Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

December 9, 2020


Jannice Moore

Accountability: A Governance Imperative for Charities – and Others

The effects of the pandemic have created a significant hit on the bottom line for charities. As many businesses have scaled down or shut down, temporarily or permanently, resulting in job losses, an Angus Reid poll in Canada earlier this fall (even before the second COVID wave hit) indicated 37 per cent of those surveyed have been donating less.  That in itself presents a major challenge for charities.  Add the effect of any kind of a scandal related to charitable organizations. In Canada this fall we suffered through the WE charity scandal. The National Post  has described it as a “one-two gut punch” for charities, as donors become more skeptical about the trustworthiness of charities.  This is just one example. A quick search for “charity related scandals” brings up dozens more across the world.

All of this raises the question of accountability. The governing boards of charities – indeed of any organization – are accountable to someone else (unless the board members are literally the only owners). In the case of charities, that includes those who have invested money, time or other resources. 

Governance transparency and accountability are essential to the survival of many organizations.

True accountability is not achieved by boards either micro-managing operations or rubber-stamping management decisions with some vague notion of oversight. It begins with clarity. Clarity about delegation. Clarity about what results an organization is to achieve. Clarity about what organizational behaviours and situations are unacceptable. Clarity about who is accountable for what. Clarity about how performance will be evaluated.

Fortunately, there is a governance system that provides a framework for boards to achieve this clarity, and then having it, to follow through in order to demonstrate accountability for what has been entrusted to them. The Policy Governance® model developed by Dr. John Carver is a system of ten inter-related and inter-dependent principles designed to help a board govern effectively and efficiently. A board using this system can clearly enunciate its expectations, clearly delegate them, hold those delegated accountable by requiring actual data demonstrating achievement (not just activity reports), and thus in turn be able to demonstrate accountability to those on whose behalf it governs. The system requires the board to exercise self-discipline, but that is not a bad thing.  Any individual or team that wishes to excel must do the same.  It’s a small price to pay for the success (in some cases, even the survival) of your organization.

If you would like to learn more, contact us at Our expert consultants can help you get started, and support your governance journey to excellence, which includes accountability.



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