The Project Management Institute (PMI)All project managers certified as Project Management Professionals (PMPs) by the Project Management Institute (PMI) are required to earn a total of sixty Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three calendar years. I might be speaking for myself, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in that the three-year deadline for earning those PDUs is always looming over my head or lingering in the back of my mind. It can be a bit stressful!

There are lots of different ways to earn PDUs; for the most part, PMP certified project managers will earn PDUs by taking courses, online or offline, for which each hour of study will translate into one PDU. There are plenty of great courses to take, many of which are interesting and well worth your time above and beyond the fact that you’re gathering those precious PDUs while taking them. But of all of the methods of earning PDUs that exist, perhaps the most satisfying of them all is to volunteer your time and your skills as a project manager.

Giving back to the profession

As of March 1, 2011, PMI has reorganized its PDU category structure. Category E (formerly Category 5) of PMI’s New PDU Category Structure and Policies document is part of a section of categories called Giving Back to the Profession. Within this category are those activities that a project manager can undertake to earn PDUs while also supporting the project manager’s community and project management as a discipline.

Four ways to volunteer as a project manager

There are four different ways that a project manager can volunteer to earn PDUs:

  • Serve as an elected volunteer officer for a project management organization including PMI chapters and communities of practice.
  • Serve as a volunteer/appointed committee member for a project management
    organization (including PMI chapters and communities of practice).
  • Providing project management related volunteer services to PMI or another
    (legally recognized) professional project management association.
  • Provide volunteer project management-related services:
    • to a community or charitable group
    • to a group of college students for educational purposes, or
    • as a coach or mentor on project management topics.

How many hours can a project manager volunteer?

Of course, a project manager can volunteer as many hours of service as he or she chooses to volunteer; I am sure that the nonprofit and philanthropic community, for example, would appreciate as much help with their project management as they can receive! However, for the purposes of claiming PDUs, a PMP certified project manager (or a PgMP certified program manager) can claim 45 PDUs in the combined Giving Back to the Profession categories (Categories D, E and F). It was once the case that project managers could only earn 20 PDUs in the former Category 5, so the increase is a welcome change for those of us who enjoy giving back to our communities.

Helping out your local nonprofit

If you’re looking for a way to earn some PDUs outside of coursework, why not considering helping a local nonprofit or charity organization in your city or town? Even just a few hours spent volunteering for a charity or nonprofit organization that needs help with its project management can have a huge impact. You might spend those few hours helping your favorite local nonprofit organization understand project management and perhaps set up some helpful Excel (or Microsoft Project, if they have it) templates for them to use to track their schedules or to keep track of their deliverables in their fundraising projects. The hours you spend helping out will be setting your nonprofit up for success in project management well after you’ve completed your term as a volunteer. And by helping your nonprofit organization stick to its schedules, control scope creep, manage its resources and work on its communication, you could be saving it hundreds or even thousands of dollars that might otherwise have been wasted without your professional help. It’s like a thousand dollar donation to your favorite charity, for only a few hours’ worth of your time – and you get PDUs to boot!

Good luck earning those PDUs. I’m right there with you!