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Why volunteer?

Why volunteer?
 

In an era of decreasing foreign aid and rising donor scepticism, the amount now being channelled through independent NGOs operating in developing countries is actually rising. With over 300,000 now operating across Africa and more than 1 million in India alone, the most important question in International Development today is how to improve the impact and accountability of these organisations whilst ensuring the long term sustainability of their worthwhile activities. Never has the demand for sound financial management support across the sector been greater.
 

In a time when the job market is recovering and many accountants are looking for a more rewarding career, volunteering is a great way to develop vital practical skills. Many of our volunteers look at volunteering as the only way to pick up essential charity sector experience. Skilled volunteering is a socially responsible way for accountants to develop key skills while at the same time giving charities access a vast pool of otherwise unobtainable talent. 
 

A survey carried of the UK’s leading businesses by Time Bank UK found that 94% of employees who volunteered had benefited either by getting their job, improving their salary, or being promoted. 73% of employers said they would employ a candidate with volunteering experience over one without. Now over 20% of our volunteers work in the charity sector and without exception all say volunteering inspired them to make the change and opened the right doors. Please take some time to read about these inspiring individuals by our Past Volunteers.


Why volunteer with AfID?

Each volunteer will receive a very personal tailored service, whereby our experienced programmes team will create assignment options from over 500 partner organisations in over 50 countries individually tailored to your own unique personal profile. Focus areas will be aligned with your skills and experience, be it day-to-day accounting, financial reporting, budgeting, audit or more strategic planning or management. Assignment options will take into account your preferred travel dates and assignment length, favourite locations, your budget and any interests you may have in the programmes of our partner charities.

We are conscious that volunteers are keen to ensure that their travel costs are kept as low as possible and as a result we will always create assignments that closely match your budget. Our team will advise and assist on all travel related matters such as visa, vaccinations, in-country travel and flights. We have detailed information on the facilities and costs associated with all our assignments and therefore are able to source exciting assignment options for a broad range of budgets. 

In the less developed world it can be relatively simple to create a new non-profit organisation therefore it is critical appropriate checks are made before any type of support is provided. Even more so when that support takes the form of a volunteer. All our partner organisations are very carefully evaluated with both their donor organisations and past volunteers providing detailed references. In majority of cases you will follow on from another AfID volunteer that will have completed a detailed scoping exercise and he/she will be available to assist with your preparations. You will have access to all past volunteers and their reports, providing tremendous detail on what is required and how your skills can have an immediate impact.

AfID have now placed over 1000 accountants on assignment and we can guarantee that your placement will be timely and appropriate and part of a well thought out, carefully prepared, long-term programme of support. Our collaborative approach means all the necessary stakeholders will have been consulted and a warm welcome is assured.

Peace of mind

All of this we hope will provide peace of mind that the assignment is right for you and will give the reassurance you need that if something unexpected happens experienced people that care about your welfare are close at hand to assist you immediately. But please don’t take our word take some time to browse through the many testimonials.

 

Will I enjoy this experience? 
 

Don’t for one minute think that just because you’ll be working on serious issues that it won’t be any fun. Many of our volunteers are surprised at how much they genuinely have in common with those they came to help and how much laughter they share together. A good sense of humour and the ability to laugh at oneself are probably two other qualities you’ll need.
 

We are confident you’ll encounter a variety of new challenges, share new experiences with a diverse range of people and learn new skills that will give you confidence to face challenges in other areas of your life. You’ll be inspired and get back so much more than you give! Dont take our word, please take some time to read through our Past Volunteers blogs, interviews and case studies 

Do I qualify?

Believe it or not it’s surprisingly easy for seemingly normal people to achieve amazing results as a volunteer, changing lives for the better. All you need is a little time and belief in yourself.

Qualifying criteria

You will also need to tick at least one of these. Is not essential to be formally qualified.

  • More than 3 years accounting experience
  • Membership or affiliation to an accounting institute e.g. ICAEW, ICAS, ACCA, CIPFA, CIMA, CMA, CGA Canada; HKICPA; CPA, ICAA Australia; NZICA; CPA US
  • Part-Qualified or AAT Accounting Technician with more than 5 years’ experience
You will also need excellent communication skills with fluency in written and spoken English, bags of initiative, resourcefulness, honesty, patience and of course compassion.  

