Guide to Financial Management


'Accountability' means explaining what you have done and taking responsibility for the results of your actions. This includes explaining how you have used funds.

Accountability is a word that is often used, but little understood! It is a critical issue for NGOs to engage with properly, because NGOs are entrusted with resources to manage on behalf of beneficiaries. They need to transparently explain the results of their actions.

Two types of accountability

  • Downward accountability
    NGOs recognise that they have to be accountable to the people they aim to help. This is known as 'downward accountability'.  NGOs work effectively when they work closely with beneficiaries.
  • Upward accountability
    'Upward accountability' to senior managers, trustees and donors is also very important, as these people provide funds and are responsible for making sure that money is used effectively.

There is a lot of debate around the question of accountability in the NGO sector at the moment. In particular, influential authors argue that 'upward accountability' has over-shadowed 'downward accountability', and that NGOs tend to have difficulty putting downward accountability into practice.


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