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The NGO sector has a wide range of finance roles. These include senior management jobs responsible for overseeing NGO financial processes to entry-level positions working on ensuring the NGOs programmes get the financial support they need. Many people working in finance jobs wish to join the NGO sector and use their skills in an organization that helps others.
If you’re interested in working for an NGO in a finance role, we’ve put together this overview of the main types of finance jobs within the NGO sector. We’ve also detailed the likely experience and qualifications you will need to apply.
The role of Finance Manager is the main senior position within an NGOs finance team. The Finance Manager is responsible for overseeing all financial procedures, including budget management, cash management, cash-flow and the implementation of financial guidelines. The Finance Manager often overseas the NGO’s finance team.
In an NGO, the Finance Manager is usually based in a country office or at HQ-level. In a country office they usually oversee the financial management of the mission, at HQ the Finance Manager will often be responsible for a country or region. The Finance Manager usually reports to the Country Director or Head of Support Services.
How to Apply
If you are looking to work for an NGO as a Finance Manager you will need several years’ experience working in the non-profit sector in finance roles. Experience in both HQ and country office positions would be an asset. Formal training in financial management is often required, as well as an understanding of NGO financial procedures.
Head of Support Services
In most NGOs, the Support Services departments covers the functions of finance, admin, HR and logistics. The aim of these functions it to support the implementation of the NGOs programmes. The most senior job in this department is the Head of Support Services. The post-holder has wide-ranging financial oversight of the NGO’s operations.
The Head of Support Services often manages the Finance Manager. They also often line manage senior staff for Logistics, HR, and Admin. The Head of Support Services is usually the most senior position responsible for finance in an NGOs office, reporting to the Country Director. At HQ level-the Head of Support Services will often report to the Regional Director.
How to Apply
If you are looking to work as the Head of Support Services for an NGO, you will need significant experience in NGO finance, logistics, HR and admin. Many NGOs look for ten years of progressive relevant experience. Both field and HQ experience are likely needed by most NGO to get a job as a Head of Support Services. A formal background in finance would definitely be an advantage.
Many NGOs are funded by grants given by donor organizations. The job of the Grants Officer is to oversee the day-to-day management of grants and ensure the NGOs projects remain compliant with donor regulations. Large NGOs will have a grants department and the Grants Officer will be managed by a Grants Manager. In smaller NGOs the Grants Officer may be part of the Programmes team.
Financial management of grants is a key part of the Grants Officer role. This includes assisting with budget management and financial reporting. The Grants Officer also feeds into the development of new funding proposals, including working with wider grants and programmes teams to create budgets and develop financial plans.
How to Apply
If you are interested to work as a Grant Officer within the NGO sector you will need a strong understanding grant cycle management. You will also need previous experience working with donors and a successful track record of working on large grants for NGOs. One to three years of professional experience in the NGO sector is often sought.
NGO Finance Online Courses
Anyone in a finance position within an NGO plays a key role in ensuring the organisations projects are continuously funded. We highly recommend the online course How To Design & Fund International Development NGO Projects for anyone wanting to work in a finance job within the NGO sector. It covers the key concepts of how NGOs develop their programmes and shows how NGO projects can receive long-term funding. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.
A fantastic online course for those wanting to take a finance position with an NGO is the Complete Finance Manager Course. It covers the basics of key financial processes all NGOs need, including finance management, accounting, budgeting, and administrative systems. It would be a great addition to the CV anyone applying for finance jobs within NGOs. The link is to the course’s page.
Another online course we really recommend for those wanting to get a finance job in an NGO is Fundraising & Marketing For Non-Profit Organisations. This online short course combines an overview of the key areas of fundraising and marketing – both of which a vital for NGO finance staff. We think it’s a great course for anyone applying for finance roles with NGOs. Follow the link to enrol.
Chief Financial Officer
The Chief Financial Officer in an NGO is the most senior financial role in the organization. They have final responsibility for all financial decisions. They report to the CEO. The Chief Financial Officer also takes strategic decisions about the financial management of the NGO. The position must report to the NGOs board regarding financial matters.
The CFO of an NGO will be based in HQ. They are part of the senior management team. Usually the CFO does not have direct line-management of a team but will have control over multiple aspects of the NGOs financial workings.
How to Apply
The CFO of an NGO is one of the most senior jobs. Several years, often decades, of experience is needed for the role. Experience working within NGOs in finance jobs will definitely be sought, but private sector experience, especially in a similar role, is also an asset.
The job of Finance Officer is the mid-level position within an NGOs finance team. They are responsible for day-to-day implementation of financial processes. This includes cash management, paying invoice, monitoring budgets, developing financial forecasts and creating financial reports. The Finance Officer is often line-managed by the Finance Manager or Finance Coordinator.
In most NGO’s, each Finance Officer is responsible for a designated area. This may be a base of operations or a country office if working in the field, or a department, region or set of country programmes if working in NGO. The Finance Officer will usually manager the Finance Assistants and sometimes the Accountant.
