Managing international funding and remittances come with risks associated to currency volatility, fluctuating volumes of cash, and a bank/ broker servicing environment that is often characterised by complexity and opaqueness. These challenges are all the more pronounced when dealing with exotic currencies which is regularly the case for INGOs operating in underdeveloped parts of the world. The issues mentioned were widely publicised in the ‘Missing Millions’ report by Stamp Out Poverty in 2010. Their research disclosed that INGOs continuously observe portions of their funding and donations being eroded by high transaction fees, hidden margin costs, and negative market movements from volatility.
In wanting to further delve into the issues known and presented previously, in 2020/21 Charitytransfers.org collaborated with Crowe accounting firm to publish the first INGO Foreign Exchange Insights Report. A set of questions were asked to 114 small, medium and large charities to better understand the main issues and concerns they face when managing their international payment requirements. The report also offers advice on how issues can be overcome and provides recommendations on how to improve the security and efficiency of this aspect of a finance department’s management function.
Main challenges for charities with cross border operations at a glance:
55% of survey respondents name FX volatility as a major challenge, and 63% believe a FX market movement between 0% and 10% would cause them financial difficulty
43% indicated the primary method for dealing with volatility was by absorbing any negative movements using unrestricted funding
81% of INGOs believe access to a tool that accurately measured the cost of their foreign exchange payments would be useful
71% of respondents submitted that they had no official foreign exchange policy. Lack of internal resources, insufficient knowledge and a lack of prioritisation being cited as the main reasons
Curtis Noble, Head of CSR at Charitytransfers.org.uk says:
“The INGO FX Insights Report is the first of its kind, highlighting that many UK charities who rely on cross border payments to provide support overseas would benefit from overhauling their current FX arrangements. Charitytransfers.org was set up with the sole purpose of making sure charities can enjoy access to independent and impartial FX advisory services, to ultimately ensure donations and resources reach those who need it. Experience has taught us that charities can save up to 50% per year if they get their FX function set up right. With funding cuts to the charity sector, every INGO should sit up and take note of the findings of this report to understand where improvements can be made to this critical area of their finance function.”
Charitytransfers.org highlights three questions that charities should be asking internally:
Do we know exactly how much it costs to send or receive funds from overseas?
Which currency is being spent locally by overseas partners and which is the most cost-efficient route to sending them funds?
Are we adopting suitable risk mitigation strategies, and can we accurately audit the costs involved of using such hedging products?
Naziar Hashemi – National Head of Social Purpose and Non-Profit Organisations, Crowe UK says:
“Foreign exchange has always been a difficult issue for INGOs to grapple with. Some INGOs are lucky enough to have sophisticated treasury functions, but for all, managing the risks from FX is critical especially during these volatile and uncertain times. As demonstrated through the results of the survey, many lack the resources and expertise to develop their own FX policy and those that do are often overtaken by higher priority tasks. Many are hampered by the administrative and regulatory burdens of remitting funds overseas. We often see INGOs who bear the costs of FX through their unrestricted funds, due to funder rules and budgeting processes. There is a perceived lack of competition when making transfers and a lack of transparency on charges. These challenges make it more pertinent for INGOs to explore their options for better FX management.”