Before awarding or renewing a grant to an NGO partner, it is wise to carry out some sort of assessment to decide whether or not the organisation has the capacity to use and account for the funds properly.
Partner Assessment should be based on a wide variety of factors, including but not limited to the partner’s financial management systems and track record.
There is a balance to strike between getting sufficient information to have confidence, versus the time cost of gathering and assessing the information.
There is also a challenge of quantity vs quality of information. Sometimes donors get far too much detail on issues that do not really help them to decide whether or not to fund the partner organisation.
It helps to clarify some assessment criteria, for example:
- Board and Senior Management are honest
- Basic bookkeeping systems are adequate (cashbooks and supporting documents)
- Cash and bank are adequately controlled
- Spending is properly authorised
- The organisation will be able to account for the grant
It also helps to prioritise criteria into Must have (red), Should have (orange), Could have (yellow). Any checklists should be seen as a ‘tool not a straight jacket’. If an organisation ticks all the boxes but doesn’t feel right, or vice versa, it is good to leave room for judgement.
There are various methods of assessment. On one end of the spectrum is a desk review of documents such as audited financial statements, project proposals and the like. There may be meetings in the donor country with representatives from the partner NGO. There may be checklists to be filled out. On the other end of the spectrum there may be a visit to the NGO, or a comprehensive assessment by a specialist (either from the donor or a consultant), or a consultant facilitated self assessment.
Tips and Tools
- Mango's top tips for assessing partners (TT17)
- Example Partner Assessment Criteria checklist
Summary of minimum standards
- 20 questions to ask when reviewing financial information
- Mango's Financial Management Health Check is specially designed for self-assessment. It is most useful when used to support internal learning rather than just to make external judgements.
Want to learn more?
Mango's Training Course Assessing and Building Partners' Financial Management Capacity (FM9) is a one day course designed for programme and finance staff in INGOs.