Standard 10: Laying the foundations for effective donor engagement and accountability.
Lay the foundations for successful donor engagement throughout the project.
Orient CRS and partner staff on the donor requirements.
Each donor has a set of requirements ranging from when and how to report, to what can and cannot be purchased. Orienting CRS and partner staff on these requirements at the beginning of the project:
- Ensures that project implementation gets off to a good start.
- Enables the project team to finalize templates, tools, and project operating processes that will assist with meeting the requirements.
- Saves time by ensuring reports and procedures are done correctly the first time, thus avoiding the need for subsequent revisions.
- Reduces financial risk and partnership challenges by clarifying allowable expenses.
- Strengthens CRS’ capacity for strong award and project management.
- Primary responsible: Head of operations (HoOps)
- The HoOps leads the orientation, ensuring that all CRS and partner staff who need to understand award requirements have the necessary information.
- Others involved: Project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP); head of programming (HoP); IDEA staff; CRS and partner project team (programming and operations); CRS and partner senior management.
- The PM/CoP supports and co-facilitates the orientation process;
- The HoP and IDEA staff (for centrally managed awards, and as appropriate for other projects) help identify requirements, especially those that are unique to the donor and award;
- CRS and partner project team members (programming, including MEAL; finance; procurement and supply chain management staff; other operations) participate in the orientation, along with CRS and partner senior management (for overview sessions)
- During the start-up workshop and as part of support to partners with project financial set-up
- During onboarding, especially for staff hired after the start-up workshop
This key action builds on any initial orientation to donor requirements during: the handover between proposal and project start-up teams; the project team review of the full donor agreement during the project financial management start-up meeting; and the CRS award kick-off meetingThe kick-off meeting is an initial meeting following award signature, coordinated by the award manager, designed to outline deliverables, terms and conditions of the award, as well as the responsibilities and expectations of participants. At a minimum, participants should include the PM/CoP, HoOps, HoP and other senior managers. This meeting is separate from the project start-up meeting. .
Follow these steps to properly orient CRS and partner staff on the donor requirements:
Consult with others if the donor is new to you: Often, someone in another country program or headquarters will have worked with a donor that is new to you. Check the donor institution record in Gateway to identify who has worked with the donor. Consult these colleagues for a firsthand perspective on the implications of the donor’s requirements, and advice on guidance and processes that may help the project team meet donor requirements.
- The HoOps, with support from the PM/CoP, and HoP as needed, prepares the necessary materials to review the donor requirements during the project start-up workshop. While developing the materials, the HoOps refers to:
- Key points related to donor financial requirements noted by the HoOps and finance manager during their review of the review of the draft project agreementThe HoOps and finance manager review the draft donor agreement to ensure CRS can comply with the financial management terms. During this review, they also identify any key financial management requirements that may require special attention or effort to ensure compliance. (see Standard 8, key action 1 for details on this review).
- Key points from the wider agreement review (Standard 10, key action 1).
- Discussions from start-up workshop planning (see Standard 7, key action 2, step 2) about aspects of the project that may be particularly challenging, based on past CRS and partner experience; the current operating context; and/or CRS and partner capacity.
- The Award Management Deliverables CalendarThe Award Management Deliverables Calendar is an "at-a-glance" tracking tool which summarizes information about deliverables that CRS must submit to the donor under the terms of the donor award. These may include technical and financial reports; MEAL documents such as Terms of Reference, evaluation reports; detailed implementation plans or project workplans, etc. .
Reinforce understanding of donor requirements and motivations: When orienting staff to donor requirements, share CRS’ understanding of the donor’s motivations, restrictions, and concerns. These issues affect the donor’s perspective on compliance.
- During the project overview portion of the start-up workshop (the “Big Picture” tier of the Start-up Workshop Building Blocks), the HoOps reviews the donor requirements with CRS and partner senior management and the full CRS and partner project team. This is a chance to ensure management and staff understand exactly what the donor requires. Specifically, the HoOps:
- Uses the Award Management Deliverables Calendar to review donor deliverables and dates.
- Emphasizes donor rules, regulations, and expectations, including: audits; fraud management processes; allowable and prohibited expenses, and items or activities that require donor prior approvalThese may include purchase of restricted items, personnel changes for certain positions, procurement regulations, etc. or a waiver; and other risk and compliance issues.
- Reviews donor requirements on recognition of donor support for the project, such as branding and marking“Branding and marking” is a USAID term; other donors may use different terms for requirements related to acknowledging donor sponsorship of the project. Per USAID, “Branding” refers to how a program or project is named and positioned. it identifies the sponsor of the work. “Marking” refers to applying graphic identities or logos to program materials or project signage to visibly acknowledge contributors; it identifies organizations supporting the work. or similar requirements.
- Shares additional information about the donor’s interests and motivations that may help project staff understand donor requirements.
