How to improve and organise your financial accounts

Written by Eric Mbabajende, Project Coordinator at Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association, Rwanda

Please describe the context in which your organisation interacted with AmplifyChange

Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association Rwanda (WHERAR) is currently implementing a project named “Connecting Health Care Providers to Strengthen SRHR Advocacy in Rwanda” funded by an AmplifyChange Strengthening grant.

This project aims to transform bad social norms and beliefs through breaking taboos related to abortion, ending abortion stigma and increasing access to abortion services in rural settings of Rwanda. The project strategy is to improve abortion law awareness and advocacy plans with an aim to allow all trained mid-level healthcare providers to provide abortion services and extend the circumstances under which a person can access legal abortion services.

The due diligence process that took place before we signed our grant agreement with AmplifyChange was a great learning experience for WHERAR. The process highlighted several gaps, especially those related to organisational Finance Management and systems. The AmplifyChange Fiduciary Risk Team provided recommendations on how to improve the identified gaps. On the other hand, the WHERAR Team was very happy that the AmplifyChange team appreciated the existing processes and procedures already implemented by Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association Rwanda at the time.

What did you do to improve the management of your organisational financial accounts following the recommendations of AmplifyChange?

After the recommendations, the management of Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association Rwanda (WHERAR) decided to invest a lot of effort in improving its financial accounts.

The following key actions were taken and implemented:

  • Hiring of the qualified staff: WHERAR hired two finance staff with experience and qualifications in managing organisational financial accounts. One staff works as Finance Manager to support the all-organisational financial operations and the other is an accountant, whose main role is to produce quality project reports and submit them to donors.
  • Shifting from the Manual Financial System (using Microsoft Excel) to Professional Accounting Software (QuickBooks): The AmplifyChange grant supported the implementation of accounting software called QuickBooks and the training of our finance team on how to use it. We are now no longer producing financial reports using Excel sheets, but instead we use QuickBooks, and the process is quicker and more reliable than before.
  • Reviewing and updating our Finance Manual: WHERAR has reviewed and updated its finance manual to ensure that it clearly demonstrates the processes and controls used by the organisation when managing finance resources. The updated finance manual explains how the organisation manages its funds, the reporting procedures and timelines, signatories/approval matrix and other key important procedures used in financial management.
  • Producing Annual Audited Accounts: It now part of our organisational culture to hire an independent audit firm on annual basis to review the produced financial statements and produce audited financial accounts as well as an audit report.

How did the implementation of these measures/recommendations from AmplifyChange help you as an organisation? What benefits did you identify?

The execution of the recommendations from AmplifyChange has significantly benefitted our organisation, particularly by increasing the credibility of WHERAR to other donors.

For example, during the due diligence and financial assessment processes for a new project which WHERAR won in March 2021, the donor appreciated our finance systems, particularly the finance reports generated by the professional accounting software, the competencies and skills of our qualified and experienced finance staff and our well-designed finance manual.  With this, we managed to secure this new funding and hope its implementation will be more efficient than other projects previously implemented.

The QuickBooks software made our work easier and will continue to do so, and it helped to produce high quality financial reports that were appreciated by our donors.

What are your tips for an organisation facing the same or similar issues?

Below are our key tips to be followed to improve the quality of your financial accounts:  

  • Training the Finance team on Financial Management and/or recruitment of qualified and experienced staff is key for the organisation to succeed.
  • Professional accounting software is vital for the organisation to produce reliable data that will help to gain donor’s acceptance and trust for funding.
  • Well documented strategic documents (especially financial documents such as a detailed finance manual and Policy) are essential to guide all financial operations. That will be one of the first documents required by donors. The Finance Manual needs to clearly detail the financial processes/procedures and controls to help prove the financial accountability and transparence of the organisation.
  • Producing quality financial reports and submitting them to the donor on time is key for the organisation to gain donor trust.
  • Producing Annual Audited Accounts is important to prove the accountability of your organisation to donors.

What did you learn from this experience?

This has been a great learning experience for Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association Rwanda (WHERAR) as it provided a great opportunity for our organisation to review in depth its financial systems, identify gaps and work to address them.

Without recommendations and support provided by AmplifyChange, WHERAR wouldn’t have been able to identify gaps in its financial system and wouldn’t have been able to address them.

Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association Rwanda (WHERAR) has learnt a lot from the due diligence processes conducted by AmplifyChange; key technical and financial recommendations were addressed, and this has greatly strengthened our organisation’s finance systems.

Eric Mbabajende, Project Coordinator at Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association, Rwanda

Eric Mbabajende is the Project Coordinator at Women’s Health and Equal Rights Association Rwanda, also known as WHERAR. He holds a doctorate in Medicine with a specialisation in Public Health and has worked previously as a Humanitarian Physician for a number of international organisations operating in Rwanda. These include Save the Children International and African Humanitarian Action, where his duty focused on improving the maternal health of displaced vulnerable women and girl refugees hosted in Rwanda by training nurses and mid-wives on Post-Abortion Care and Family Planning, (FP-PAC).

Eric is the AmplifyChange project point person, who contributed significantly to the design, coordination and implementation of the AmplifyChange Strengthening Grant. He was also the focal point of WHERAR when AmplifyChange conducted the due diligence processes.