Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Follow up part 2--working with orphanages: financial accountability and transparency (and leadership)

In my previous post I mentioned that I thought that there should have been a part six on the checklist --a guide to working with orphanages.   Part six on the guideline should have involved financial transparency and accountability along with leadership.   Without financial integrity and accountability in place, it is almost impossible to work with integrity. 

Here are some suggested questions to ask when you are partnering with an orphanage:

1) Are the finances and overall budget of the orphanage accessible and provided to all the donors (or any potential donor that asks)?  (This is not just of your giving, but all the giving of all donors to the orphanage along with budgeted needs that were met and not met.)

2)  Are there yearly audits done of the orphanages finances and are the results of the audit shared with all the donors?

3)  Do the financial needs of the orphanage align with the stated mission and also with the other five essential areas?  (See this post). 

4)  Is there a financial officer or financial oversight within the leadership of the orphanage?

5)  Is the gatekeeper to all donations and financial needs the director of the orphanage?  And is there any oversight for this gatekeeper?

6) Beyond getting receipts of your donations, do you have follow up at the orphanage to ensure that the donations you gave are being used for their intended purposes?

7)  Do you have an independent manager that purchases donations (or gives the money) and verifies they are being used appropriately on a regular basis?   Do you have checks and balances in place for all the many people that are a part of handling the finances?  Or is all your money given directly to the orphanage staff with no other oversight or follow up? 

You might read this list of questions and wonder why I didn't add the question: "Are you given regular receipts of purchases?"  While this is an excellent question, I would also suggest that it cannot be asked in isolation.  If you are given receipts of your donations, how do you know another donor isn't given the same receipts to verify the donations they have given (double giving)?  Also, how do you know that your donations were not sold for personal gain after they were given? 

What if you work with an orphanage and your answer is "no" to many of these questions? Should you continue to give donations to this orphanage?  What if you find yourself relying on Google searches to learn of other donors and donations to the orphanage you support?  What if you find that other donors are giving similarly to your donations?  How do you assure your own donors that you have integrity within your organization?  These are all hard questions that demand answers because the children in the care of the orphanage are the ones that suffer when the finances of the orphanage are not managed with integrity.


Another important part of finances and overall accountability is good working relationships with the leadership of the orphanage.  This is essential.  Without a good working relationship with the leadership of the orphanage, it's almost impossible to operate with integrity. 

You might ask how would you ascertain who to talk to that is in leadership over the orphanage.

First, find out the founder of the orphanage.  Then set up a meeting with the founder.  Learn the history of the orphanage and the giving, mission, and future.  Find out where there are gaps in funding and what they see as needs.  An example of this is the orphanage we support.  The Kaziba orphanage was founded by  Norwegian missionaries over 50 years ago.   Mothers were dying in birth at the local hospital and newborns shortly after.  They started giving formula to the newborns.  We met early on with the missionary that worked with Kaziba and maintain a good working relationship. 

Second, talk with the functional leaders of the orphanage.  After the missionaries took over eventually leadership was handed over to the Congolese church, CELPA.  CELPA and the Norwegians still work together and there is a missionary presence on the ground.  CELPA has a Legal Representative (LR) that is like a CEO that oversees all it's work.  Early on, when I first started working with the orphanage I met with the current LR to work on a contract.  I try to do this at least once a year, have a face to face meeting with the current LR about our work and mission.  It is also important to maintain this relationship because often there are internal politics that can affect the orphanage and how it is run. 

Third, talk with the commune or community leaders, both government leaders and traditional leaders.   In the area we work there are both traditional and government leaders.  There is a lot of fascinating history around traditional kings in DRC.  In some areas they have more power than others.  From early in our history of working with Kaziba, we have had a relationship with the acting king (who at the time was a woman).  She introduced me originally to Kaziba and has always given us good advice as to how to direct our work and the needs of the territory of Kaziba. 

Please add your thoughts in the comments and add more ways that you believe would add to the integrity of working with an orphanage.

The children like little A. here are the ones that are hurt the most by not making sure our work isn't done with the utmost integrity, accountability and transparency.  They are worth all our best efforts. 

1 comment:

Mary Hoyt said...

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