Mastering the Future of Funding with Contract Management

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March 06, 2017

Mastering the Future of Funding with Contract Management

By Caitlin Holland

Manager, Marketing InsideNGO

Interview with Magalie Brunet: Portfolio and Platform Management, Associate Director at FHI360

Two months ago I spoke to Magalie Brunet at FHI360 while she was participating in an in-house workshop on USAID Contract Management for NGOs, led by InsideNGO Trainer Steve Kroll. She was one of many non-contracts staff members taking the training and also the person who organized it. I was interested to hear her take on the value of such a wide range of staff learning about contracts management and the value of learning together in-house. 

Caitlin Holland (CH): FHI360 staff are regulars at our open workshops. Was this USAID Contract Management training the first you’ve organized in-house?

Magalie Brunet (MB): It’s the first I’ve been involved with in-house, yes. If we bring a training in-house, it’s all about us and our particular needs. As a nonprofit organization, FHI360 has many cooperative agreements already with USAID, but we don’t do contracts as often. However, the future seems to be showing that there are going to be more contracts coming out of USAID and more opportunities for that type of funding, so it’s important for our staff to be well versed in all the rules and regulations now.

CH: You have a good size group in the training today. You were saying there is a solid mix of people from different departments?

MB: Yes, we tried to cap the training at 30 people – which seems to be a standard size for this type of training, that was the deal. Then we offered it to various departments, asking the department directors to guide us in identifying which individuals would make the best use of this training. That’s how we figured out who we were going to reach. We have a great cross section of the organization represented today. The training includes a lot of important information for HR, so we have HR staff here. We have contracts staff. We have program staff. We have finance staff. We’re really trying to reach out to the staff in every operational unit. In whatever capacity they work, there is something for them to take out of this training. Prior to the training, some individuals had said “this is more relevant for staff working in contracts.” But today, HR staff (for example) are saying the information they are learning is really enlightening.

The training includes a lot of important information for HR, so we have HR staff here. We have contracts staff. We have program staff. We have finance staff. We’re really trying to reach out to the staff in every operational unit. In whatever capacity they work, there is something for them to take out of this training.

Magalie Brunet, Portfolio and Platform Management, Associate Director

FHI360

CH: That’s great. I also think it’s great that program people are in attendance, too. I know Steve [the course trainer] was saying that coordinating between contracts staff and program staff is challenging sometimes. When he was working in-house he learned tactics for building that bridge, and he shares those in these trainings, but he doesn’t always get the chance to have an audience of both program and contacts staff like he does today.

MB: Yes, and he’s really showing us all where to find the information that is relevant to us. Which is important because when you look at the specific supplements for nonprofits, of course you’re not reading them all cover to cover. He’s highlighted for us the most important sections and who in particular should read those. If you don’t remember or you are in doubt, after this training you definitely know where to go. You have your manual, and you can go back to it and search. I think he’s really helping us with these tips to locate information in addition to doing exercises that really apply to our current situation. 

The trainer really taught us where to find the information that is relevant to us. If you don’t remember or you are in doubt, after this training you definitely know where to go. You have your manual and you can go back to it and search for the answer.

Magalie Brunet, Portfolio and Platform Management, Associate Director

FHI360

CH: There is a big emphasis on being a learning organization. At FHI360, is that something that’s centralized with HR, or does it fall to one or two different people within individual departments?

MB: It’s definitely something the organization as a whole is interested in. Bringing the staff opportunities for development in a way that contributes to the organization as whole [is a priority]. In this case, two staff members from my department went to an InsideNGO open training on USAID Contract Management for NGOs, and came back raving about how important it was. After that, we took it upon ourselves to reach out to our colleagues and ask for it. This one was not done through one particular department. In fact, my department doesn’t really have anything to do with training; we are Platform and Portfolio Management. We work with country offices on platforms of shared services within country offices that support the different projects that compose a whole portfolio of projects within those countries. I’m not responsible for learning or professional development  I just really wanted staff to be able to take this course!

CH: And you are participating in the training today as well! How are you liking it? What were you hoping to get out of the workshop, and is it meeting your expectations?

MB: Well, I think it’s making me more aware of differences between cooperative agreements and contracts. What to look at, where the differences are, and what to be careful with in order not to find ourselves in situations where we might incur some unallowable costs. And after being able to identify situations, being able to flag other staff members as needed, even if I’m not directly involved with the management of projects. We also have a few senior project officers in the room today, and this training has been great for them. I’m involved in supervising some of them, and when we talk it’s clear they are benefitting from what’s being taught. And now I can say to them, “Hey, I participated in that training, too, do you remember when he said that, or did you check on this first?” So I think it’s good to have been part of it [from a staff management perspective] too!

If you or your organization are interested in organizing an in-house training with InsideNGO, learn more about our in-house training opportunities here.

Want to learn more about contract management? Read this piece on The Real Costs of Managing Contracts: What Every Organization Should Know by InsideNGO’s Alison Brady.

Related Events

Workshop

USAID Contract Management for NGOs: An Introduction

May 29 to May 31

Bangkok, Thailand

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