A new online course is making NGO staff more financially savvy

Photo by: Asian Development Bank / CC BY-NC

A new training course and certification program designed by a network of NGOs to help staff in the field and at headquarters become more financially savvy has been launched, as belts tighten across the industry.

LINGOs, a membership organization that provides training tools to the third sector, announced the release of the certification — FMD Pro (Financial Management for Development and Humanitarian Professionals) — on behalf of a sector-wide working group last week.

Covering issues such as accounting records, financial planning, and monitoring, it was developed in response to demand from NGO staff who expressed a need for more training in financial and budget management, and working with numbers.

These skills are in increasing demand as budget cuts loom and donors place added emphasis on accountability and value for money, Chris Proulx, CEO of LINGOs, explained.

 “All project stakeholders are accountable to donors and funding organizations for spending their money wisely,” he said. “As more local and national NGOs and partners start to adopt FMD Pro standards, donors will see more accurate reporting against objectives and [will] be more likely to fund again in the future.”

The course materials — developed with Mango, the Humanitarian Leadership Academy and InsideNGO, among other organizations — include a curriculum, five e-learning courses and two mobile toolkits, which can be used on the job. NGOs teach the course internally; although in some countries, it will be offered by independent trainers.

FMD Pro is then assessed by an online exam, certified by the U.K.-based APM Group. The exam is the only aspect of the course that organizations pay for, charged on a sliding scale. Local and national staff pay $22.

PMD Pro — a similar certification course published by the LINGOs group in 2011 that focuses on project management skills — now has 19,000 certified participants in 140 countries and has been translated into seven languages.

As well as improving skills, both programs have helped to foster small businesses in developing countries, where training providers can use the materials for free to teach courses.

Trainers offering PMD Pro have found creative ways to deliver the course, Proulx said, including one group operating in Syria, which trained staff via WhatsApp, as getting to them in person proved too difficult.

The certification programs can also help to standardize practices within the sector, Proulx explained. While plenty of capacity-building courses exist, they tend to be donor-driven. As a result, they only last as long as the funding, and usually do not make it outside of the organization, he said.

World Vision, a member of LINGOs, told Devex that it will offer the training certificate to its staff. Tracy Stueve, director of finance learning and development, said that the NGO is undergoing changes and that the course will help operations staff adapt.

“There have been requests over the last six months for a ‘finance for non-finance [staff]’ course,” she said. “With the new strategy and a host of initiatives that are being driven by finance, there is greater need than ever before for finance and operations to gain a better understanding of one another.”

She also emphasized the benefits of a standardized course relevant to today’s challenges: “I think this content is a good representation of issues that impact many NGOs and is a good global standard for us all to utilize ... We can all contextualize, but the core content has been vetted widely,” she said.

Catholic Relief Services will also enroll staff in FMD Pro, its Regional Finance Manager Theo Molenbrugge told Devex, saying that it will help to make managing project finances less daunting for staff.

* Update, March 28, 2017: This article was amended to clarify that the course was developed in collaboration with Mango, InsideNGO and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, and also to adjust the cost of the certification is $22 for local staff.

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About the author

  • Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.