Accountability in Nonprofit Governance: A Process-Based Study

Tacon, Richard; Walters, Geoff and Cornforth, Chris (2017). Accountability in Nonprofit Governance: A Process-Based Study. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 46(4) pp. 685–704.



Accountability is a crucial element of governance. Non-profit organisations are typically accountable to multiple stakeholders and often ‘do’ accountability in multiple ways. But what happens when a non-profit organisation is highly dependent on a single source of funding? This paper provides an empirical exploration of this issue. It draws on a longitudinal case study of one non-profit organisation in the UK that is highly dependent on a single funder to examine how accountability is constructed and enacted, with a focus on the board. It critically examines accountability processes through direct observation of board and committee meetings and in-depth interviews with board members. The analysis shows how board members work to construct broader forms of accountability beyond accountability to the funder, but then struggle to enact them. This paper provides in-depth insight into the challenges that non-profit board members face and offers a rare example of observational research on board behaviour.

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