Make a change, make a difference

Jim Lowe jumped at the offer of a four-week assignment at a Kenyan hospital.

Experienced finance professionals are in big demand in the developing world.

By Annalisa Corica

Every once in a while you come across a venture that is the ideal marriage of innovation, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Accounting for International Development (AfID) is all that.

Founded in 2009 by Neil Jennings, former London regional director of recruitment firm Robert Half International, AfID has grown to become a multi-award winning social enterprise, building long-term financial sustainability in charities and community organisations across the developing world.

AfID works on the premise of matching the skill sets of finance-qualified volunteers to charities and social enterprises. Jennings says charities in developing countries often struggle to obtain the skills and training needed to properly run their organisation and meet the financial reporting requirements of donors.

“They’re looking for mentoring and training in the basics of financial management as well as less tangible skills such as stakeholder management,” Jennings says.

“Most professionals take these skills for granted, yet they’re invaluable to our charity partners who may never have had an opportunity to develop them.”

AfID is seeking finance professionals in all disciplines who are at any stage of their career.

“We’ve had retired professionals, people mid-career and those who are close to obtaining their final qualifications volunteer with us,” Jennings says.

He believes retired professionals are particularly well suited to volunteer assignment because they generally have the time, resources and relevant skills.

"My experience was valued and my skills in business development were of particular use." – Volunteer Jim Lowe

For example, at age 72, AfID volunteer Jim Lowe always had an interest in international travel and the healthcare sector. When he was offered a four-week assignment at a Kenyan hospital run by AfID’s partner organisation, AIC International, he jumped at the chance.

“The hospital provides care to children with disabilities and their carers living in poor rural areas of Kenya, who often find it difficult to access relevant care,” Lowe explains.

During his time there, Lowe worked with staff to develop their financial procedures and devised a strategy to expand and find new sources of income, including donors and private clients.

Lowe’s age and professional maturity were highly respected in Kenya, which meant his advice and recommendations were more readily accepted.

“My experience was valued and my skills in business development were of particular use to an organisation at a time of growth,” he says.

The takeaways for volunteers are considerable: increased personal confidence; a feeling of accomplishment; and ongoing professional and personal validation. According to Jennings, the best part of volunteering with AfID is that an assignment can be tailored to the volunteer’s experience and individual circumstances. Assignments typically vary from two to 24 weeks.

AfID currently supports over 200 not-for-profit organisations in 37 countries across Africa, Asia and South America. Since inception, it has placed over 500 volunteer accountants and delivered more than 90,000 hours of pro-bono financial management coaching.

As demand for its services grows, AfID is continually seeking new volunteers. So, if you’re retired and not yet ready for the golf course, or in mid-career and thinking about a unique and more rewarding overseas sabbatical, why not take the opportunity to use your professional skills to make a genuine difference as a volunteer?

To find out more about AfID’s work, read first-hand volunteer testimonials and to arrange your own volunteering experience, visit the AfID website. 

Help finance the future

Accounting for International Development needs volunteer finance-qualified professionals for work in Africa, Asia and South America.

  • Finance professionals at any stage of their career are in demand.
  • Skills in mentoring and training, as well as stakeholder management, are invaluable.
  • In many destinations, retired professionals, because of their age and maturity, are particularly respected.
  • Overseas assignments are tailored to individual skills, experience and circumstances.
  • Volunteering beats the golf course, creating increased personal confidence, a feeling of accomplishment and ongoing professional and personal validation.

October 2021
October 2021

Read the October 2021 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.

Each month we select the must-reads from the current issue of INTHEBLACK. Read more now.