FMD Pro – ambitious but is it a realistic proposition?
The demand for financial accountability in the NGO sector is greater than ever before but there remains a widespread deficit in expertise and agreed standards of competency at the project level. FMD Pro has been designed to meet this challenge and build the skills of managers who are not finance experts, raising standards across our sector.
The ability to raise sector standards and transform the impact of development and humanitarian organisations is not a term to be used lightly. It’s a powerful description that implies that a wide range of stakeholders – project beneficiaries, partners and donors – will see a tangible upscale in performance and results by any organisation making this claim.
The FMD Pro development team (Lingos, Mango, INSIDE NGO and Humanitarian Leadership Academy) together with a Working Group comprised of leading NGOs, donors, training organisations and private sector partners, believes that their new learning product will do just this. They aspire not just to enhance the skills of development and humanitarian professionals but also to raise the bar for proficiency in financial management across this sector.
It’s an ambitious claim – and one that many an organisation would use to launch and promote a new product. But don’t be put off by this… FMD Pro’s aspiration is rooted in the success of its sister product – PMD Pro – that is unmatched in terms of quality, accessibility and scale, with over 15,000 certified professionals and demand for the course in over 140 countries.
PMD Pro has already been translated into French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic (with Russian, Dari and Mandarin to come) and numerous NGOs and training organisations have adopted it as standard for project management and a core produce for their business.
The quality and reach of PMD Pro is significant because it draws on the best of experience from NGOs and trainers, as well as the intellectual capital and standards of the private sector. The key to its success is that its learning materials are accessible and affordable. Its easy-to-use tools have been specifically designed for use at a project level and are suitable for use in remote locations. If users want to enhance their professional development, they can sit an exam designed for low-income applicants to gain accreditation.
FMD Pro mirrors this approach, with a Working Group that benefits from equally high quality input from NGOs, training organisations and the intellectual capital of the private sector via the APM Group, Orange and Cornerstone. FMD Pro, like PMD Pro, enables individual learners to access free online content and certification, and the FMD Pro team will also provide a similar level of consultancy and training for local, national and international NGOs to adopt and adapt FMD Pro as standard within their organisations.
Why is there a skills gap?
Organisations usually hire managers for their technical expertise in community development or emergency response and don’t always take into account the need for financial skills and proficiency. Where there is training, it is usually targeted at those responsible for formal financial duties (e.g. accountants, bookkeepers, compliance officers or grants managers) and the financial training courses and curricula vary in quality and consistency.
Once hired, project managers therefore often lack the support and training they need to take on a wide range of financial duties – such as developing budgets, managing accounts, interpreting financial data, writing reports, implementing internal controls or supervising the finances of partners.
Atish Gonsalves, Global Learning Director at the Humanitarian Leadership Academy points to this deficit. “Our global and learning regional needs assessments have consistently identified finance and budget management skills as a key requirement for local and international non-financial managers,” he says.
“FMD Pro will provide a certification-based, sector-wide standard for these managers, leading to stronger financial management and more effective humanitarian programs”.
Can FMD Pro achieve its ambition?
By targeting the training needs of ‘non-finance’ managers – those who are experts in their field but don’t necessarily have the skills and understanding of those with a formal background in finance – FMD Pro has certainly identified a skills gap that needs to be filled. Add to this the success of PMD Pro in reaching the same audiences, along with the ability to replicate a tried-and-tested approach, and we can be genuinely optimistic FMD Pro can transform the way that NGOs work.
Above and beyond this, FMD Pro’s vision extends to raising standards of financial management across the NGO sector. If an increasing number of local, national and international NGOs adhere to these standards, and training organisations adopt this model and approach, there is certainly potential for FMD Pro to set the standard for development and humanitarian professionals everywhere. As with PMD Pro, achieving professional certification will also help to embed standards, with an increasing number of organisations recognising this qualification in their recruitment policy and practice.
All project stakeholders are accountable to donors and funding organisations for spending their money wisely. As more local and national NGOs and partners start to adopt FMD Pro standards, donors will see more accurate reporting against objectives, and be more likely to fund again in the future.
This is both an incentive for NGOs to raise their game and a reason for donors to set the expectation for compliance with these standards in grant applications.
In a climate of increased completion for grant funding – it’s the rational choice!
Launched in March 2017, FMD Pro learning materials are freely available at www.fmdpro.org and based on an open-source Creative Commons license. These include:
- Guide to the FMD Pro – contextualised body of knowledge
- FMD Pro Online Learning Development – modules that build the skills of non-finance managers that require little or no facilitation
- FMD Pro Starter – fmdprostarter.org – an online ‘how to’ resource with tools and techniques for local use and adaptation
FMD Pro Certification costs an average of $50 per learner and is accredited by an independent body and based on FMD Pro learning objectives. It also offers Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) for organisations to facilitate the training of a large numbers of learners using an online platform.