Remote Volunteering Case Studies


Throughout the coronavirus pandemic AfID volunteers have been providing crucial remote technical support to non-profits globally, with experienced finance and accounting professionals successfully providing assistance via email, telephone and video conferencing.


We have put together a series of bitesize case studies to give you an idea of how an AfID volunteer could support your organisation over the coming weeks and months. Could you benefit from an AfID volunteer? Email to find out more and discuss your requirements.



The partner: A Partner in Education (APIE)


Established in response to a request from the Rwandan government during a period of rapid educational expansion in post-conflict Rwanda, APIE built and continues to support a model, inclusive school in Kigali, and contributes to the expansion of high quality education across Rwanda through the provision of innovative teacher training e-courses.


The challenge: Getting to grips with Xero


APIE had identified a number of gaps in their finance systems, and were seeking the support of a pro bono accountant with experience in using Xero.


The volunteer: Irena Byrdina


ACCA qualified, Irena is a regular AfID overseas volunteer and experienced Finance Director. She has strong international and non-profit sector experience, with her skills including developing and streamlining financial procedures, reporting, budgeting and financial controls as well as QuickBooks and Xero knowledge.


The assignment: Implementing financial management system and training staff


Irena provided a cumulative total of 10 days support on a part-time basis over 3 months. After gaining a thorough understanding of their current systems and financial flows as well as the outputs they needed to derive from their financial records, she created a comprehensive financial management package for the organisation. This comprised a finance manual and a suite of templates, all of which were accompanied by clear instructions for use. Irena helped them to reconfigure their Xero accounting software to better suit their needs and also spent a considerable amount of time training the team, ensuring that they understood all the processes and how to use the templates and accounting software.


"Irena was amazing from start to finish. She quickly grasped the difficulties we were experiencing and created a totally new system which meets the needs of our organisation. Like many small charities, we don't have an accounts expert in the team to manage our finances, but Irena has enabled us to develop a really simple system that is fit for purpose. She also had fabulous coaching skills, using video calls to teach the whole team how to follow the new system. I would highly recommend an AfID volunteer to any charity."

Hannah Messer, UK Operations Manager at APIE


"It has been a pleasure to work with A Partner in Education, both in the UK and Rwanda. Despite my initial concerns and lack of experience of working remotely, it proved to be very productive and rewarding. We managed to establish a good personal connection as well, in addition to a professional one, and managed to do a lot in relatively short amount of time, much more than I had expected initially."


Irena Byrdina, AfID volunteer


Do you need help to better utilise your accounting software? Email



The partner: Tribe + Glory (Zena)


Social enterprise and non-profit hybrid facilitating female entrepreneurs in Uganda living under the poverty line to start their own businesses producing jewelery.


The challenge: Accountant in need of training


Tribe + Glory's Ugandan accountant required further coaching to improve her technical skills and confidence.


The volunteer: Monica Liljeroth (FCCA)


Monica is a very experienced finance professional. Having spent the majority of her career in practice and the private sector, she made the decision moved to the not for profit sector in 2015, after undertaking an overseas placement through AfID supporting a small grassroots charity in rural Malawi.


The assignment: Improving systems and providing advice and guidance


Monica has supported Tribe + Glory for 1 or 2 days a month for the last 6 months. She has worked specifically with Tribe + Glory's Ugandan finance manager to help design an international stock record keeping system that is updated on a monthly basis and also helped them with their monthly cash book, formatting the excel workbook to incorporate bank reconciliation reports and expenditure reports for the board which accounts for restricted spend categorisation. Monica's primary value was in her role as a mentor and professional advisor for their finance manager, giving her access to help where needed and improving her skills.


"Working with Monica has been a complete gift to us this past year. We're still working with her on a couple last projects and the time she has spent with Phionah our accountant has been profoundly significant in her own confidence and progress. It has been a real support to have remote help whether through WhatsApp audio calls or Zoom. Monica has worked around our own connection abilities in rural Uganda and we've been able to achieve significant progress in our accounting processing."


Caragh Bennet, co-founder and CEO at Tribe + Glory


"Phionah at Tribe + Glory has been a keen learner and using WhatsApp to talk to each other has been a saviour."