- Highlights which issues related to donor requirements require the involvement of the project governance structure (Standard 6, key action 5) (provided the project governance structure has met and determined project tolerancesProject tolerances set clear parameters within which a project manager/chief of party (PM/CoP) can act autonomously—and make it clear when the PM/CoP needs to seek approval. Project tolerances describe the approved ranges of variation that a PM/CoP is authorized to oversee without seeking the endorsement of members of the project governance structure. Tolerances may relate to such things as budget and project timeframe, project scope and quality. For example, a project tolerance might describe the percent by which a project, or line items in a project, can over- or under-spend without the approval of members of the project governance structure; or the acceptable number of days of delay in the implementation schedule before approval from the project governance structure is required. ).
- During more in-depth start-up workshop discussions on programming and operations details (see the “Key Details” tier of the Start-up Workshop Building Blocks), project implementation staff discuss how to meet the donor requirements. Specifically, project team members:
- Review the project program, budget, and other operations plans (e.g., supply chain management) in more detail.
- Discuss project operating processes which will allow the project team to manage the project effectively while meeting donor requirements. This includes detailed review of areas where the project team anticipates challenges.
- Review project reporting templates. For reports for which there are no donor templates, this includes reviewing draft templates developed by CRS, if available, and agreeing on any needed changes.
- Identify actions that CRS and partners need to take to meet donor requirements, for incorporation into the project detailed implementation plan (DIP), team and individual plans, and the project-specific donor engagement plan. This includes possible actions to address any project management effectiveness and/or compliance requirements identified.
Complexity, compliance, efficiency: Projects that are complex –whether due to the operating environment, the project design, project partnerships, and/or donor requirements – can present particular challenges for balancing project management efficiency and compliance. During discussions of project details, especially the details of project operations, carefully analyze proposed project processes. Who will do what, when? Are roles clear and properly differentiated, or duplicative? Are there ways to streamline processes and ensure value is added at each step, while also ensuring we comply with donor requirements? Consider mapping project business processes to facilitate analysis. When looking at how to achieve project management efficiencies, be sure to identify any proposed changes to processes that may require higher-level discussion and approval, including by the donor.
- If new staff join the project after the start-up workshop, the PM/CoP ensures they receive a thorough briefing on donor requirements, implementation and compliance processes, and project templates, during their onboarding (see Standard 9, key action 5 for onboarding guidance).
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- CRS and partner meetings to orient partner staff on project-specific financial management processes and schedules (Standard 8, key action 6) are also opportunities for CRS to provide orientation and clarification on donor requirements.
- If the partner has not worked with funding from the project donor, plan to spend extra time orienting partner staff and helping them adapt processes and templates as needed to meet donor requirements (see also Standard 8, key action 6 for guidance on supporting partners with project financial management set-up).
- Focus on ensuring CRS and partners are all clear on respective roles, responsibilities, and processes related to project implementation and donor compliance - discuss the when, where, and how, especially for operations procedures.
- Engage partners in thinking through potential moments in the project or specific processes where compliance challenges might arise. Reflect on past project experiences and challenges. Work collaboratively to identify appropriate solutions and seek the approval of proposed solutions from organizational and/or donor leadership as needed.
- For projects with complex donor requirements and/or numerous or otherwise complex partnership arrangements, consider developing a project operating manual or partner compliance manual (see Other Resources for examples).
- Follow the same process for orienting CRS and partner staff, using the instructions on donor requirements provided by the prime. If the prime does not provide information on donor requirements, request it.
- Follow the same process for emergency projects.
- If the project receives funding through a Caritas Internationalis Emergency Appeal, ensure the start-up workshop covers the Caritas Internationalis Protocol for CI Coordination in Emergency Response, as well as the CI Emergency Framework and Toolkit for Emergency Response. All documents are available in English, French, and Spanish via this link, and provide guidance on coordination and the process of implementing, monitoring and reporting on an Emergency Appeal. If you are not registered on the CI Baobab site, please register here.When registering for the CI Baobab site, CRS staff should select "Caritas United States - CRS" as their organization and list the Humanitarian Response Department and firstname.lastname@example.org as the reference contact. If you have any questions, please contact CRS’ Humanitarian Response Department (email@example.com).
- In cases where multiple donors support an overall emergency response, during the “key details” portion of the start-up workshop, pay special attention to orienting project staff on which expenses to charge to which donor, per the agreed mapping of expenses to donors. Review this again when supporting partners to set up project-specific financial management processes (see Standard 8, key action 6 for more details).
- See also Standard 8, key action 4 and Standard 13, key action 4, for guidance on setting up systems for and managing financial reporting requirements for multiple donors to an emergency response.
Tools and templates
Policies and procedures
CRS Award Management Community SharePoint page on Award Implementation (also includes resources for award start-up)
Donor templates for deliverables or reports (if available)
- Primary responsible: Head of operations (HoOps)