Recently, Kenan Foundation Asia received the final installment of the $30 million Chevron Enjoy Science donation, a major commitment to improving the education system in Thailand. This milestone gave me an opportunity to reflect on the five years I’ve spent as the Finance and Accounting Manager for the Enjoy Science project. I thought about some of the characteristics that have distinguished Kenan’s accounting practices, enabled successful management of such a large budget, and ensured project impact.
There are a number of components that go into effectively stewarding such a large investment. In the spirit of good accounting, I’ll disclose my five top lessons learned.
I’ve come to appreciate the importance of cultivating strong relationships and communication with my colleagues within the Enjoy Science project team. For large projects like Enjoy Science (which has over 50 activities across 64 provinces throughout Thailand), providing up-to-date budget information to the project team, down to the activity line item, enables them to do their jobs more effectively in the field. Building these relationships – between front and back office – and sharing data widely and proactively promotes trust and openness with regard to the financial processes. In addition to monthly budget meetings and reviews, it’s the daily relationship building that creates trust between teams. My goal is to make sure the implementation team doesn’t feel constricted by the budget, but rather that they are empowered to feel in control of the finances by giving them the information they need. As the classic saying goes, “good accounts make good friends.” I prefer the idea that good relationships actually make for good accounting.
In addition to being stewards of financial capital, Kenan values investing in human capital. Attending professional training and adopting best practices across all disciplines is an organizational priority. My work at Kenan has spanned nearly a quarter century – 24 years to be precise – and more than 100 project budgets. But there’s always more to know. Every year I learn more about new developments in accounting practices by attending 2-3 professional trainings. Most recently, I completed a training with the Federation of Accounting Professions under Royal Patronage, which gave me an opportunity to learn about the latest management accounting practices for planning and decision making, while expanding my expertise and professional network. Our partners can have confidence that Kenan is not just compliant with legal regulations, but is at the cutting edge of nonprofit accountancy.
The dedication to financial transparency in our reporting is demonstrated in our communication with partners. Each quarter, all of this complex financial data is collected, analyzed, and reported by Kenan to our partners along with a range of key project indicators. Kenan utilizes the leading Sage 300 software technology to help manage our accounting books. Sage 300 provides strong and secure financial operations management. This, coupled with Kenan’s security systems architecture, provides the highest levels of protection against cyber hacking and ensures that our system is secure when dealing with our partners’ private financial information.
4. Financial Planning
Kenan’s banking practices are worth elaborating on as well. One of the ways that Kenan maximizes the value of our partners’ investments is to utilize short term deposits to make the most of cash on hand. We work with our banking partners to secure privileged interest rates for funds in holding and apply any earned funds back into the project for added benefit to our clients and beneficiaries alike.
In addition, because Kenan works with international donors and partners – including those from the United States, Japan, Australia, and Switzerland on Enjoy Science alone – the organization brings expertise dealing with transactions across multiple different currencies. In as much as currencies around the world float in value, Kenan utilizes multiple accounts (USD and Thai baht, among others) to mitigate financial risk.
Finally, perhaps the most critical practice when it comes to accounting transparency is auditing. Kenan engages leading global firms like KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers to perform comprehensive reviews of project financials, a true testament to transparency. Kenan publishes this information in our annual report, which is available for our partners and beneficiaries alike to scrutinize. It’s a choice Kenan makes to go above and beyond what most nonprofits practice. While it may seem that auditing is about crunching numbers, for me it is a matter of integrity.
All of these refined procedures exist for one simple reason: to be careful stewards of the generous commitments made by our partners. Ultimately, my number one priority is to maximize the value of our partners’ social investments, to ensure the funds are getting to where they are needed most – our beneficiaries.
By Ms. Orachat Prechatanasak, Accounting Manager, Chevron Enjoy Science Project at Kenan Foundation Asia.