Every NGO’s projects have two faces. There is an idealistic goal behind every project, such as offering emergency aid or development work, but sufficient resources and proper project management are required to achieve that goal. These two worlds come together in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). But is there a smart solution for combining qualitative information about achieving your goals with quantitative information about aspects such as financing and hours worked? You will find the answer to this question in this article.
BY: HENK NOORDHUIS
Your NGO probably works on several projects at the same time. These projects usually take months or even years to complete, and they are probably carried out in different countries. In order to keep a grip on these ongoing projects, roles have been divided and agreements have been made, both at the head office and on-site. What do we want to achieve? Within what time frame? With which resources? Who is responsible for which part of the project? These are all relevant questions about how to handle projects. In order to monitor the process of each individual project you measure hard facts, such registered hours and financial figures. This is how you know whether a project will be completed on time, within budget and according to the agreements made.
It is good to be able to report on the hard facts of projects, but your partners also want to receive substantive figures on project efficiency. How does your project contribute to solving a specific problem? How do you prove this? Let’s take improving food security in West Africa as an example.
While you as an organisation do not have direct insight into the relevant qualitative information, there are clearly KPIs for this. One example includes the local food banks. How many people are registered with the food banks? How many malnourished people arrive at the hospitals? Have these numbers decreased in recent years? These substantive figures are most interesting to your volunteers and employees. They are often driven by idealism and what they want most is to be able to see that they are making a difference. These figures motivate your people to go the extra mile.
Reporting on quantitative and qualitative figures has become even more important in recent years since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has mandated the use of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). With the help of the IATI, the government wants to improve transparency in the field of development aid. Each organisation that receives more than EUR 250,000 in development funds is obliged to report in accordance with this standard.
As an NGO you have to comply with strict guidelines to report in accordance with the IATI standard. In order to do so, you have to consolidate figures from various accounting records and you enrich those figures with information showing the projects’ added value. Many NGOs find it difficult to report in this way. Information often has to be retrieved from different systems, spreadsheets and documents. The process involves a great deal of work that has to be done by hand, which makes it costly, prone to error and time-consuming.
This is why various NGOs have recently made the switch to Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) tools, such as ProMEva. M&E tools enable you to monitor and evaluate project KPIs. A visual dashboard allows you to see the status of a project at a glance and use it to report, quickly and easily, according to the IATI standard.
What you get from the tool strongly depends on the information you feed into it. Many NGOs still enter data manually, but there are alternatives for this. One effective solution is to connect your ERP system to the M&E tool, which allows you to create projects in your ERP system. All the relevant information – such as schedules and financial data – are shared with the tool in real time. You can then automatically enrich the quantitative information with qualitative information in the tool, after which you can report that combined information entirely in compliance with the IATI’s guidelines.
In short, using smart techniques to combine quantitative and qualitative figures can lead to many benefits. This not only allows you to report more efficiently, but it can save your organisation a lot of time, money and manpower.
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