I’m worried my skills and experience aren’t relevant?

The needs of our partners stem from a lack of experience in all aspects of financial management, from the basics, such as bookkeeping and cash management, to more strategic planning and staff management. We are committed to supporting our partners over the long term and will do this by providing volunteers with a broad range of qualifications and skills. 

Volunteers should look upon themselves as part of a team of independent consultants working on the areas they and their partner organisation feel are most appropriate. If at any time a volunteer feels unable to address critical issues, this will simply be factored into the next volunteer’s profile and terms of reference. It is this timely and constructive direction from one volunteer to the next that ensures our long term programme is always focused on supporting the right areas leading to effective development. 

Do I need to be a British citizen or based in the UK?

We have placed accountants from over 50 countries including Canada, Australia, NZ, HK, France, Germany, Spain and US. Half of AfID's volunteers come from outside the UK and we are able to provide all the guidance and support you will need. We will introduce you to former volunteers, even those from your own country if requested. Should you decide to go on placement we will arrange calls between you, staff at the partner charity and past volunteers that have supported your chosen organization.

Can I take my partner / travel with a friend?

Yes, there are often opportunities for couples, colleagues and friends, to work together or close by at neighbouring partner organisations. If your friend or partner is not an accountant but would like to utilise their professional skills please forward their CV and we will arrange a convenient time to discuss the options. Non-accounting responsibilities can include one or more of the following;
  • Assisting with funding proposals
  • Teaching Microsoft Office; Excel, Word & Powerpoint
  • Teaching English
  • Coaching sports
  • Business development & young entrepreneur skills training
  • Project management
Is there an age limit?

Definitely not. Like our many charity partners across Africa and Asia we hold wisdom, experience and maturity in very high regard. We would love to hear from anyone who feels they could make a positive difference to the lives of those less fortunate.












 
What will I be doing?

Each volunteer’s assignment forms an important part of a long-term strategy to develop the financial management capacity of non-profit organisations. The primary focus is always to develop and enhance the skills, confidence and potential of local people and for our partners to develop the capacity they need to deliver more effective and sustainable services to their beneficiaries.

Volunteer Accountant or Consultant, Coach or Mentor?

Whilst we use the term ‘volunteer accountant’; a more accurate description might be accountants that can volunteer as consultants. An accountant can be responsible for a whole host of skilled functions on a day-to-day basis such as bookkeeping, auditing or producing financial statements and reports. The problem with a volunteer accountant, ‘doing’ rather than ‘guiding or advising, arises as they are temporary and local staff will need to be equipped to thrive without support. We work with our charity partners with the ultimate aim being that after a series of assignments the skills of their staff will be raised to a level that they are able to work effectively without outside assistance.

The role of our volunteers is therefore much more of consultation, coaching and mentoring rather than standalone accounting. For more on this topic click.


First Volunteers

The first volunteer to visit a new partner will begin the programme by conducting a detailed financial health assessment of the organisation and the skills and potential of its staff. Working closely with the volunteer and the local management team AfID use this first report to create a long-term programme of support; creating the terms of reference and a skills profile for the volunteer that will follow. In some respects, these seem more challenging, as you won’t follow another volunteer but these are often more rewarding as you will be the start of something special and there are often many easily actionable, high-impact interventions available to the first volunteer.

 

Common areas of focus & support

Upon their arrival each volunteer will assess the progress made since the last volunteer's assignment, reconfirm the terms of reference with the local partner’s team before beginning to address primary areas of focus. Common areas of focus can include the following;

  • Conducting organisational assessment
  • Reviewing bookkeeping and cash management
  • Creating, Monitoring & Evaluating budgets
  • Developing internal controls and financial procedures
  • Assisting donor reporting; restricted & unrestricted cost allocation
  • Training on accounting systems
  • External audit preparation
  • Mentoring a new & inexperienced Financer Manager
  • Confidential tutoring of non-finance staff including trustees

The majority of our partners are small and assignments will often be broad in nature, encompassing many areas of focus at a very basic level. 

The need for skilled accountants is largely driven by a lack of training at a local level, combined with the complex reporting requirements of overseas donors. Donors will typically restrict their funding to specific items on a project’s budget and limit the allocation for core costs. When you are a headmistress, a doctor or a nun trying to run a small NGO with very limited resources, it can be very difficult to keep accurate records and perform your normal duties; with a different set of accounts, reporting formats and sometimes bank accounts required by each of your many donors

 

Can I get involved with non-accounting activities? 

