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E39: Intro To Product Management For Nonprofits

by Sean Boyce

What is product management and how can your nonprofit leverage it to scale impact?

On this episode I talk about:
  • What product management is
  • How nonprofit organizations can leverage product management
  • The skills that make a good product manager
  • How to upskill your team into the role
  • What to have them work on to maximize impact
If you’d like to learn how to scale impact at your nonprofit by more than double in less than half the time, sign up for my free 5 day email course (https://nxtstep.io/impact/)

Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, Sean here and today what I want to talk to you more about his the work that I do and how you can leverage it and your organization to scale impact and what I mean by that is product management. 

Now, you may have heard this phrase before, you may be somewhat familiar with this role, or you may have never heard of anything even somewhat related to it and that’s okay. This episode is intended to explain to you more about what product management is and how at your nonprofit organization you can leverage the skills of a product manager, both from any of the team members you already have or someone you can potentially add to the team at a future date in order to greater scale impact at your organization. 

So if you’re unfamiliar with product management, it often gets confused with more common terminology like project management or a project manager. And it’s slightly different than that, but I usually try to explain things whenever I can in the context of another familiar concept that people are aware of like project management, for example. So I’ll start there. If you’ve heard of Project Management before, you’re probably somewhat familiar with what goes into managing a project, right? There might be timelines and might be people that might be setting the goals and measuring progress against them that might include managing budgets as well also, everything of and related to that project and the project can really include anything. It doesn’t really matter what it is from building anything somewhat tech related to building houses or working on a project at your organization, right, whatever that is. A project manager can oftentimes help you with keeping everything organized and making that progress that you would like to now the way that I like to kind of describe what product management is, is I’m going to I’m going to compare it to your project manager. 

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Now whereas a project manager is keeping track of all those things that I mentioned before, the difference between that and a product manager that I would say as a product manager is often doing so exclusively with some type of physical or virtual product. Now in my world, it’s mainly these virtual and digital products. So that means software and technology. So when I say that that might be a website, that might be an application, that application can be web based, that application can be mobile, whatever it is, most of the work done in product management is affiliated with managing an application. So a digital product that is either accessible via a web browser or a mobile device that has a specific purpose. 

Now these products you can consider to be essentially almost anything like an app on your phone, like Gmail, for example that you might use to access email to a website application that you might use as well to like Google Documents. For example. Any of these examples these are all considered, quote unquote products. Even though they are digital, they’re not physical. They’re considered products and product managers organize the efforts related to some of the project management responsibilities, but specifically for these products, as in, they will be managing, basically what features and capabilities to these digital products have today? And what should they have in the future in order to be better for whomever uses them, right? And that’s usually the target market customer or the user. In this case, product managers are going out and they’re interacting with his target market user to better understand what the needs are that they have that are currently unmet. Then they figure out how do we get functionality built into those products to better address those needs, and solve any of those problems or challenges that those users have. 

So product management and how it relates to your world, which is likely related to running a nonprofit organization. Scaling impact, or having some type of mission driven or social impact objective. Product Management can help in all of these areas by figuring out how your organization can leverage technology and software in order to greater drive impact at scale. Because technology and software are so good at figuring out how to do what you want to do faster, more cost effectively. All of those types of things. What a product manager can likely help you do is figure out how to leverage those tools and resources to make even greater impact in a shorter period of time. So that’s what I want you to walk away with from this perspective in terms of really being inspired and thinking about how a product manager or someone with product management skills can help your organization greater drive and scale impact. 

Now, last thing I’ll say before I wrap up this episode is that oftentimes you don’t necessarily need to go looking externally for this kind of stuff. This is the help that I provide to nonprofit organizations. And if you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to always reach out to me and just ask them because I love interacting with folks that want to know more about this topic because I’m very passionate about it myself. But chances are you’ve had members of your organization that have some maybe even all of these skills already. They just aren’t really doing this work or they aren’t being referred to in this way. That is an area of opportunity I look for on a regular basis. When I work with nonprofit organizations. I try to figure out who has the capability and or the desire to want to complete this role as a function and is interested in getting better at that moving forward. Then we work on training, and I provide customized training for set individuals so they can kind of step up into that role. Whereas in the beginning, I might. I might do most of the work for me and my team at most of the work, but they’re learning along the way. And the idea is for them to ultimately replace us stand up into that product management role. We might do more of a product strategy role, which is something I’ll talk about in a future episode. 

So for now, I just want you to get comfortable and familiar with that as a role. That being product management and thinking through the exciting ways in which someone on your team with those skills can help you better drive and create impact at scale.