What will I be doing?

Each volunteer’s assignment forms an important part of a long term strategy to develop the financial management capacity of international charities and non-profit community based organisations. The primary focus is always to develop and enhance the skills, confidence and potential of local people and for our partners to develop the capacity they need to deliver more effective and sustainable services to their many beneficiaries. In many ways the role of our volunteers is therefore often much more about consultation rather than accounting. 

Volunteer accountant or consultant, coach or mentor?

You may have browsed our website or seen an article in an accounting institute magazine that mentions “Volunteer Accountant required for charity in ?”. But what do we really mean - what are we really seeking for our charity partners? When we say ‘Volunteer Accountants’, what we should more accurately be saying is that we are looking for accountants to volunteer as consultants. 

So what’s the difference? An accountant can be responsible for a whole host of crucial and skilled functions on a day-to-day basis such as bookkeeping, auditing or producing financial statements and reports. The problem with a ‘Volunteer Accountant’ arises because eventually the volunteer won’t be there day-to-day. At some point the local staff will be on their own, and both they and the organisation as a whole need to be equipped to survive and indeed thrive without that outside support. We work with our charity partners on an ongoing basis, with the ultimate aim being that after a series of assignments the skills of the local staff and the financial capacity of the partner are raised to such a level that they are able to function effectively without the need for outside assistance. The role of our volunteers is therefore much more of consultation, coaching and mentoring rather than accounting. For more on this topic click.


First volunteers

The first volunteer to visit a new partner will begin the programme by conducting a detailed financial health assessment of the organisation and of the skills and potential of its staff. Working closely with the volunteer and the partner organisation’s management team, AfID use this first report to tailor a long-term programme of support; creating the terms of reference and a skills profile for the volunteers that will follow. In some respects more challenging as you wont follow another volunteer but at the same time even more rewarding as you will be the start of something special for the organisation.

 
Common areas of focus & support
 
Upon their arrival each volunteer will assess the progress made since the last volunteer's  assignment, reconfirm objectives and the terms ort reference with the local partner organisation's team before beginning to address primary areas of focus. Typical areas of focus are listed below.* 
  • Organisational needs assessment & Internal audit
  • Understanding financial statements
  • Bookkeeping and cash management
  • Income & Expenditure budgets
  • Creating, Monitoring & Evaluating budgets
  • Cash flow forecasting
  • Debt & credit management and control
  • Internal controls and financial procedures
  • Management information systems
  • Donor reporting; restricted & unrestricted cost allocation
  • Training on accounting systems
  • Division of staff duties and responsibilities
  • External audit preparation 
  • Mentoring a new & inexperienced Financer Manager
  • Confidential tutoring of non-finance staff including members of the management committee
  • Risk management
  • Business development & young entrepreneur skills training
* It is worth noting that the majority of our partners are small community organisations and therefore assignments will often be broad in nature and encompass many areas of focus.

 

“The need for skilled accountants is largely driven by a lack of training at a local level, combined with the complex reporting requirements of overseas donors. Donors will typically restrict their funding to specific items on a project’s budget and limit the allocation for core costs. When you are a headmistress, a doctor or a nun trying to run an small NGO with very limited resources, it can be very difficult to keep accurate records and perform your normal duties; with a different set of accounts, reporting formats and sometimes bank accounts required by each of your many donors, you clearly need help.”

 
Neil Jennings, Founder of AfID
 
Can I get involved with non-accounting activities?
 
Yes. We encourage all our partners to walk volunteers through all their organisation’s activities, and field visits are a common feature of assignments. Additional responsibilities can include:
  • Assisting with funding proposals
  • Teaching Microsoft Office; Excel, Word & Powerpoint
  • Teaching English 
  • Coaching sports 
  • Business development & young entrepreneur skills training

Will I be able to speak to past volunteers?
 
Yes. As every volunteer will always brief the next, AfID and the partner are able to monitor, evaluate and improve on the success of the programme effectively. This provides new volunteers with an accurate and detailed insight into their host partner’s needs and the resources available. When a partner organisation has worked with multiple volunteers, all their reports, blogs and contact details will be made available. 
 
If you would like to speak to a past volunteer to help you decide if volunteering is something you would like to do, please let us know and we will happily introduce you to the most relevant person. 

Championing the role of the Accountant
 
In many developing countries the role of the accountant is still confusing to the local population. One of the most fundamental objectives of all of our assignments is to help elevate the profile of finance staff, ensuring they have the confidence and the ability to become a key feature in the organisation’s decision making process and thereby helping to create new role models within their communities.