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How financial health experts provide support to charities

A charity’s financial health is crucial to its survival, growth and ability to provide sustainable support to its beneficiaries. Without sufficient finance systems in place or staff trained in its maintenance, a non-profit’s capacity to keep up with crucial tasks like finance reports, external audits and donor reporting falters.

While on a career break volunteering in Rwanda, Neil Jennings recognised that the charity’s donor relationships were deteriorating due to lack of financial management. He observed that “while the staff had achieved amazing results with little resources, the survival of their activities hung desperately in the balance as not enough was being done to address this underlying issue.”

This drove him to launch Accounting for International Development (AfID) in 2009. AfID is a social enterprise that builds the financial capacity of non-profits across Asia, Africa and Latin America by sending them pro bono finance consultants to carry out internal audits, train staff, review systems and make recommendations as needed.

Accountants and auditors are in a unique position to provide valuable support to non-profits that is otherwise hard to source. AfID’s skilled volunteering programme ensures that volunteer accountants meet charity partners’ needs in terms of experience and skills, and that these skills are transferable and the new procedures implemented are relevant and sustainable. Retired Australian accountant Theo Poullos witnessed this first-hand when he volunteered at a children’s charity in Vietnam through AfID in October 2019.

“Accountants can play a crucial role in helping charities to build strong, viable, robust systems and processes to support their causes. Most – if not all – of the recommendations I made from my pro bono assignment will be implemented by the charity. I found that I could easily draw on my career experience,” Theo said.

This consultancy work impacts organisations greatly – from the way they manage their resources to their ability to secure further donor funds. Volunteers develop softer skills in the process, such as the importance of really listening to people’s needs and questions. Both parties walk away with a newfound understanding of their abilities, a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and new friendships.

“I would definitely recommend volunteering to any accountant even thinking about it,” Theo enthuses.

“Knowledge and experience should be shared – not only does this directly impact the strength of organisations in need, but you also forge longstanding friendships and soul-building memories,” he said.

Since its launch in 2009, AfID has supported over 500 charity partners across Asia, Africa and Latin America with 250,000 hours (worth £25 million) of pro bono professional financial services, which includes support from over 100 Australian volunteers.

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