Finance staff

Guide to Financial Management

Finance staff

Finance staff play a crucial role in helping managers and trustees meet their financial management responsibilities.

This section provides a checklist of finance staff's main responsibilities:

  1. Actively supporting the organisation's values and culture
  2. Setting up and running financial systems
  3. Helping beneficiaries, managers and trustees understand financial management issues
  4. Supporting relationships with partner organisation
  5. Supporting audits and meeting legal requirements.

1. Actively supporting the organisation's values and culture

  • Understanding how the NGO works in practice. (What NGOs do may help.)
  • Taking practical steps to maintain their commitment to the NGO's values (eg through field visits).
  • Encouraging senior managers and trustees to recognise and consider their financial management responsibilities.
  • Helping create a culture that balances centralised control with decentralised decision-making.

NGOs exist to work with people rather than money. Finance managers and systems can play an important role in helping NGOs do this effectively. But inappropriate systems can make life difficult for everyone.

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2. Setting up and running finance systems

  • Keeping accounts, including supporting documents and book-keeping records. (Tracking restricted funds received from each donor separately.)
  • Supporting managers to prepare budgets, in discussion with beneficiaries.
  • Preparing appropriate financial reports for all stakeholders, including beneficiaries, managers, trustees and donors.
  • Setting up and implementing a system of controls that empower staff to make good judgements (within policies approved by the trustees).
  • Implementing all other specific financial procedures, such as monitoring cash flow, paying salaries and tax, and making payments to suppliers.

Finance systems play a major role in shaping an NGO's culture. They should aim to strengthen it, not fight against it - which may mean working in tune with the two golden rules of NGO field work.

In particular, if beneficiaries are not involved in decision-making, then funds may not be spent on their real needs.

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3. Helping beneficiaries, managers and trustees understand financial management issues

  • Ensuring that finance staff understand programme issues (e.g. through visits), so that they can support beneficiaries and programme staff effectively.
  • Working closely with programme staff to explain and explore financial management issues.
  • Making sure that beneficiaries are involved in financial decision-making (including budgeting and monitoring) to make sure that funds are spent on their real needs.
  • Presenting financial reports in different ways to different stakeholders, so that they are relevant and easy to understand.
  • Discussing financial reports with all stakeholders, to help them understand what the figures mean.
Finance staff have to work closely with programme staff: they cannot deliver good financial management on their own. So NGO finance staff need strong interpersonal and team-working skills.

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4. Supporting relationships with partner organisations

  • Assessing partners' financial management capacity.
  • Monitoring how partners use funds.
  • Supporting partner organisations to develop their capacity.
  • Handling formal agreements with partner organisations.
  • Making payments to partner organisations.

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5. Supporting audits and meeting legal requirements

  • Planning and supporting internal and external audits.
  • Presenting auditors' reports and management letters to senior managers and trustees.
  • Understanding the NGO's legal requirements and helping senior managers and trustees understand them.
  • Meeting legal requirements, including submitting reports to government agencies as required.

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Mango's Integration checklist  - check to see how well integrated financial management is into your NGO's culture.