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Managing Disaster- Related Donor Contributions

Posted on 11 September, 2020 at 21:12

By Kudakwashe Ngoma 

The overall response to the global pandemic that has become Covid19, in Zimbabwe to be particular, has obviously not been the best, but there has been countless notable and heart-warming initiatives and programmes, from international donors, government and the people of Zimbabwe at large, to try alleviate the struggle that some of our less privileged folks would have been going through. For that and much more to come, Tinotenda, Siyabonga, Thank you!

However, if there was any lesson we should have learned from the Cyclone Idai disaster of 2019 in Manicaland Province, or the 2018 Cholera Outbreak, it would be that accountability and transparent management of funds raised in whatever way, for such causes, are critical especially to ensure sustainability of the initiatives. There were several allegations on the mismanagement of funds and other donations that were raised in response to these past two disasters. One notable incident was a case where foodstuffs and blankets that had been donated to help Cyclone Idai victims were later found being sold in streets, and not having reached the intended beneficiaries. On another separate case, the stewards of the fund would connive with suppliers to inflate prices of needed items. These cases erode on the goodwill of well-wishers and organisations with a genuine desire to help the disadvantaged.

In this Covid19 disaster and our attempt to help, it really shouldn’t be too late for us to put in place structures that would ensure the donations and funds received are put to proper use and reach the intended beneficiaries. We can take a leaf from what other initiatives did last year, after launching a GoFundMe in response to Cyclone Idai, went on to have all their transactions audited and the audited accounts were made public. This by a long way build the trust and confidence of existing and potential donors. This article seeks to provide brief guidelines that all organisations, individuals and initiatives may adopt and implement for the greater good.


i.            Keep Separate Bank Accounts

It is generally recommended in all material open or maintain a separate bank account for the project, event or initiative. This will make record keeping and reporting much easier than if the funds were to be co-mingled. In the case of granting organisations, this is normally a requirement before they can release any funds, but circumstances are quite different if they are small donations coming from different individuals, where usually expediency takes precedence to proper accountability and transparency.


ii.            Document All Transactions

The best practice is to keep all the documentation and correspondence related to the donations, including emails, quotes to materials and services, invoices, receipts, bank statements or payroll information if the project involves salaries. In the case of individual initiatives which may not have stipulated timeframes of record-keeping, then it may be advisable to keep the records for at least five years after the end of the initiative. If any assets are purchased for the cause, inventory for such shall be kept safely.


iii.            Consistently Update of Progress

When you have been entrusted with the donor resources, communication between you the steward and the donors is always critical. The key to making funding relationships work is open and regular two-way communication. In particular, in depth discussions before any major decisions are made will save problems during the implementation stage. Effective communication builds mutual trust, respect, and commitment to keep promises – all critical in funding relationships.


iv.            Build Strong Institutions, Not Individuals

For any organisation or initiative to thrive and effectively deliver on its mandate, they need strong institutions that will keep guard of the core mandate, and not necessarily strongmen carrying it all alone. This is the reason why, no matter how noble the cause is, all NPOs are advised to have a well constituted board. The board will provide oversight and guidance to the operations of the organisation or initiative, and in the long erm, it’s sustainability.

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