Skip to Content

Banner for HDR Expo 2012

Jessica Chen

First Name: Jessica
Surname: Chen
Department Dept of Accounting and Corporate Governance
Supervisor(s): Associate Professor Maria Dyball , Dr Alan Kilgore

Email Student

View Jessica Chen's profile

Paper Title

Accountability Mechanisms in the Australian Not-for-Profit Sector


This study aims to examine factors that will help explain how not-for-profit organizations (NFPs) account to stakeholders.


The project adds to the existing literature by linking Mitchell, Agle, and Wood’s (1997) construct of stakeholder salience and Ebrahim’s (2003) framework of accountability mechanisms. It is the first study that combines and tests the relationship of items in these two models.

Key literature/theoretical perspective

Ebrahim (2003) summarises five broad accountability mechanisms practiced by NFPs. Consistent with prior studies (e.g. O’Dwyer and Unerman, 2008), NFPs are found to prioritize their upward accountability to funders and donors at the expense of downward accountability to clients.


Data were collected by a self-administered mail-based survey questionnaire. Regression analyses were conducted to analyze the hypotheses.

Research limitations/implications

Only one downward accountability mechanism (i.e. participation) was examined in this study. It did not explore the informal mechanisms that NFP employ to account to clients. Further research is also required to examine the sub-groups of each accountability mechanism.

Practical and Social implications

The study provides further evidence that NFPs primarily discharge their upward accountability to funders and donors. Also, the government plays a significant role in shaping NFPs’ accountability practices. To enhance NFPs’ downward accountability, clients need to be empowered in the decision making process.


Accountability mechanisms, not-for-profit, stakeholders, salience, power