Financial and Operational Eco-System

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Search For Common Ground
City & State:
District of Columbia
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

We are international peace builders. We think we can change the world - from a win-lose, you-or-me environment, to a win-win, you-and-me place. Our methodology is based on one fundamental principle: Understand the differences; act on the commonalities. Our mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict: away from adversarial approaches, toward cooperative solutions.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Within the organization, a serious divide had been cast because the organization had grown rapidly and the management information system had not kept up with the ever expanding organization. This put the entire organizations mission in jeopardy.

In came riding a white knight on a microchip carrying the latest software solutions. The use of technology coupled with policy and procedure allowed the organization to continue its mission while providing for peace of mind for those people around the world: governments, donors, staff and partners, who are so dedicated to the purpose of making the world a better place.

The solution was to unify the various departments, employees, partners and donors of the organization by creating operations, finance and grants management “worldwide eco-system”. The goal was to drive efficiency, accuracy, and accountability – while providing a foundation for communication, collaboration, and mutual understanding.

Performance. We implemented latest versions of Microsoft technology for server versions, Microsoft Vista, Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Dynamics GP accounting, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.

Accountability. The reporting required by various governments, donors, and management was the key driver in the design of the new system. Different international government agencies had requirements for a chart of accounts, while donors required reporting by activity, and management desired consolidated worldwide financial statements.

Streamline and Connect.
• Provide all financial reporting in multi-currency with both granular and consolidated levels of reporting while providing real time access to records with the ability to download transactions into Excel
• Provide data integration with financial transactions worldwide (from field offices) in multi-currency, allowing field offices to upload data on line via Excel, with robust error checking and correction methodology, and data schemes to match spending to budgets and limit overspending.
• Provide for grants management including accounting and non accounting data
• Provide a worldwide timesheet workflow application that integrates and reduces redundancy
• Provide a global document management system with access to any file type including Word, Excel, Photos, or Video.
• The system works the way people do, using email and spreadsheets to connect and collaborate, while providing back office systems that have what is required by auditors.

Accelerate. The system is scalable and provides for the future growth and enhancement.

• Automating workflows including check and wire requests, and other forms used by human resource, operations and grants management.
• Tag, scan and associate receipts from spending

The organization has used the solution, first and foremost, as a learning tool. The approach is based on the belief that only through understanding more about how and why the work makes a difference can it learn and do better in the future.
Because administrative systems have been streamlined and connected, the focus has turned from the administrative financial challenges of the organization, to the delivery of its mission.

The solution allowed organizations management and Board to effectively manage the finances of the organization. Before implementation, the organization lines of credit were maximized and it was having trouble meeting its payrolls and vendor and partner obligations. The implementation shortened the time to close from 120 days to 5 days, which sped up donor reporting by 4 months, and significantly reduced donor questions about financial reporting. That translated into cash flow which eliminated all line of credit balances and provided adequate cash balances for operations.

It eliminated 4 staff whose job it was to do data entry which freed those staff to start providing customer service and analytics to the worldwide base of employees, partners, vendors and donors.

Enhanced budget management brought resource development, program, and finance into alignment and reduced overspending on grants from 500K annually to zero.

Everyone in the organization is happier – and much of the divide has been closed. A basis for understanding the challenges has been formed, allowing staff to work off a common play book, providing the ability to collaborate on solutions.

The organization has grown by 20%, donors are happier, financial reporting has improved, and the number of grants and contracts has grown. In the past year, the organization won its largest contract ever: 4 million British pounds to produce a video in 10 countries on conflict resolution.

The mission has grown into 3 new countries. The solution sets a new standard for the industry, which pleases the donors, and gives the organization an edge in meeting demanding donor reporting requirements.


• Partners and vendors have greater faith in the organization. All contractual obligations are met on time.

• Auditors are happier. For the first time ever the books and records were available for inspection in record time, with all schedules and analysis prepared in advance.

• Banks are happier, as lines of credit are paid off, and cash flow and cash management improved.

• Employees and Interns have jobs – because of gained efficiencies, the organization has jobs for those who want to contribute.

The organization has received recognition.

• In the past year the Benjamin Franklin Awards for Public Diplomacy was bestowed by the U.S. Department of State, which is the most prestigious honor that the Department of State can bestow on American citizens who are making outstanding contributions to public diplomacy.

• The organization was also awarded the Skoll Foundation Award for social entrepreneurship because of the organizations innovative solutions for social issues, empowering people and communities to envision and create positive change.

The world is better connected. With 400 staff in 20 countries, different cultures, faiths, languages, wants, needs, and desires – are now “better together”.

The organization is willing to share its solution so that other non profits can make use of technology to streamline administrative functions and connect employees, partners, vendors and donors.

• Microsoft prepared a case study and a video which can be viewed at:

• The CFO has engaged in several training and public speaking events to talk about the solution and how other non-profits, both large and small can benefits from adopting part or all of the technologies and / or solution.

The solution:

• Explains how to connect field offices throughout the world, even in 3rd world environments where technology is lacking.

• Shows how to create an integrated reporting solution, that consolidates reporting for different entities with different reporting needs – no one size fits all – but the solution shows how to maximize versatility while still fitting into the requirements of an information system.

• Illustrates that technology can facilitate working the way that people do – to “bring the mountain to the people” – using familiar tools such as Word, Excel, and email.

• Creates a document management system – an electronic file cabinet – that allows people who are not located in the same place – to share and collaborate on data.

• Illuminates connected teams – how to build a worldwide eco-system.

• Demonstrates transparency – and how to create a cohesive environment that builds on trust, and aids in understanding – which allows all to focus on the real issues.

Search For Common Ground technology solutions makes it obvious that technology itself helps to seek common ground – it bridges gaps, brings people together, creates understanding, helps us to see another’s point of view, increases customer service, and provides a springboard for us to grow – collectively and together.


Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery