NGO Accountability and Transparency


The topic of NGO accountability continues to be a sensitive and complex subject to raise given its multi-faceted nature. The rising number of NGOs and the influential power they possess has brought their credibility and legitimacy into question. As a result, NGOs have responded differently to the call for more accountability and transparency; some have voluntarily established self-regulatory mechanisms while others submit themselves to external audits.

But what does it mean to be accountable and transparent?

Accountability is a very large term and encompasses several concepts. Simply put, accountability is about being responsible to a third party for actions taken, being able to explain, clarify, justify and accept responsibility for actions taken and transparency is about being easy to understand, being open, frank, honest and accessible in all communications, transactions, and operations.

SOURCE: Adapted from

All NGO stakeholders expect accountability and transparency. The Board of Directors, staff, donors, members, partners, volunteers, trustees, and of course, those you serve seek to be reassured that there are no discrepancies between what your NGO says, and, what it actually does.

There are major benefits to being accountable and transparent in your operations:

  • Increase financial donors- Companies, like NGOs, seek relationships with organizations that are void of scandals and financial mismanagement.
  • Foster mutual respect and trust between NGOs, funders, partners, and supporters- Proper accountability practices demonstrates your NGOs’ reliability and credibility; this encourages beneficial partnerships and collaborations with other organizations.
  • Boost your reputation and secure greater commitment from staff, volunteers, and communities- People tend to commit to organizations that have a trustworthy reputation.
  • Improve effectiveness- Sound organizational decisions that serve to improve performance can be made based on financial reports, checks, and audits

It’s clear that the importance of accountability and transparency to the success of your NGO should not be underestimated. If there are currently no mechanisms in place to demonstrate these qualities, it’s time to reevaluate your organization’s reputation amongst its stakeholders.

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