Have you participated in global grant projects? Are you in the process of applying for a global grant, or plan to apply for one in the future? If yes, this is a read for you! As a professional auditor and a volunteer Cadre member, I’ve reviewed several global grant projects on behalf of TRF. You may like to refer cadre webpage at Cadre. Using these experiences, I am sharing a list of limited Do’s and Don’ts for successful planning and implementation of global grant projects.
As some of you would know, TRF has an extremely credible system of vetting global grant applications. Standard procedures are followed while reviewing applications, and a selection of grants are reviewed post-approval to ensure Rotarians are completing their projects as described in the application with a strong financial management in place. In my opinion, it is this system that ensures Rotary grants are completed with transparency and integrity.
Projects may be selected for audit up to seven years past closure. During audits I often see that errors are not mala fide. Most mistakes are mainly due to Rotarians not being well-versed with TRF protocols. The objective of this article is to give precise pointers on things to do and not do for a successful project and in the situation of an audit, a successful outcome.
Top 6 Do’s
- Begin with a fresh community assessment. This is to gauge the most important needs of your target beneficiaries and also their skills/assets that they can contribute during the project. As you do this, feel free to refer to project planning resources, to seek inputs from Cadre members.
- Open a separate bank account for each grant with clear demarcated responsibilities. This should be documented in minutes of the meetings of committee. If it is not possible to open a new account for each grant, be sure to have a separate ledger for each grant with clear itemisation.
- Invite a minimum of three quotations from vendors for each category of procurement, be it that of goods or services. To have a price discovery mechanism in place is a quintessential requirement when funds from any charity are spent. While finalising purchase orders with the vendor, incorporate compliance related aspects also in the discussion, for e.g. tax withholding requirements (TDS); applicability of VAT/GST (depending on the country).
- Keep a dedicated file accessible to grant committee members which contains all documents, including but not limited to (a) original or certified copies of project bank statement; (b) utilisation certificate and statement of receipts and payments as certified by a Chartered Accountant (c) quotations and purchase orders; (d) invoices; (e) minutes of meetings of grant management committee confirming selection of vendors, authorising payments, (f) correspondences with grants staff and cosponsors; (g) minutes of club meetings wherein the project was proposed and paper-work related to community assessment, (h) payment confirmation receipts; and (i) warranty / maintenance agreements. It is best practice to scan all these documents and keep them on a cloud or as attachments in your mailbox. Clear and well-organised documentation will help you achieve accuracy in reporting to TRF and also make audits, if any, much easier.
- Think of sustainability at all points of time. A toilet block made of gold is useless if the tank is broken. And likewise, a school bench with one leg off is only a burden. Consider sustainability at the planning stage itself. One way to ensure long-term sustenance is by closely monitoring the project on an on-going basis. It is best to form a “committee” amongst the existing club members and delegate the tasks with a periodic review. Another classic way to reinforce sustainability is by signing an MoU with the cooperating and/or beneficiary organisation. Apart from the various benefits an MoU offers, it helps to prevent any misunderstandings or failures in maintenance aspects of the project. The MoU could be in a regional language also which can be subsequently translated by a certified translator.
- Have a loud and clear Rotary signage in consonance with Rotary Signage Guidelines. Every beneficiary must get to read Rotary’s name. Signage which carries the names of donors, corporates, cooperating organisation, club officials, but a tiny Rotary logo will fail to bring out the greatness of Rotary, as an organization, and Rotarians.
Top 6 Don’ts
- Don’t allow one Rotarian to control all the aspects of grant application, implementation and reporting. TRF mandates each grant to be supported by a committee of at least three Rotarians, all of whom should ideally be actively involved, and should report regularly to the full club.
- Don’t give a random beneficiary count in the application. Be realistic, or at the maximum optimistic. E.g. 20,000 patients annually are expected to benefit from the diagnostic centre whereas the fact is that the total number of walk-ins in the entire hospital is 12,000 and hence achieving that count for the diagnostic centre per se would be impossible.
- Don’t hide conflicts of interest. If there are any connections between Rotarians and beneficiaries or vendors, you must disclose it during the application or as soon as the conflict is known. Rotarians may serve as vendors if a thorough competitive bidding process is done, but any and all connections should be shared with TRF staff immediately and comprehensively.
- Avoid making payments in cash; find a vendor who will agree to transacting via the banking mode (remember even a farmer has a Jan Dhan bank account these days).
- Don’t seek your first installment of funds from the Foundation when there is a delay in project execution.
- Don’t make changes to your project design and budget items without confirming with your international sponsor and TRF staff. It is understood that many projects need to make changes once work begins, but always seek input and approval from your partners and TRF before moving forward with such changes.
These suggestions combined with Rotary’s policy documents and the Guide to Global Grants will help you to be even more successful in your global grant endeavours. Remember, Cadre members are always available to help you plan or adjust your projects. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org any time for seeking inputs. Grants staff StaffContactlist.pdf are also available to assist Rotarians throughout the lifecycle of the grant.
The writer is a global grants technical coordinator – financial audit.