Field visits observing the organisation’s programmes are a common feature of assignments. Additional responsibilities can include:

  • Assisting with funding proposals
  • Teaching Microsoft Office; Excel, Word & Powerpoint
  • Teaching English
  • Coaching and playing sports
  • Business development & young entrepreneur skills training

 

Will I be able to speak to past volunteers?


Yes. As every volunteer will always brief the next, AfID and the partner are able to monitor, evaluate and improve on the success of the programme effectively. This provides new volunteers with an accurate and detailed insight into their host partner’s needs and the resources available. When a partner organisation has worked with multiple volunteers, all their reports, blogs and contact details will be made available. If you would like to speak to a past volunteer to help you decide if volunteering is something you would like to do, please let us know and we will happily introduce you to the most relevant person. 

What is available?

We provide ongoing support to over 500 organisations in more than 50 countries, and therefore there will be many exciting possibilities available to you. All our assignments are customised to closely meet the volunteer’s own personal preferences and unique circumstances.

Our experienced programmes team will create several assignment options for you; focus areas will be aligned with your skills and experience, take into account your preferred travel dates and assignment length, favourite locations, your budget and any interests you may have in the activities of our partner charities. Assignments can be as short as 2 weeks, and as long as 12 months.

Whist we list many possible assignments on our Top Opportunities pages, it’s important to note these are only a small sample and in many circumstances listed options can be adjusted to meet your availability.


How much does it cost?

Volunteer Placement Fee         £625*



The placement fee is a contribution towards the cost of sourcing and managing your unique and individually tailored placement. We will carefully evaluate your skills, experience, location, preferred dates of travel, interests and create assignments options that closely match your profile and importantly your budget. Our experienced team will provide you with peace of mind that the assignment is right for you and give reassurance that our we are always close at hand.

Every one of the 300+ organisations you could support is different and therefore the cost profile of every assignment is also different; with many organisations able to assist with accommodation, visas, transport and meals. Some assignments offer flights and even a daily allowance.

*When both flights and accommodation is provided an increased placement fee of £995 will apply.

If you would like your partner or a friend to accompany you and you would like AfID to arrange an assignment for your plus one, an additional placement fee of £495 will apply. Please note your plus one does not need to be an accountant. Click for more information on volunteering as a pair.


Discounts

Attendees of the AfID Workshop are entitled to a one-time discount of £50. Volunteers that return to volunteer a second and third time will be entitled to a £50 discount for each of the previous assignments.

Please contact us and we will be happy to explore which assignments best suit your budget.

What happens next?

If you’ve decided that you would like to start exploring overseas volunteering options, you’ll be pleased to know that the process is straightforward with only four basic steps:

  1. Consultation: Through a telephone call with an experienced member of the AfID team we will discuss the many opportunities available to you, your motivations for volunteering and any concerns you may have to get an in-depth understanding of your ideal assignment. Just let us know when is a convenient time to call.

  2. Registration form: Our online form covers your availability, location & partner preferences, professional qualifications, skills, work & travel experience and any budget constraints. This information will help us create assignment options that fit your unique profile.

  3. First instalment & assignment options: When you are happy to proceed and commit to an assignment, we will request payment of the first instalment of the placement fee. Our experienced programmes team will then begin to create your three or four bespoke assignment options. We will talk you through these options, answer any assignment specific questions and provide you with all the information you need to decide which assignment resonates most and where you think you will be able to have greatest impact.

  4. Preparation and ongoing support: Upon confirmation of your preferred assignment we will introduce you to your hosts via (email& Skype), past volunteers and their reports and assist you with all the necessary logistical arrangements. In the run up to your assignment we will provide you with a range of useful materials to help you prepare and whilst on assignment our programmes team will be in regular contact with you and your hosts to ensure your wellbeing and the assignment’s success.
     

Do you provide training?
 
If you are considering an overseas volunteer assignment &/or a career in International Development and you would like to find out more about the role of the accountant and how your skills can make a difference, we strongly recommend attending one of AfID's Workshops. It’s a really good day and gives an excellent insight into what life on assignment might really be like; the challenges you may come across and how to best utilise your skills. Click here for more information.

