Developing Projects for Your Nonprofit

Okay, so you have done your Needs & Strengths Assessment and identified the needs and the strengths in your community. Good job! At this point, you now have some hard data to back up your project, garnered beneficiary support, and have established further credibility. Now it’s time to actually start developing your project.

What do you need?

Where to begin. You have the information on what the need is in the community, now it’s time to establish what your team needs for the specific project.

If you found that there is a huge need for transporting clients to services, what do you need to help overcome the transportation barrier? Would it be possible to create an Uber-like project? By establishing local or regional programs in areas that are easily accessible, giving out bus passes, creating a carpooling activity, connecting with the local transportation system, implementing more online courses, etc?

There are many options and creativity and innovation are key to unlocking opportunities for projects. But knowing your local and attainable resources is also extremely important. As you brainstorm through potential projects, take the time to identify what resources are needed for each project. This will help with budgeting and limiting potential hold-ups as the project unfolds.

Remember resources are not just monetary. They are also leveraged resources from partners (such as a corporate sponsor donating a seven-passenger van), volunteers (people who will provide carpooling), and time (developing online courses). Make sure you list these for each potential project:

  • Money
  • Leveraged Resources / Partners
  • People
  • Time

This will give you a better idea of what is achievable, and what areas you should dedicate your time and energy to.

Brainstorming the Project Ideas

It’s time to list those potential projects! Listen to the podcast, “How to Get Your Nonprofit from Surviving to Thriving” to create and articulate goals, form SMART objectives, and have a detailed action plan. You can even download the free Toolkit on Strategic Planning by visiting:

You will want to a timeline that includes, who on your team is in charge of what, provide specific timelines for each activity, an outcome(s) for each objective. For example, if you have a nonprofit that serves individuals in recovery. Through your needs and strengths assessment, you found that there was a huge barrier for many of the beneficiaries having transportation to attend AA meetings, then you will probably be looking at creating a project to address this specific challenge.

Or you may have found that many of these individuals are living below poverty and have recently been discharged from jail for federal crimes, and are having a hard time finding jobs. Therefore, they do not have the money for gas or bus money to get to meetings or even apply for jobs. Potential projects could be creating an Uber-like approach by utilizing the individuals as drivers and commuters, having more online interactive groups, working towards peer recovery support systems in your community, securing a large van and providing transportation from your organization, or starting home-based small micro-enterprises. Perhaps your nonprofit would do a mix of all of the above. Brainstorming your options and the resources you have available to best meet the needs of your beneficiaries will set your organization up for providing needed programs that will have a major impact on those you serve.

This is the creative and fun part, where you can really develop ideas of what would be the best solution. For each of these projects, though, you would define what is not just the best solution for your beneficiaries, but what the most realistic approach is in regard to the capacity of your organization. This goes back to identifying:

  • How much money
  • How many resources
  • How much manpower/people
  • How much time

It might look something like this:

Project Money Resources Manpower Time
Uber Approach A) Free, if approaching the auto industry for a second-hand, tax-deductible donation.

B) Up to $10,000 for second-hand. Look for at least three quotes.

A) Does anyone have an extra car?

B) Need to come up with a hiring system and job specifications for drivers.

C) Have to develop a schedule for transportation.

D) Need to develop a payment (nominal or donation)

A) Sally writes letters and visits auto industries to solicit.

B) Need 20 volunteers to fundraise through car washes/other, crowdfunds, or writing grants.

A) Writing the letter and approaching companies, a couple of months.

B) Six months to a year.

You want to breakdown these steps even further, but putting deadlines and people responsible for each action. Overall, this will give you a good system to start brainstorming and seeing what all will be realistically needed for a project and then what would make the most sense for your nonprofit.

Project Management Plan

Once you define which projects are realistic and would best meet the need of your beneficiaries, you are entering the second phase: The Project Management Plan. This is where you will plan the specifics including the duration of the project, how much it will cost, what you plan to do, and who’s in charge of what tasks.

When talking with your team, you can develop a schedule, outline milestones, and establish deadlines for key deliverables.

A key assignment of who will handle the money for the project/program needs to be determined. So, if you are collecting money or donations from commuters, what is the system for collecting money? How is it accounted for? And so forth.

If you are paying the drivers, then questions to answer would be: how much?

  • How often?
  • What is the process?
  • Is this a stipend or are they considered employees?

The financial element of a program is incredibly important should not be an afterthought or considered unessential. It can feel like you are in the weeds for a moment, but believe me if you don’t ask these questions up front, then you might be swimming in confusion later and have a lot of upset people, both internally and externally.

Here, you should also plan for the worst-case scenarios, because things do go wrong, and your organization should always have a contingency plan in place.

Ask your team:

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?

Well, what if a driver stole a car? Being proactive, you could collect all information about the drivers prior to hiring them. Also, articulating the actions and responsibilities upfront. For example, will they return the car back to a supervisor after all meetings?

Identifying risks is really key in ensuring that you are not putting out those virtual fires and are proactive and solution-oriented in your structure.

Projects do not need to be complicated or take days to outline. If you have done all the ‘pre’ work, the actual project development should fall into place, somewhat, naturally. You will need to schedule each task, who is responsible, deadlines for each person, but that is the simple work (considering all the pre-work!). The next steps will be implementing and evaluating the project. We will talk more about that in our upcoming podcast!

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