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Project management in charity sector – more than just economic value

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Project management activity in the charity sector contributes £6.61bn in gross value added (GVA) to the economy each year, according to our latest research conducted with the Association for Project Management (APM). Though the discipline is often associated with construction and engineering, project management uptake is growing and delivering value across many sectors, including the charity sector.

Uptake of professional project management in the charity sector has been growing over the last 10 years. Charity professionals often come from local authority backgrounds, where the discipline was used to maintain delivery throughout austerity. As charities also work with tight budgets, they recognised that their project expertise was an asset. Project management activity has since added 117,900 full-time equivalent jobs, with many of the larger UK charities now employing dedicated project management staff.

However, the value of project management in the charity sector extends beyond the economic contribution. Charity-based project professionals use project management methodologies flexibly, to create lasting change in line with their purpose.

For example, many health charities carry out project scoping and evaluations collaboratively with the people they serve, to ensure their work is in line with their needs. Community foundations use models such as Theory of Change extensively, to ensure their projects align with their purpose and that the community development they create is lasting. As one contributor emphasised, “project management is beyond bricks and mortar. The techniques, when applied, are fantastic. Application is the key – they’re tools. We use them fluidly. We aren’t building houses: we’re building minds.”

Responding to the pandemic

The need for project management expertise in the sector is especially critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Charities are grappling with a host of logistical challenges, including a transition to remote working and digital fundraising, and will also need to refocus to address the specific effects the pandemic may have on the people they serve.

Project professionals’ expertise will be essential in maintaining delivery momentum throughout these challenging times, from using risk management practices to mitigate uncertainty, undertaking scoping and outcomes adjustment to attune their focus, to juggling scarce resources in the current economic climate.

Our research shows that charity organisations are now seeking support in professionalising and maturing their project management capability. APM anticipates this will have a strong impact on its sectoral support for the project profession, stating: “We will use this research to help develop the work we are doing to build the capacity of the project profession in this sector – and in particular, look at the skills needed to ensure the increasing use of projects to deliver economic and social change.”

These findings are part of PwC and APM’s most recent research on the project management profession, The Golden Thread: Project Management in Three Sectors – a deep dive exploration of the growth of project management in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, charities, and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

If you would like to hear more about this research, please contact Julie McClean at PwC Research (

The Golden Thread sector report is available to download.



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