Accountability basically refers to an organization being answerable to a third party. It refers to the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.
Aspects of Accountability
As an NGO you are accountable to donors, project partners, local communities and considering these, experts have suggested four aspects of accountability for an NGO.
- Upward Accountability: This refers to the responsibility of an NGO towards being accountable to funders, donors and government institutions. As an organization you are answerable to donors and funders about how you will be utilizing their money.
- Horizontal Accountability: This refers to being responsible with project partners, peers and related organizations. This also includes enhancing partnerships and collaborations with other organizations and stakeholders.
- Downward Accountability: This means that as an organization you are responsible towards your beneficiaries and the target audience. You have received funding from a donor for the upliftment and improvement of lives of these beneficiaries and therefore you are answerable to them. Along with being accountable to them you also should involve them with the project implementation.
- Internal Accountability: One of the most important aspects of accountability is to be answerable to your own employees and your organizations mission. It means that you have ethical standards and governance structures and justify your organizations core value.
Most often NGOs give more importance to enhance external accountability and give little or no importance to other forms of accountability. This guide has been drafted keeping in mind all the aspects of accountability.
Importance of Accountability
You might be wondering that your organization has been doing exemplary social work for the last few decades and for these years you never worried about being accountable, so why this fuss?
The following points will help you understand the importance of accountability.
- Improved relations with donors and funders: Most donor agencies prefer organizations that have well built accounting mechanisms.
- Financial security: With proper accounting and audits you are can ensure that all your transactions are secure and you are able to keep a check on money.
- Greater involvement of communities: Local communities tend to get involved with NGOs that have shown accountability in the past. Communities will support your cause and will participate in your project implementation.
- Facilitates partnerships and collaborations: Proper accountability tools will facilitate in developing partnerships with other organizations and agencies.
- Greater employability: Your staff will continue to work with you as they would feel secure to work for an organization that is credible.
- Improved performance: Accountability tools help you to keep check on your activities thereby improving your performance. Research reveals that NGOs with regulatory mechanisms are more effective in terms of their performance and impact.
Mechanisms to ensure accountability
This section provides you with some tools that can be used to ensure accountability.
- Accreditations and certifications:
- Annual Reports
- Financial Reports
- Third Party Audits and Evaluation
- Publicize your activities
- Develop your own set of self regulation procedures
- Stakeholder Feedback Reports
- Contact Information
- Improve communication channels
- Initiating partnerships with renowned entities
- Get recognized for your work
- Conduct due diligence before partnering with a new organization
- Make the list of trustees and board members public
- Strengthen human resource policies
- Appoint a rating agency or watchdog firm
- Adopt ethical fundraising methods
- Clearly defined Membership Procedure
The issue of NGO accountability has recently gained popularity and in the coming time will become a very important aspect in NGO management. Although International NGOs and few regional NGOs have been using various methods to enhance accountability for quite some time now; it is only recently that accountability questions are also being raised for small entities as well.
We hope that you can adopt few tips from this guide to make your organization more accountable and credible.