plan, track, collaborate, and finish projects all online.
The pros of Zoho Projects
All-in-one tool with lots of features
Pricing is reasonable given all of the features
Task management and automation
Track projects and timelines
Offers charts and reporting for status updates
Allows integrations and add-ons
Intuitive collaboration and communication
The cons of Zoho Projects
Overwhelming features and UX
Limited data to track in cheaper accounts
A bit dated for a cloud-based platform
Airtable is a unique platform that connects users and projects within an organization to create custom workflows and manage projects.
The pros of Airtable
Tracks most types of data
Highly customizable interface
Powerful integrations and automations
Can help improve workflows
The cons of Airtable
Difficult to get started and setup right
A little overwhelming to use
Can get expensive per user account
Custom project management app: the best option for many nonprofits
7. Bound State
Although there are many cloud-based project management software available out there, none of these standardized tools consider an organization’s unique workflow, requirements or functionality.
We build custom project management apps that are tailored to your specific needs. This allows greater productivity, scalability, long-term savings and quality of service.
Here are some of the top reasons to choose a custom app for your nonprofit’s project management system.
With a custom app, you don’t have to work around software limitations, reducing headaches and improving efficiency. With your own system, if you need to make changes, you can. Pre-built systems, on the other hand, leave you and your team stuck with what’s built.
Some organizations also have special requirements that can’t be met without box software. For example, privacy requirements or offline access to data. A custom project management app can help you meet these needs no problem.
Multiple accounts and accessibility
Setting up a workspace on an existing software platform can get really expensive if you have a large number of users. For example, Asana Business is $31 (USD) per user, per month. If you have 20 users, that’s $7,440 per year. Over three years, that’s about $22,000.
While creating a custom solution comes with an upfront cost, the software has the ability to pay for itself after a couple of years, depending on the functionality you need. So, while the initial cost of a custom app may be more than a software-as-a-service, it offers more long-term value.
Unlike a cloud-based, subscription software, you know that your app will continue to work for your organization without many updates, maintenance or upgrades.
Existing project management tools range in terms of how user friendly they are. Although they may look nice, they can also be intimidating and hard to use. Often, this is because they are meant to meet the needs of all groups of organizations. In fact, some features you might not even need, which can be distracting or confusing for users.
Creating your own software means the UI will cater to your users, problems and features, so that it fits with your own organization and unique challenges.
If you haven’t had success bringing in new tools in the past, designing your own can help overcome that barrier. Get your team involved from the beginning to help shape the software so everyone will be invested in the final product.
Computes large amounts of data
Depending on the system, you might be limited on the number of custom fields. For example, within Asana, you can only have up to 500 options in a dropdown. Not to mention how frustrating or somewhat impossible manually configuring this would be.
This means that if you wanted to, say, associate each task to a client, the client themselves would have to add their own information like location, contacts, and other custom fields. This can lead to inconsistent data and major headaches down the road.
Tracks custom data sets
A lot of project management tools don’t have the ability to track large amounts of data related to a particular object. For example, for a project, you might want to track more information about the project itself, client, and constituents.
We can build your custom app to include this type of functionality should it benefit your organization.
Why choose Bound State for your nonprofit project management software
When it comes to keeping track of your organization’s projects, a proper management tool is a must.
While there are many out-of-the-box software solutions, none of these cloud-based tools offer you and your team the ability to create a custom app to meet your unique needs.
Our team loves helping nonprofits reach their goals. To learn more about building a custom project management app for your organization, click the button below to get in touch!