Managing for the future · 1/20/20

Large international public foundation relies on MACH Finances!

A close look at the successfull story between MACH and the Max Weber Foundation – German Humanities Institutes Abroad (MWF). 

The Max Weber Foundation – German Humanities Institutes Abroad (MWF) manages ten research institutes, additional research groups and offices worldwide. From Washington, D.C. to Warsaw, Paris to Beijing, Dakar to Delhi, the MWF is currently active in 16 countries.

Thanks to its setup, the MWF offers the best conditions for excellent research in humanities and social sciences. This is enabled through proximity to the topics of research and the exchange of various perspectives and approaches. At the same time, the intensive exchange of scientists and academics between the host nations and other countries, as well as the publications resulting from research projects and events, aim to foster mutual understanding between these countries and Germany.

A significant share of projects comprises online publications. For these, the MWF works on the principle of open access and administers both the publication platform perspectivia.net as well as the Weber 2.0 communication platform (mws.hypotheses.org), the latter of which in collaboration with the pan-Europe blog portal hypotheses.org.

Apart from this, the administration of the MWF is highly organized and modern! The MWF was established as a federal foundation in 2002 and receives approximately 45 million euros annually of institutional funds through the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This is in addition to support from various sponsors, such as the German research community, the EU and private foundations.

As a result, the MWF is one of Germany’s largest publicly fostered foundations.

And this is where MACH comes in!

In 2010, the time had come to modernize and switch to a modern finance software. Three factors served as important criteria for the new software:

  • The institutes should be able to manage their finances decentrally through clients within the common economic plan.
  • The main budget and external funds should be separated but with the ability to generate overall reports, for instance where funds come together for certain projects as part of a mixed financing.
  • The solution should be scalable for changing government requirements, since the government had just supplemented its traditional accounting with commercial business ideas.

The MACH Finance software was able to meet these criteria. MACH intensively supported the massive transformation of connected systems on site, including the development of a common databank and common standards during the preparation and launch from 2012 to 2013.

The MWF’s management also set great store by standards and good reporting capability. A typical challenge for reports: The use of federal funding for institutes must be reported on in line with single-entry bookkeeping principles. However, the MWF’s principles are based on double-entry bookkeeping. With this software, individual expense distribution sheets can be developed for each third-party sponsor who has their own and perhaps extremely special requirements for funding evidence, and the sheets can be attributed to the respective accounting objects.

An additional challenge lied in the nature of the MWF’s core business. The MWF’s in-house currency is euros, but the currency and bank accounts of the institutes in the various other countries must also be managed. It’s daily business, for instance, to book a flight in euros on a German travel website, but then pay the gas bill in the local currency. Depending on the country an institute is located in, cash, check or credit card payments may also play a significant role.

MACH advised the MWF not only up to the launch, but also beyond. Due to continually developing requirements, for example the integration of a third-party payroll system in 2017, MACH continues to support the MWF even today. This is even more so the case since the administrations in the foreign institutes, a result of the necessary decentral approach, are quite small and a broad spectrum of tasks has to be covered, from accounting to IT expertise.

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