Assessing Grantees' Financial Health with the Ford Foundation


March 08, 2018

Assessing Grantees' Financial Health with the Ford Foundation

By Jo Edwards

In-House Training Manager

When Mango joined forces with InsideNGO and LINGOs to become Humentum in July 2017, one of the many strengths that Mango brought to the new organization was its dedicated client services team.

Humentum’s client services team offers a variety of solutions to both Humentum members and non-members, working in partnership with an organisation to support and deliver desired internal change. One of the services that Humentum offers is the in-house training programme. This programme allows organisations to have a standard Humentum course or one tailored specifically to the needs of their staff at a convenient location and time. Last year, the Ford Foundation opted to take advantage of our in-house option to improve their staff’s financial skills.

What was needed?

In April 2017, I was contacted by the Ford Foundation’s Office of Strategy and Learning. They were interested in hearing more about the financial training that Humentum could provide after receiving a recommendation from another foundation.

Ford was in the process of preparing staff for the rollout of a new grantmaking system and process. They wanted support for regional grant managers and program officers on assessing grantees’ financial health. Their brief was to provide two to three days training to 10 regional offices around the world. 

Where did we start?

All our client services work starts with an initial meeting for us to get to know the organisation and to listen and learn about the change they are seeking for their staff. Humentum being a global organisation, initial meetings are often conducted virtually. I was fortunate enough to be in New York in May 2017 and met with Kay Lee (Ford’s senior manager, Office of Strategy and Learning) and her other colleagues in person. Kay explained that Ford Foundation was implementing new grant making procedures with the intent of having greater understanding of a grantee’s financial situation, to allow Ford Foundation to better understand grantee business and any challenges they may be facing.

One of Ford’s concerns was ensuring that the training provided by Humentum not only cover the required subject matter but also was engaging, relevant, and appropriate for their busy, professional staff.  Another important aspect of the training was to ensure as much contextual relevance as possible.

All of this was music to my ears. At Humentum, our team has a lot of experience assessing the financial health of organisations, so we were delighted to support Ford with this project using our expertise.

We engaged with Mango, now Humentum, to provide training on assessing the financial health of grantees in ten regional offices. The training has far exceeded our expectations. It was incredibly well received in every office, not only for content and usefulness but also for Humentum’s approach to learning which was fun and engaging. We are very pleased with the results and look forward to working with Humentum again.

Kay Lee, Senior Manager, Office of Strategy and Learning

Ford Foundation

How did we go about starting the project?

We addressed Ford’s requirements as follows:

Appropriate subject matter: Between June and September we worked closely with Ford to prepare and refine course materials based on our WP1 course ‘Assessing your partners’ financial health’ to ensure that Ford grant managers and programme officers would have the skills, tools and knowledge needed to carry out their roles and support grantees. Ford US-based staff were receiving a similar but separate training provided by Fiscal Management Associates (FMA), so we also spoke with key staff at FMA to ensure a common approach.

Engaging and practical: Humentum has a reputation for providing fun finance training using a variety of learning methods to stimulate interest and meet differing learning styles of participants – including illustrated presentations, group exercises and discussions, case studies, and practical problem-solving activities. We work hard to de-mystify financial concepts to overcome the fear of finance.

Relevance: We worked with Ford Foundation to understand their grantees and created case studies out of real materials provided by their grantees. The training team we chose for this assignment comprised of Humentum staff and consultants who had knowledge of the particular region and experience working with local organisations like Ford’s grantees.

I put together a team of seven trainers to deliver the final two-day training course in 10 locations around the world between September and December 2017.  Our client services in-house operations team led by Juliette Doddo Siddo worked with the regional offices on logistical arrangements for each training event. As is often the case, the best plans can still be altered by events outside of our control, such as a disputed election process (like in Kenya 2017), but our experienced operations team ensured that all the events proceeded smoothly.

Following the delivery of the first course to staff in Cairo we discussed with Ford how the course went and adjusted the programme following feedback from participants. Trainings in India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Colombia, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa and Mexico followed over the next 12 weeks.

What was the result?

The 10 trainings have taken place and we have educated a total of 112 participants.

As one of the trainers myself, I was looking forward to getting in front of a room of participants after speaking with the other trainers who had already completed successful trainings in other locations. The first thing that each trainer mentioned was the warm welcome they received from each Ford office. I was not disappointed! I enjoyed the training immensely, and from the feedback we received, so did the participants.

Some of the feedback we had from participants during the training events included:

“I loved the way that you make dry/difficult financial information fun and accessible…. People need to know this is fun and interesting and shouldn’t miss it.” – Laila Hourani, participant in Cairo

“The facilitator provided clear, interesting and fun method in giving the material.” – Ade Aryani, participant in Jakarta.

“This is beyond my expectation. I find it easy to understand, especially as I have no background in acc/finance.” Adyani Widowati, participant in Jakarta

“Exceeded my expectations both in terms of learning and fun.” David Kaimowitz, participant in Mexico City.

Transformational Change

As much as we could wish for it, a single series of training events is unlikely to bring about long-term organisational change. For all training, how the learning is implemented at the organization is as important–if not more important–than what happens during the course. We look forward to hearing about Ford’s future plans for strengthening their staff’s skills, and are ready to accompany them on their journey towards greater understanding and improved ways of working with grantees.

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