4 Advantages of a Scrum Master in a Nonprofit

I have been answering numerous questions recently about the benefits for nonprofits, and often specifically for grant or fundraising teams, of implementing the Scrum framework, but also specifically inquiring about the benefits of having a Scrum Master. 


What a Scrum Master is and what the expected servant leader role is, looks the same in ALL team settings, whether nonprofit or for profit. If you want to dig in more on the basic questions about what a Scrum Master is and does, Scrum, Inc. does a great job helping answer that basic question.


What I wanted to outline is what the four advantages are that I see for a nonprofit implementing the Scrum framework and having a Scrum Master for their team(s). The idea being, that these four advantages will help answer the two questions (1) why should there be a Scrum masters in nonprofits, and (2) why should nonprofits consider the Scrum framework as apart of their operational approach?



  • Facilitating Changing Conditions and Impediments


The first advantage of having a Scrum Master in your nonprofit organization is that the person is going to help the team cope with changes in their team and navigate any impediments that arise. Life rarely goes exactly as planned and that is true in nonprofits as well regardless of the strength of your strategic planning process. Perhaps there are changes that come from their regulatory bodies or from their grantmakers or their collaborative partners. Having a Scrum Master can help your team cope with change because change is inevitable.



  • Proactively Addressing Team Happiness


Employee burnout is a recognized concern in the nonprofit sector, as is high turnover rates. While staff members in nonprofits are typically very passionate about the work that they are doing, let’s be honest. It’s hard work, it’s intense work, and therefore burnout and turnover are real concerns. 


Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was something else that we, as nonprofit professionals, could do to reduce turnover and burnout? It may seem hard to believe that having a Scrum Master in an organization is a tactic that can help you address burnout, turnover, and really, team happiness. The reason is that adopting the Scrum framework and putting a Scrum Master role into your team is designed to help make a team’s sustainable pace visible to your organization. 


A sustainable pace for nonprofit employees…is that a thing? Don’t we just have to get all the work done all the time as fast as possible? Scrum Masters protect their team to focus on an agreed-upon goal and not be interrupted in the short-term by new ideas and projects.



  • Navigating Limited Resources


There is one thing that is nearly universally scarce across nonprofits. Resources. And most likely resources in the form of money. Whether asking a small grassroot organization or a multimillion large national nonprofit, you’re likely to hear that your resources are limited. It is true. Nonprofits could always use more funds to accomplish your work to achieve your mission whether it means achieving more impact or achieving your mission faster. 


By implementing the Scrum framework and having a Scrum Master in your team, your nonprofit can save money. This is in part because the Scrum framework prevents you from over planning or from having to go back and redo, undo entire projects. Rather, you create a minimal viable product of your programs/services that you can share and get feedback on. This is a framework that the Scrum Master is helping to facilitate.


A great example straight from the grant world is if you created a completely polished grant application before ever sharing it with the client/stakeholder. What if they say you know what actually you missed the mark a little bit. You’re going to need to rework a  whole section or more which was a waste of time for the writer, it was a waste of money for everyone involved and everyone is frustrated. Instead, you break it down into smaller components. So we released version one and that’s where we’re requesting information in the document, and we released version 2 and we’re sharing a more complete draft still some work to be done, and we move on from there. Those iterations, those moments for stakeholder feedback save us all time, effort, and ultimately money. 



  • Short-term Iterative Processes Improve Your Work


By having an iterative process, whether we’re talking about a grant application, an annual report, a new logic model design for a program idea that we have, or any other project you increase our chance for stakeholder feedback and a stronger end result. All of our work in nonprofits can benefit from this iterative feedback loop that is the key element of the Scrum Framework. In an iterative cycle (specifically called a Sprint when utilizing the Scrum framework) we’re empowering our colleagues, gathering constant feedback, improving our communication channels, and ultimately strengthening our end program/service that creates impact for our community. The idea is not about extra documentation, but rather engaging others in review and feedback so that we achieve greater impact faster. 


The bottom line is that nonprofit leadership would welcome the opportunity to achieve its mission faster or to create an even greater impact even faster. What nonprofit is going to say no to that, especially if we go back to advantage number 3 where we’re saving some time and money?


Watch the original video where Diane talks about these advantages here.

If you’re looking to learn more about the Scrum framework and how it can shift the way your nonprofit is operating, we’d love to help! 


View all the upcoming Scrum Master courses this year here! Use code AiN15 to receive 15% off your ticket price.