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USAID Preparation with Team Rubicon

August 17, 2022

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Jessica Walker

Senior Manager, Convenings, US

Team Rubicon, a veteran-led humanitarian organization that serves global communities in disasters and crises, recently engaged Humentum to help develop the tools, resources, and team knowledge necessary to apply for and manage USAID funding. Alyssa Quaranta and Calley Bilgram from Team Rubicon and Humentum Consultant Keith Edwards shared their experience on what it takes to prepare for USAID funding during a recent webinar. The conversation outlined the initial steps taken during the consultancy engagement and highlighted key activities that other organizations can take to ready themselves for funding while minimizing risk.

The first step in preparing for USAID funding is defining what preparedness means for your organization.  In order to qualify for USAID funding, an organization must:

  • Understand the expectations of USAID – what capacity does your organization have to be compliant with award requirements, what will you be responsible for once receiving funding, what will you need to do to monitor the funding, and what is required after funding ends?
  • Assess the operating environment – depending on what funding you have received; you may need to prepare for a new environment or add additional steps to your current policies and procedures
  • Make the necessary changes at the organization –preparation includes evaluating the current state of the organization and determining what needs to change to ensure you can be viewed as an acceptable recipient of USAID funds

USAID Expectations

To help Team Rubicon prepare for USAID funding, Keith, Alyssa, and Calley first looked at USAID’s expectations and reviewed Team Rubicon’s policies and procedures for gaps and improvements.  There are several standard policies and processes to help ensure that an organization is ready for funding, such as:

  • Accounting and financial principles and policies
  • Financial and procurement management policies
  • Financial reserves and funding resources outside of the intended grant or cooperative agreement
  • Skilled staff to achieve the objectives of the funding and remain in compliance


After identifying the requirements for preparedness, Team Rubicon and Keith assessed the organization’s readiness. An important piece of this process was recognizing the funding “why.” For Team Rubicon, their intent was to expand their work in international spaces and assist during sudden onset disasters around the world. To develop this work and bring their expertise to other countries, the organization is looking to USAID funding.

They saw the need to adapt our ways of working to align with best practices for the international organizations and international humanitarian space.

Calley Bilgram Team Rubicon

As part of the assessment process, an organization needs to:

  • Review policies and procedures to make sure they align with expectations
  • Examine systems to make sure they can support the necessary policies and procedures
  • Objectively assess the organization’s capability, including staff capacity and reporting mechanisms

During the assessment, the organization identified areas that needed to be adjusted or created to ensure future compliance with any USAID funding. US projects and international projects differ greatly, so Team Rubicon used the assessment to determine where policies and procedures could be more stringent or shifted for international standards.


After the assessment phase, Team Rubicon worked on implementing the necessary changes. Since the “why” was established during the assessment phase, it was critical to include staff in the process. Policy and procedure change can be frustrating, so it was important to have staff buy-in and highlight the value and impact of USAID funding for the organization.

As with many things in the sector, reporting was a key piece of successfully preparing Team Rubicon for USAID funding. Throughout the project, reports on what needed to be adapted or created, observations about the systems, and actionable recommendations were documented. This reporting was important in the moment and serves a longer-term purpose as they prioritized projects and next steps once the main preparation is complete.

The final report really gave us that roadmap of what to prioritize, what order to go in, where we needed to focus the most energy most immediately, and then … where we can focus our energy to continue to strengthen our ability to action these policies and … communicate our policies more widely.

Alyssa Quaranta Team Rubicon

For many organizations just starting out with USAID funding, there will be many changes. Each organization will need to prioritize, determine what works for them, and streamline communications.  For Team Rubicon, this included color-coding actionable steps by priority and compliance status, creating condensed manuals, and summaries and reports of missing pieces and next steps.

Critically, organizations building their preparedness should also consider how they document their policies and procedures. With growing projects and likely more staff, it is crucial for everyone to know where to find things, to be able to understand the things they find, and follow what they find compliantly.


For Team Rubicon, it was vital to prepare before applying for USAID funding because they saw it as an investment in the organization’s future and future projects. The assessment and change process enables them to be ready when the right, mission-aligned opportunity is presented. For organizations looking toward USAID funding, preparation ensures that:

  • The proposal is the priority since the policy, process, and compliance pieces are already built
  • The organization is a confident, fully prepared candidate
  • Everyone on staff feels comfortable speaking to the policies and procedures in place which can be helpful if there is a pre-award audit
  • Risk is reduced as most or all needed policies are already in place
  • The likelihood of specific conditions in your award is lessened
  • The organization risks less money because there are fewer mistakes

There are many benefits to preparedness before pursuing USAID funding. Many of the policies and procedures required for compliance are also best practices. They can ensure an organization minimizes its risk, is prepared for new projects and funders, and can expand its work. Humentum’s consultants help organizations determine the “why” for preparing for a new funder, understand the expectations of that funder, assess the organization’s current policies and procedures, and provide a roadmap for being as prepared as possible for new funding and projects. Like Team Rubicon, this enables you to work where you’re needed when you’re needed.

Is your organization truly prepared for USAID funding? Humentum is the globally recognized leader in USAID compliance for nonprofits and we serve more than 300 clients and thousands of participants each year. We can help your organization prepare for USAID funding – request a free, no-strings-attached call with a member of our team today.

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