|This includes chief executive officers (CEOs), programme managers and fundraisers as well as finance managers.|
This section provides a checklist of senior managers' main financial management responsibilities. They focus on actively running the organisation:
- Making sure that resources are used effectively
- Matching resources and activities
- Supporting field staff / managers
- Ensuring that finance staff and programme staff work together
- Supporting other stakeholders
In big NGOs, senior managers play a similar role to donors to their field offices: you may also find the donors section useful.
- Creating an organisational culture that takes financial management seriously (e.g. by inspiring staff to stay committed to an NGO's values and leading by example).
- Developing practical approaches that staff can use to analyse and respond to social problems.
- Setting up internal controls that encourage staff to make good judgements and decentralise decision-making as much as possible.
- Checking that internal controls are followed in practice.
- Taking an active role in internal controls (e.g. signing off salary payments and authorising major payments).
- Setting up structured approaches for ensuring dialogue with beneficiaries (e.g. regular financial reporting to beneficiaries) and checking to see that they are followed in practice
- Monitoring the quality of the organisation's work.
- Approving realistic budgets for the organisation's operational activities.
- Monitoring financial reports, including income and expenditure accounts and the balance sheet.
The first golden rule of NGO field work is: NGOs have to maintain a respectful dialogue with the people they aim to help. Otherwise, you risk not helping them effectively.
- Leading the process of developing a realistic annual budget and making sure that it includes enough income to cover all planned expenditure.
- Regularly reviewing financial reports, including budget monitoring reports and the balance sheet (e.g. most NGOs review these every month).
- Regularly forecasting cash flow, making sure that all parts of the organisation have enough cash to pay for their activities and investing any cash reserves.
- Implementing the financing strategy approved by the board.
- Recruiting staff with the right skills, experience and commitment for key field roles.
- Making sure the right number of staff are employed to carry out all of the organisation's activities.
- Ensuring that all staff understand their financial management responsibilities.
- Communicating strategies, policies and procedures effectively to staff (in simple ways that make it easier for them to do their jobs).
- Ensuring that staff have the right incentives, time, skills and support to carry out their financial management responsibilities.
- Providing training and learning opportunities - and making sure that staff have the time to make use of them.
- Holding staff to account for the decisions they take and the results of their actions.
The second golden rule of NGO field work is: NGOs depend on their field staff and have to empower them to make good judgements. Everything depends on how you work with your field staff.
- Employing finance managers and staff who have strong interpersonal skills and a commitment to your organisation's values, as well as technical skills.
- Making sure that finance staff / managers are always involved in decision making and budgeting, from the earliest stages of any new project.
- Actively considering the financial management implications of all major decisions.
- Encouraging finance staff to develop a greater understanding of programme work (eg by regular visits to field activities).
- Supporting the trustees, e.g. providing them with financial information and helping them understand financial management issues.
- Monitoring relationships with donors and partner organisations and ensuring that the financial aspects of these relationships are in line with broader approaches.
- Presenting donors with realistic and honest strategies, plans and reports about your organisation's work.
- Meeting your legal obligations (eg supporting the annual audit and preparing returns for government departments).
All NGOs have a responsibility to be honest about the limits of what they can achieve. Otherwise donors and trustees are encouraged to think that NGOs can achieve amazing results overnight – and then they expect them!
Mango's integration checklist – check to see how well integrated financial management is into your NGO's culture.
See the section of Mango's Guide entitled A new management agenda