If you have any queries about any aspect of the process please do not hesitate to contact us.
Who will I support?

Our partners are a mix of small grassroots non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social enterprises and larger international charities. All are undertaking important work to alleviate poverty and inequality within their communities and include micro-finance projects, local enterprise initiatives, rural cooperatives, street child centres, conservation projects, community schools and vocational training colleges. All our partners are registered with their local government and have established relationships with donor organisations.

Meet some of our partners..

Finance Team, Child's i Foundation, Uganda

Glyn Vaughan, Founder and Audiologist, All Ears Cambodia, Cambodia

Gerrad Graf, Finance Director, Solar-Aid (UK, Zambia, Tanzania & Kenya)

Raina Luff, Founder of Ahazaza Independent School, Rwanda

Christopher Arwai, Programme Manager at Kitgum Concerned Women’s Association, Uganda


More inspiring women in development

It will come as no surprise to hear we have the pleasure of working with some incredibly inspiring women around the world, that are doing amazing things for their local communities in often challenging circumstances. We think their stories are worth telling. I hope you agree.

What support is provided?

Whilst many of our partners are small community organisations with limited resources, their support will be first class and your welfare their primary concern. Unlike tourists volunteers will seldom find themselves alone; from airport pickups to assistance with accommodation and daily commutes the support will be heartfelt and personal. You will instantly feel welcomed as a new member of the team. We will arrange calls between you and your hosts before you travel, so you can make friends and chat about some of the smaller details.
 

AfID takes volunteer security and safety very seriously, our experienced programmes team is available to help with any issues 24/7. Avoiding unacceptable risk and minimising acceptable risk is a duty and responsibility shared by AfID, the volunteer and the overseas host partner, however we do our best to prepare volunteers and give advice as to how to avoid and deal with all potential risks. 

Are the countries safe?
 
Partner countries must be politically stable and safe. If they are not, assignments there will not be an option for you. We work closely with many established and well respected local and international charities on the ground along with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that safety information and advice given to volunteers is as up-to-date and accurate as possible.
Will I make a difference?

Assessing the impact and success of AfID assignments

After every volunteer assignment, AfID undertake a detailed analysis of the relative success of the placement and the impact on the partner organisation. This is done in collaboration with both the partner and returning volunteer to ensure we have a thorough understanding of both achievements and challenges.

Conducting a thorough analysis of each assignment allows us to ensure the work of our volunteers is effective and continues to build the capacity and sustainability of our partners in an appropriate manner. It also allows us to make incremental changes to the volunteer programme where necessary, as we look to continually increase both the impact of assignments and the volunteer experience.

How do we go about assessing impact and success?

When evaluating assignments, we use a range of criteria to assess:

•    The impact on the organisation
•    The impact on the local finance team
•    The impact on wider environment: e.g. relationship with donors and other stakeholders

In addition, to help us make improvements to the programme we also look at the following areas:

•    Pre-departure engagement from partner and volunteer
•    Clarity of objectives and scope of work 
•    Availability of local staff/engagement of local staff
•    Capacity building of team
•    Social integration of volunteer
•    Any issues on assignment for volunteer and/or partner
•    Likelihood of follow up placement and returning volunteer

What does our assessment show?

•    99.3% of partners feel their finance staff are now more confident and better able to perform their duties
•    99.2% of partners feel communication has improved between Finance, Programme and Management staff
•    100% of partners feel management & programmes staff have an increased financial awareness and understand internal controls and procedures
•    97.4% of partners feel donor relationships have strengthened
•    99.2% of partners feel the need for good financial management is now seen to be an essential part of the organisation’s success

In addition, 85.71% of our returning volunteers over the first quarter of 2018 have stated that they are either ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to volunteer with us again based on their experience.

What does ‘Impact’ actually look like?

Through a series of new case studies we have provided some real life practical examples of what can be achieved on assignment and the vital impact you can have as an accounting volunteer:

Olivia in Ghana: Six-week assignment supporting Bright Generation
Andrew and Jeannette in Tanzania: Six-week assignment supporting Anza Entrepreneurs
Matt in Guatemala: Two-week assignment with Amigos De Santa Cruz
Tim in Kenya: Two-month assignment with Restart Africa
Harriet in Cambodia: Six-month assignment with the Cambodian Rural Development Team

+44 (0) 208 741 7000
info@afid.org.uk