Giving Compass' Take:

• Natalia Winberry argues that accountability for nonprofits should be focused on the populations they serve, rather than governments, funders, and other stakeholders.

• Are organizations doing enough to listen to the needs of communities? How can we increase the modes of transparency in this so-called "downward accountability" effort?

• Read about myths in nonprofit accountability.

As organizations serving public interests, nonprofits answer to the voices of multiple stakeholders. The complex accountability relationships facing nonprofit organizations include responsibilities to donors, clients, community partners, staff members and volunteers. Under pressure from multiple stakeholders, nonprofits tend to prioritize accountability to donors, foundations, and governments over accountability to clients and the populations served by the organization. However, by seeking out the voices of the people they serve, nonprofit organizations can embrace their responsibilities and improve their organizations.

By improving downward accountability, defined as accountability to the populations nonprofits serve, organizations can meet their obligations to clients and others affected by the services and programs of a nonprofit. Nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to embrace client perspectives, as serving clients often represents a primary purpose for many non-profits. Improving downward accountability benefits nonprofits by empowering the individuals they serve, improving the legitimacy of the organization, and enhancing organizational effectiveness. Even as different stakeholders demand their share of responsiveness from the organization, improving organizational effectiveness should appeal to most non-profit stakeholders.

Improving mechanisms for downward accountability offers the people served by nonprofits both choice and voice in the services they receive. By strengthening downward accountability, nonprofit leaders can improve their organizations and ensure they meet their responsibilities to those they serve.

Read the full article about improving accountability for nonprofits by Natalia Winberry at ASU Lodestar Center.