Financial Oversight Lessons

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Subtitle
Guidance and tools to support a Grant Expenditure Monitoring
Publication Date
12/26/12
Program
Journalism & Media Innovation, Engaged Communities, Fostering the Arts

Related Opportunity 

Knight Foundation VP/CFO Juan Martinez lead a 39-minute webinar on implementing the GEM toolkit for foundations. Watch the archived replay now on Webex.com.

Download 

You can download a key tool mentioned in 'Financial Oversight': The GEM Risk Factor Scoring Sheet.xlsx (Excel file).

As a private foundation that achieves its mission using tax-exempt funds, the Knight Foundation must ensure that grantees appropriately spend funds to produce public benefit. This financial oversight responsibility led Knight to develop and launch the Grant Expenditure Monitoring (GEM) program in 2006 in partnership with accounting firm KPMG.

The GEM program plays a crucial role in maintaining compliance and accountability by supporting a series of financial reviews with Knight grantees. While the overwhelming majority of financial reviews conducted with grantees have indicated that projects were proceeding as planned and found no financial irregularities, a handful of reviews have turned up significant financial issues that prompted us to take corrective actions. Though the GEM was originally conceived as purely a financial review, the process has also provided opportunities for Knight staff and grantees to collaborate more closely. The program has been a key resource for program staff by bringing KPMG’s high level of business expertise to the complex operational issues that grantees face. Meanwhile, reviews have helped grantees identify ways to strengthen their capacities and operations. To examine the impact of the GEM and improve its ongoing effectiveness, we commissioned a pair of assessments in 2011 which analyzed the design of the program from an accounting perspective and gathered feedback from grantees and staff. The assessments affirmed the value of the GEM program but also led us to make some key adjustments to the program.

This report outlines the lessons we have learned about financial oversight from managing the GEM program, and it provides guidance and helpful tools to support others interested in the program. The report contains our latest thinking, and discusses some of the ongoing adjustments we are making to the program based on key findings. We hope that other funders—especially trustees and staff in finance and governance positions—will find this guide useful as they monitor and advance the work of their own grant partners.

Juan J. Martinez
Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

About our Journalism & Media Innovation focus area

Our goal at Knight Foundation is to preserve the best aspects of journalism and use innovation to expand the impact of information in the digital age. 

About our Resources & Tools methodology

We follow evaluation and social impact measurement trends to identify emerging best practices and tools. We have compiled a list of assessment resources below, which includes a mix of Knight and third-party tools, to support our grantees and other nonprofits collect useful information about the effectiveness and impact of their work. We hope you find the list helpful. If there are other resources that you find particularly useful, please let us know. This list of evaluation resources is intended for informational purposes only. Inclusion does not necessarily constitute endorsement by the Knight Foundation.