Project Management Day of Service: Finding Innovative Solutions to Nonprofit Challenges

Jan 16, 2019
Nonprofit leaders gather to learn from project management volunteers during the Project Management Day of Service.

“We rarely have the luxury of spending time on the business with a group of highly skilled professionals,” said Mariana McNeill, executive director of CareerCatchers. Dedicated to empowering the community’s most vulnerable populations through career counseling, mentorship and training programs, Mariana and CareerCatchers participate in the D.C. Regional Project Management Day of Service each year, taking advantage of the unique opportunity to work with project management professionals to solve tough challenges – at no cost. Hosted by Project Management for Change, the marathon-style event falls annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and is designed to help nonprofits find innovative solutions to their most pressing challenges. This year’s event will include 130 project management volunteers who will contribute hours of direct service to more than 30 projects for 25 area nonprofits. Participating this year for the fifth time, CareerCatchers will seek support in creating plans to boost infrastructure development, and improving marketing and communications efforts.

Created in 2014, the Project Management Day of Service started out as a one-day community service event in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. At each event, volunteer project managers help nonprofit leaders to scope and plan projects that allow them to do more to serve their communities. Since its inception, PMDoS events have been launched at locations across the United States and around the world, including Virginia, New York, Georgia, California, Australia and Poland.

For many nonprofits, pro bono project management can be a valuable asset when limited resources prevent smaller organizations from hiring full-time support. Points of Light is proud to partner with Project Management for Change on these events, which helped community-focused nonprofits more effectively manage their resources and give project management professionals the perfect opportunity to give back.

This year’s D.C. event will take place on Jan. 19, and Mariana will once again attend to meet with project management professionals. We spoke with her to learn a little more about her experience with PMDoS over the years, and how the events support CareerCatchers’ success.

Please tell us a little bit about CareerCatchers.

CareerCatchers provides sustained career counseling for more than 500 domestic violence victims, homeless, at-risk youth, previously incarcerated individuals, people with disabilities, and immigrants every year. Since our inception in 2007, we’ve worked with more than 2,100 individuals. Our mission is to ensure stable employment and upward mobility; identify and encourage participation in workplace skills training programs; enhance self-esteem and foster empowerment, primarily through one-on-one counseling as well as Job Clubs, workshops and mentoring/tutoring. The ultimate goal is to support clients as they move from poverty to self-sufficiency. CareerCatcher’s personalized and collaborative approach makes a difference in the community by supporting the most vulnerable residents in obtaining job training and sustainable careers while leveraging other county resources. 

What project or need did you bring to the Project Management Day of Service last year? Tell us a little about your experience that day, and how the project management volunteers supported your work.

Last year we came to PMDoS for help with new fundraising ideas. The project managers assigned to us were incredible. After some discussion and collaboration with the subject-matter experts, the notion of establishing a junior executive board was suggested. The concept was fleshed out and one of our project managers, Angel Choi, said she’d like to be a part of the effort. By the time we left the room we had a plan for how to establish a board, how to recruit members, and its major purpose.

What happened after PMDoS? Give us an update on your project, or how your participation in the event helped your organization.

After the PMDoS session last year, the board of directors wholeheartedly supported the formation of a junior executive board. Angel, who had offered to chair the project of starting a board, followed up on her promise. Within a month, a five-member junior executive board was operational. In 2018, the JEB held two fundraising events, and by the end of the year added a CareerCatchers client to their membership. At this point we are working out the relationship between the board of directors, the junior executive board and staff to ensure that the needs and contributions of all stakeholders are met.

What has been the most valuable part of your participation in these PMDoS events?

The ability to take a step away from the day-to-day operations and focus on an aspect of the business that needs attention. The project managers help us articulate the issues and create a framework for coming up with an actionable solution.  

Will you be attending the 2019 event? If yes, what do you hope to accomplish this year?

Yes, we will be attending this event. The first project is creating a plan for a steady revenue stream for infrastructure development. The second project is a communications and marketing vehicle that enables us to get our mission out to our target audience and increases individual donations.  

What advice would you give to other organizations that are in need of project management support?

Come to PMDoS with your organization’s pressing issues!

Learn more about Project Management Day of Service.

Madi Donham