DC2009:Managing demands from internal stakeholders

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There are plenty of moving pieces in any Nonprofit Technology Project. But often one of the most vexing challenges is properly managing the needs and wants of stakeholders within the organization for whom the project is being implemented. This session will cover best practices for engagement, gathering input, transparent project operation, creating alignment (and coping when it's not possible), and other aspects of setting expectations and managing communications.

Session Notes

Session notes will be posted here.

Managing Internal Stakeholders - Rachel

Rachel: Technology doesn’t really fit into the purview of her organization, which creates the need to advocate proactively for technology and manage varying perspectives; biggest accomplishment is that everyone is still talking to one another; acting somewhat as a therapist – there is a need to finesse differing interests and “read” differing interests

A key moment is defining that this is a project and getting common understandings. In this, it is not different from dealing w/ external clients.

A key challenge of managing internal stakeholders is about overcoming the assumption that explicit planning, marketing, transparency are unnecessary

Internal project often grow out of long-running issues, with unstated assumptions and unqualified interests

Internally need to understand and be sensitive implicitly to hierarchy/politics/culture

Marie: What if you get resistance within your project team? A: You need to understand the source of the resistance – understand the motivations. Break down the resistance in the needs gathering phase. Create a picture of what your system is going to do – show things that the users are going to relate to. Show them concretely what is expected of them.

Understand your value add – know what your project is giving to the various interests in the org.

Importance of project evangelists – executive sponsorship.

Evangelists are not just at the top of the organization – they need to be seeded throughout the organization.

If you are having trouble getting collaboration on a project, you can use a low-tech approach (e.g. post-it notes on a wall calendar) – this can help bypass the fight you might have implementing a technological solution, like Basecamp

Resistance to change is a huge hurdle

How to deal with apathy? Work around it. Build something that works for others and, if you are fulfilling a not-yet-identified need of the apathetic, they will eventually get on board. Or: energy/enthusiasm can overcome apathy – the executive sponsor cannot be the only evangelist.

Structured communications are essential: e.g., project blog, regular emails – must be sure that the communications approach is sensitive to time efficiency and whether your communications are providing value.

What do you do with feedback? Acknowledge and report back. Show results. Use a tracking tool (OneNote).

How often should you ask for feedback? Always! But especially at project milestones. If you’re not getting feedback, go hunt it down.

Not all feedback will be timely or appropriate, but you need to validate the input. Don’t just say, “No!”

How do you deal with negative/unproductive feedback? Spin it – acknowledge and validate it, even if you are not going to use it. One strategy is to publicize it and answer it positively. Or dissect the feedback – challenge them to give you feedback that is useful. But also challenge your own motivations and natural defensiveness to getting feedback you might not want to hear. Ask for them to help you help them.


  • Importance of evangelists
  • Importance of seeing the motivation of resistance
  • Managing feedback productively in a validating manner
  • Having a structured organization plan