There are seven principles of financial management for NGOs. They provide a high-level guide for trustees and senior managers, to help them make sure that their organisation is using funds effectively and that staff are working appropriately.
They also provide a useful checklist when deciding whether to fund other NGOs.
The organisation must take good care of the resources it is entrusted with and make sure that they are used for the purpose intended. The board of trustees has overall responsibility for this. In practice, managers achieve it through careful strategic planning, setting up appropriate controls, considering risks, and by setting up systems that work in tune with the two golden rules of NGO field work.
The organisation must explain how it has used its resources and what it has achieved as a result to all stakeholders, including beneficiaries. All stakeholders have the right to know how their funds and authority have been used. NGOs have an operational, moral and legal duty to explain their decisions and actions, and submit their financial reports to scrutiny.
The organisation must be open about its work, making information about its activities and plans available to relevant stakeholders. This includes preparing accurate, complete and timely financial reports and making them accessible to stakeholders, including beneficiaries. If an organisation is not transparent, then it may give the impression of having something to hide.
On a personal level, individuals in the organisation must operate with honesty and propriety. For example, managers and trustees should lead by example in following procedures and by declaring any personal interests that might conflict with their official duties. The integrity of financial reports depends on the accuracy and completeness of financial records.
Expenditure must be kept in balance with incoming funds, both at the operational and the strategic levels. Viability is a measure of the NGO's financial continuity and security. The trustees and managers should prepare a financing strategy to show how the NGO will meet all of its financial obligations and deliver its strategic plan.
6. Accounting standards
The system for keeping financial records and documentation must observe internationally accepted accounting standards and principles. Any accountant from anywhere around the world should be able to understand the organisation’s system for keeping financial records.
The organisation's financial policies and systems must be consistent over time. This promotes efficient operations and transparency, especially in financial reporting. While systems may need to be adapted to changing needs, unnecessary changes should be avoided. Inconsistent approaches to financial management can be a sign that the financial situation is being manipulated.