‘Everyone Benefits’ - AfID featured in ACCA’s AB Magazine19.09.2017

Everyone benefits


There is a strong business case for organisations to support employees in volunteering for worthy causes, and powerful personal and career advantages for the volunteers.


While any form of volunteering – independent or corporate, planting trees or teaching migrant children – has a positive impact on volunteers as well as communities, finance professionals have particularly valuable skills to share.


‘Pro bono volunteering is a very high-impact way to help improve the sustainability of a non-profit organisation,’ says Siu Turner, whose network can help accountants connect with worthy projects.


‘The value of skilled volunteer support for general operations, technology and professional services can be 500% greater than the value of other forms of volunteering,’ she says, citing a report by social impact measurement organisation True Impact and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


‘However, for a pro bono project to be effective, it must be scoped and managed appropriately.’


UK-based Accounting for International Development (AfID) matches qualified volunteer accountants with nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and community projects worldwide to instil and instruct financial management.


Dave Busby, AfID’s Volunteer Services Manager, says: ‘Our partners are a blend of international NGOs and grassroots community-based organisations such as street child centres, hospitals, microfinance organisations, conservation projects, women’s empowerment programmes and schools. The common theme is that they are all doing amazing work to tackle extreme poverty and inequality in their communities but due to their limited resources are unable to access vital accounting and financial management training.’


AfID sends volunteers to 52 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They include newly qualified accountants, those between jobs, professionals on a sabbatical and retired accountants – Busby says AfID’s oldest volunteer was 78.


Around half come from outside the UK, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. Volunteers pay for placements spanning two weeks to a year.


Typical areas of focus include internal and external audits; bookkeeping and cash management; creating, monitoring and evaluating budgets; risk management; and training local finance personnel.


In addition to the broader benefits of volunteering, pro bono programmes are a way for finance professionals to gain valuable experience in the highly competitive sector of international development.


‘Taking on even a short volunteer assignment will help accountants stand out from the crowd,’ Busby says. ‘The invaluable experience to be gained in how NGOs manage their programmes with limited resources and report to international donors, as well as the insight into effective cross-cultural work practices, is exactly what many charities are looking for when they hire.’


With win-win advantages aplenty, volunteering is a rewarding way to drive change, support communities and even pick up some valuable work experience and skills along the way.


Original article by Frances Arnold featured in ACCA's AB Magazine.