Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Charities and Good Governance: A Case for a Common Measure for Public Accountability

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Charities and Good Governance: A Case for a Common Measure for Public Accountability

Article excerpt


Over the past century, American citizens have witnessed a revolution in philanthropy. Mass philanthropic efforts have taken off in a wide variety of fields. In one of the nation's earliest organized mass efforts, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the March of Dimes in the 1930's. Community chests have sprung up in every major city, and organizations such as the Red Cross, United Way, Goodwill Community Foundation, and others have taken volunteerism and raising financial contributions to new levels. Today, it is possible for practically every citizen willing to spend a little money to respond directly to community, national, or world needs almost instantly simply by sitting down at a computer or picking up a cell phone (Zumk, 12/23/11).

According to Giving USA, in 2012 philanthropic giving in the U.S. amounted to $316 billion, approximately 2% of the Nation's GDP. The majority of these funds, 72% were given by individuals. The general social expectation is that these funds will be used to perform 'good works' efficiently and effectively. Donors want as much of their money as possible to go toward saving lives and rebuilding their communities. The fact that we give to philanthropic organizations is critical for our society because we have no shortage of human catastrophes and urgent causes.

The general expectation is that charities will govern themselves according to the trust and social responsibility expected of them. Of course, this type of 'accountability' can have many meanings. It means, among other things, a willingness of an individual or organization to accept responsibility for its activities, money, or other entrusted property. You are expected to disclose the results and use of the funds in a transparent manner. Governments also have fiduciary responsibility through their public policy decisions and laws affecting charities and citizens.


Public policy can be analyzed in many ways and from a variety of theoretical and ethical perspectives. Therefore, it is useful for the researcher to first consider policy analysis in terms of the results the study is designed to generate. This study assesses the ability of current tax policies to promote measures of efficiency and effectiveness by charitable organizations in delivering services. Ultimately, the study goals are to clarify the nature of the problem and provide advice to decision-makers. The study analyzes existing literature and data sources on fund raising and spending among charitable organizations to assess the adequacy of public policy and safeguards against abuse. It draws freely upon an accumulated multidisciplinary stock of knowledge. Books, professional journals, research studies, government documents, expert opinion, and media reports were the primary information sources. In examining these resources, emphasis is placed on the complexity of the decision-making processes that are generated from multi-centered charitable giving centers, including individuals, community, and governmental. The discussion examines the growth of philanthropic giving in the U.S., highlights abuse by unscrupulous organizations, and describes public and private efforts to enable consumers to better assess the performance of charitable organizations. The implications for future public policy through the Federal tax code and charitable rating systems are also examined. The study contributes to the accumulative body of knowledge by facilitating an informed debate and public policy decision-making.


From the public's perspective, when you give money to a charity, it's reasonable to expect the money will go to, well, the charity. It is well known that these donations sometimes go astray. There's an entire industry of 'charities' that are masterful at raising money that overwhelmingly goes to the paid companies that do the fund raising or to high administrative costs. …

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