How to Apply
To work as a Finance Officer for an NGO you will need a formal qualification related to financial management or accountancy. You will also need some years’ experience in a related position. Previous experience in finance roles in the NGO sector will be highly valued.
Finance Assistant roles are one of the more junior finance jobs within the NGO sector. Often line-managed by the Finance Officer, and Finance Assistant’s tasks include making payments, counting cash and providing administrative assistants to the finance team. Large NGOs may have multiple Finance Assistants at different bases or covering different areas of work.
In almost all NGOs, Finance Assistant roles are entry-level jobs. Often recent graduates take this position, or those who have recently completed internships. Getting a job as a Finance Assistant can be a great way to start a career in the finance team of an NGO.
How to Apply
Most NGOs will not require significant previous experience to get a job as a Finance Assistant. However, a related internship in the NGO sector, or some public or private sector experience would be an asset. You are also likely to need a formal qualification in finance, such as a master’s degree.
Many NGOs employ Accountants to work in their finance departments. The role of the Accountant is to manage the accuracy of financial processes. The Accountant will monitor spending, produce financial documents, cross-check expenditure and complete the accounts closing on a monthly basis.
Most NGOs that employ Accountants have them either managed by the Finance Manager or Coordinator. Accountants in NGOs can work either at HQ-level or in country offices. Their job is to ensure the smooth running of financial processes so that the NGOs programmes are able to operate.
How to Apply
If you are looking to work for an NGO as an Accountant you will need to be formally qualified. You may also need to be a member of the professional body for accountants in the country the NGO is working. Previous experience in accountancy is often required.
The job of Admin Officer is another mid-level position within the NGO sector that has tasks related to finance. In NGO’s, administration often covers registrations, working with lawyers and liaising with banks, as well as day-to-day admin tasks such as managing petty cash, making payments and booking travel arrangements.
In some NGOs, the role of Admin Officer is combined with the Finance Officer roles with the position covering both functions. These Finance-Admin Officer jobs are responsible for the implementation of financial processes as well as providing administrative support. The Admin Officer is usually line-managed by the Admin or Finance Manager.
How to Apply
To get a job as an Admin Officer in an NGO you will need two to three years of professional experience. Previous experience in the NGO sector will definitely be a plus, but private sector experience will still help. A formal qualification in Finance or administration would also be of assistants.
Audit and Compliance Officer
NGOs are required to complete internal audits of their financial records on a regular basis. Donors that fund NGOs also require their projects to be audited. Large NGOs often employ an Audit and Compliance Officer within their finance teams to provide support.
Compliance with legal and donor requirements is important for all NGOs. The Audit and Compliance Officer is also responsible for ensuring the NGO remains compliant. The Audit and Compliance Officer is usually line-managed by the Finance Manager.
How to Apply
If you want to work in audit and compliance for an NGO you will need a strong understanding of the regulatory environment that NGOs operate in. Previous experience assisting with audits and ensuring compliance in large organizations will be required. Formal education in finance or accounting is usually also needed for this role.
Large NGOs can have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of staff. The job of the Payroll Officer is to work on processing the salary payments for the NGO staff each month. The Payroll Officer usually works as part of the wider finance team and is line-managed by the Finance Coordinator.
The main tasks of the Payroll Officer in an NGO is to collect the information needed to process the monthly salaries, as well as obtaining the correct approvals and processing salary transfers. Very large NGOs may also have a Payroll Assistant that is line-managed by the Payroll Officer.
How to Apply
To get a job as a Payroll Officer in an NGO you will need a technical understanding of financial processes within large organizations. You are also likely to need some previous professional experience in finance or HR roles. Private and public sector experience could be an asset. A formal qualification in finance, HR, or administration will also help your application.
Head of Finance
In the NGO sector the Head of Finance is the one of the most senior finance positions in an organization. The role has overall responsibility for financial management and implementation. The Head of Finance will manage the Finance team and report to Director-level staff.
The Head of Finance role in an NGO is responsible for ensuring quality financial processes are in-place and followed and has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the NGO programmes are supported by the finance department.
How to Apply
The Head of Finance in an NGO is a senior-management role. In order to apply you will need many years of experience in finance jobs in the NGO sector. You will also require a formal qualification related to finance. Private and public sector experience in senior finance roles could be an asset, but most NGOs will also look for candidates with significant experience in senior finance positions in NGOs.
Some NGOs combine the finance and administrative departments. These NGOs often have the role of Finance-Admin Coordinator as the manager of this combined team. The role of the Finance-Admin Coordinator is to ensure effective management of both financial and administrative processes, ensuring the NGOs programmes are fully supported.
The Finance-Admin Coordinator manages the staff of the Finance and Admin team. They will usually line manage a Manager for each function. The Finance-Admin Coordinator will be part of the senior management team and report to the Country Director.
How to Apply
Finance-Admin Coordinator jobs in the NGO sector will require several years of professional experience in a similar role. A strong understanding of both NGO financial and administrative processes is needed. An educational background in finance, or administration, is often also required.
If you want to know more about how to get a job at an NGO, including in a finance role, explore our list of the top NGO online courses here.