Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Accountability Reporting in Austrian Non-Profit Organizations-More Than a Compliance Instrument?

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Accountability Reporting in Austrian Non-Profit Organizations-More Than a Compliance Instrument?

Article excerpt


Resource providers for non-profit organizations (NPOs) increasingly expect that NPOs demonstrate how they perform and whether they are managed both efficiently and effectively (LeRoux & Wright, 2010; Moxham, 2010). Thus we can observe an increase in (institutional) pressure to introduce performance measurement (PM) systems in the non-profit sector (Greiling, 2009; Lynch-Ceruello & Cooney, 2011; Murray, 2010). One can see a significant change from a "trust me" to a "prove me" culture. There is not only a pressure for "doing well while doing good" as Kanter and Summers (1987) stated more than two decades ago but also a pressure to document and communicate it. Funder-imposed accountability obligations which bring along increased reporting requirements as well as quality prizes and quality audits are symptoms of this development (LeRoux & Wright, 2010; Moxham, 2010).

Performance measurement systems are advocated not only to promote accountability but also as a management accounting technique for decision-facilitating and decision-influencing purposes (e.g., Chong & Eggleton, 2003; Demski & Feltham, 1976; Hall, 2010). From an instrumental perspective, PM systems can have a diagnostic focus or one on organizational directing (incl. strategy implementation and promoting organizational learning). Such purposes are in line with performance measurement systems as an internal management tool. These brief remarks indicate that there are different types of performance measurement systems. Therefore one has to take into account in an empirical study the type of performance measurement system employed.

Using PM systems as an accountability tool for external stakeholders (Carman, 2007; Ebrahim, 2010; Moxham, 2009) is most prominent in literature which suggests that external accountability is a key driver for non-profit PM systems. Often they are implemented to comply with funder-imposed accountability obligations (as a compliance instrument). Here the question arises how the funders influence the design of an NPO's performance measurement system.

Studies concentrating on how NPOs balance both internal management needs and external accountability reporting obligations are very hard to find. This type of study is still in a nascent state. Up to now we only have the three findings by Moxham who found a clear dominance of external accountability over internal coordination purposes. Her findings are based on the qualitative analysis in six British NPOs (Moxham, 2009 & 2010). Our contribution poses the following research questions with respect to NPOs in Austria:

1. What types of performance measurement systems are employed by Austrian NPOs in the social, healthcare and animal protection sectors and for which instrumental purposes?

2. How do NPOs balance external accountability reporting obligations and internal management needs within the PM systems they implement?

3. Can NPOs develop their performance measurement systems independently or do crucial resource providers have a voice in the development? Are there differences according to the organizations' funding structure, i.e. between NPOs relying mainly on public money and those relying on funds by donors or members?

To address the aforementioned research gap, this paper contributes to advancing the PM systems research in NPOs by linking the question of design and implementation of a performance measurement system to that of external stakeholder pressures in terms of accountability obligations. Furthermore, we discuss some possible contingency factors based on stakeholder theory, contingency theory and resource dependence theory--namely the factors size, funding structure, and power base--in order to investigate whether they have an influence on the extent NPOs comply with funders' accountability expectations.

The paper is organized as follows: the next section presents the theoretical background including our propositions on possible contingency factors. …

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