Monica Liljeroth (FCCA), AfID volunteer


Would your bookkeeper benefit from further training? Email



The partner: Brooklyn Bridge to Cambodia (BB2C)


BB2C works to improve the livelihoods of Cambodian farmers, utilising innovative rice planting technology that does away with the backbreaking work of women bending over all day in rice paddies.


The challenge: Lack of accounting and finance knowledge within organisation


Having made it through the start-up phase, BB2C's founder had employed the services of a professional accounting firm, but without an accounting background was struggling to work with them effectively.


The volunteer: Sharida Hassan (ACA)


Sharida has been working at KPMG for 5 years, where she has undertaken and overseen large, complex audits. Additionally, she is experienced in data analysis, project management and reporting. Sharida undertook a pro bono placement through AfID working with the Art & Global Health Centre in Malawi in 2019.


The assignment: Review of systems and transition to new accounting firm


Sharida provided 6 days support in total, on a part-time basis over a 4 month period. She reviewed the organisations use of systems set up by the Cambodian accounting firm, including QuickBooks, which had not been fully utilised. She also worked with BB2C's founder and bookkeeper to simplify reporting, introduce new policies and procedures and develop a projected cash flow schedule. Sharida then worked to transition part of the accounting function to the new accounting firm.


"I don't have an accounting background and frankly, I didn't understand the accounting firm's questions. Then Sharida Hassan, the AfID volunteer, came to my rescue. It was interesting to watch Sharida work with three cultures: her own, American, and Cambodian. She had a warm, friendly, and effective relationship with the accounting staff member. Unfortunately, my organization's bookkeeper was resistant to change but again Sharida showed patience in teaching her new methods. I would be lost without her help."

Paula Shirk, Founder and CEO at BB2C


"Even whilst working remotely, I built a great connection with Paula and could feel the impact of the great work BB2C does. Flexibility is key with working remotely due to the different time zones that we were in with Paula in the U.S, the local team and third party accounting firm in Cambodia and myself in Malaysia. We made it work and managed to have a smooth transition of part of the accounting function to the new accounting firm."

Sharida Hassan (ACA), AfID volunteer


Do you require a review of your accounting systems? Email



The partner: Health Improvement Project Zanzibar (HIPZ)


Dedicated to improving Zanzibar's health system, HIPZ manage two hospitals, train local staff and run a progressive mental health programme.


The challenge: Financial management systems in need of upgrade


HIPZ had identified a need to strengthen their financial management capabilities but did not have the financial resources to pay commercial rates for this work.


The volunteer: Julie Violet (ACA)


Julie trained with EY before having a longstanding and varied career with GlaxoSmithKline. She left her role in 2013 to undertake a volunteer placement in India through AfID, and has transitioned into the sector since, undertaking roles in Madagascar, Senegal and the DRC in recent years. 


The assignment: Improving financial processes


Julie worked with HIPZ for a few hours at a time, 2 or 3 times a week over a couple of months. She used her experience to help them create a chart of accounts, and worked with the team in country and in the UK office to improve their financial processes and systems including the development of their Finance Manual. She successfully integrated their financial reporting spreadsheets, budgets and income forecasts.


"We were due to have a volunteer join us in person, but when coronavirus put a stop to that, AfID helped us to find a solution. Julie made a real impact on our work, even though she wasn’t there in person, and I’d recommend a remote placement as it’s amazing what can be achieved through virtual working."

Jess Price, UK Fundraising Manager at HIPZ



"I really enjoyed working with HIPZ. They were really eager to learn and ready to make changes. We had been working on improving reporting and I had been explaining what the various terms such as expense type, budget etc meant in such a way that the Program Director could understand. There was a lovely moment during a meeting with the Finance Sub Group when the Program Director quoted what I had told him about this. I had a big smile because I knew that he had understood and that my work with HIPZ was making a difference. It was really nice to see."

Julie Violet (ACA), AfID volunteer


Are your financial management systems due an upgrade? Email



We hope these case studies have provided some insight into the value an AfID volunteer, working remotely, could add to your organisation. Of course, every non-profit has their own unique challenges and we would be pleased to work with you to develop an appropriate assignment brief tailored to your individual circumstances. Email to start the conversation with one of the team.