PMIEF grant helps UNICEF USA save more lives


27 April 2018

Published inPM Philanthropist (archived)

Kristi and Chang photo

PMIEF’s commitment to developing what we call “PM Capable Nonprofits” includes helping nonprofit professionals acquire and apply project management knowledge so they can better deliver programs and services worldwide. Our collaboration with U.S. Fund for UNICEF (UNICEF USA) exemplifies our efforts to make this happen in partnership with a high-quality, results-oriented organization that shares this goal.

PMIEF awarded US $182,700 to UNICEF USA in 2016 for an initiative called “Building PM Capacity to Extend UNICEF’s Reach to Save and Protect More Vulnerable Children.” The funding has enabled the organization to integrate project and program management into its operations to increase its capacity for fundraising, grants management, information technology, and marketing and communications. Doing so has empowered staff by strengthening their skills to help save and protect more children across the world. This aligns with the organization’s mission of advocacy, education, and fundraising for UNICEF’s lifesaving programs globally. 

According to Kristi Burnham, Vice President for Professional Learning and Leadership Development, the timing of the PMIEF – UNICEF USA partnership proved perfect. “We were entering into a new strategic plan that requires very aggressive fundraising and engagement goals. The grant came at the right time because we needed to develop our staff’s project management skills so UNICEF USA can efficiently achieve greater impact.”

The organization intended to engage the International Institute for Learning (IIL) to deliver project management fundamentals training to 120 staff through two-day, in-depth workshops followed by ongoing coaching calls, but the initiative generated so much interest that plans changed mid-course. In fact, staff from eight branch offices across the country traveled to UNICEF USA’s New York City headquarters for training, with 165 staff ultimately participating. Kristi, who oversees grant activities, points out the reach may increase to as many as 200 staff once the organization offers an additional training – “Juggling Competing Priorities Using Project Management Concepts” – this July.

The grant’s outcomes thus far showcase the value project management adds for organizational capacity building. For example, staff now communicates about projects using a shared language that includes terminology like charter, work breakdown structures, and scope. In addition, they have leveraged and adapted project management tools and templates to meet their specific needs. Kristi attributes much of the success to IIL, which she describes as “a great partner” whose post-training mentoring has proven “extremely helpful.” 

UNICEF USA is also now documenting lessons learned. Chang Lee, the organization’s former Director of Resource Mobilization Services, Global Programs & Field Engagement, previously led grant activities. “The ability to capture institutional knowledge makes a great difference because that knowledge can be transferred easily,” he says. “This allows the organization to achieve wins more rapidly. Our partnership with PMIEF allowed UNICEF USA the resources to accomplish this.”  

Furthermore, the grant introduced the organization’s senior leadership to project management through a workshop that highlighted its purpose and the value of project management skills building for staff. Moreover, some staff has been inspired to pursue additional project management training, including one who completed a PMP® boot camp and earned the certification. Kristi and Chang also shared their grant-funded experience with other organizations at PMIEF’s international roundtable for nonprofits in April 2018. 

Kristi expresses the organization’s gratitude for PMIEF’s support for “project management training that has increased our capacity to be more efficient and further develop our staff.” This she says, will enable UNICEF USA to continue to make a difference by saving more children’s lives.

Did you know…?

UNICEF Kid Power is a mobile application that records physical activity so youth can earn redeemable points to help feed malnourished children. It empowers them as change agents while encouraging physical fitness. According to Kristi, PMIEF’s grant to UNICEF USA helped build the organization’s capacity to create UNICEF Kid Power Bands, a “Wearable-for-Good” product.

“Innovating has been an entirely new area for us, so the UNICEF Kid Power development team quickly adopted an agile framework and applied project management skills to prototype, test, and product pivot the bands,” she says. This, Kristi adds, allowed the rapid testing and modification necessary to launch UNICEF Kid Power. In fact, Time Magazine honored UNICEF Kid Power among its “Best Inventions 2016” while it also received The Hamdan bin Mohammed Award for Innovation in Project Management, an honor that includes a US $100,000 cash prize.

UNICEF USA is just one of the outstanding nonprofits PMIEF has supported thanks to your generosity. We invite you to continue to help us leverage project management for social good!