GLD Working Papers

NGO Accountability from an NGO Perspective: Their Perceptions, Strategies, and Practices

Khaldoun AbouAssi and Deborah L. Trent


Extant research in the nonprofit literature focuses on NGO accountability, framing it relationally. We examine the interplay of several constitutive elements of NGO–donor relationships based on narratives of NGO executives: NGO perceptions of accountability and of their donors, their assumptions about donor perceptions of the NGO role and expectations of NGO accountability, and their responses to shifts in donor funding. We argue that perceptions and practices of accountability not only determine to whom an NGO should be primarily accountable but also shape NGO behavior and alter dependence on donors. As such, accountability is not necessarily a consequence of a relationship but more likely a constitutive element of the relationship. While a favorable response to donor interests might signify upward accountability, it might also suggest that NGOs are more assertive about managing their institutional environments and thereby mitigate their dependence on donors.