When Worlds Collide
The corporate world might want to pick up a few
tips from the not-for-profit world.
“There are a lot of parallels in what we went
through for these projects and what you need to
win support for corporate projects, especially in
today’s economy,” says Alta Jones, Loudoun
Habitat for Humanity, Sterling, Virginia, USA.
“When there are cutbacks, you have to get your
project in front of the capital allocation group to
make your case. To do that you need to have a
champion on your side who understands the
merits of your project and who will speak on
By relentlessly pursuing support and making
her case to any board member who would listen,
Ms. Jones found those champions and was able
to communicate the benefits of what her organ-
ization was hoping to achieve.
“You can’t sit back and wait—you have to be
willing to drop everything to get in front of the
decision-makers to make your projects happen,”
she says. “Then you’ve got to be concise and
deliver the same clear message every time.”
There’s also something to be said for sticking
to your message: “Persistence is the key.”
execute the projects within the schedule
and budget. The group also had to show it
had firm commitments from its almost
entirely volunteer team.
“It was a long, drawn-out process,” Ms.
Even a not-for-profit organization such
as Habitat for Humanity doesn’t catch any
“We have to manage our timelines and
make our business case just like for-profit
companies,” she says.
Fortunately, her team included several
veteran project managers, along with real
estate developers, contractors and financial
specialists. “We are lucky to have so many
experienced professionals on our team,”
says Ms. Jones, who leverages her own
background in financial services.
Armed with all that experience as well as
other sources of financing and resources,
38PM NETWORK MARCH 2010 WWW.PMI.ORG
the team members forged ahead with the
A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
In May, the Loudoun Habitat for Humanity
president and project manager were
invited to speak to the county’s Housing
Trust Committee, which would decide the
financial fate of the project. Ms. Jones
and the Habitat team spent two hours
making their case, explaining how the
effort could create housing for more than
That’s when their sure-fire plan encountered a major glitch.
The team learned that at least one committee member preferred to invest in high-density rentals rather than affordable
And just like that, the project that had
looked like a no-brainer was on the verge of
failure—before it had even launched. The
housing committee ceased all communication, and despite frequent calls, there was
no movement in getting the application
The team needed the go-ahead to apply
for federal stimulus money—and those
deadlines were approaching fast.
“It was getting late and we needed to do
something,” Ms. Jones says. Instead of sit-
ting around and hoping for the best, she
rallied her team. “We developed a strategy
to unclog the log jam.”
Habitat steering committee members
called, wrote letters and used whatever
connections they had to reach out and
explain the urgency of the project and the
“The result was not good,” Ms. Jones
Within 10 days, the housing committee
denied the application.