In the light of our experience with the two non-profit organizations (NPOs)—one in the cultural sector, one in the human service sector—discussed in Chapter 4, we licked our wounds and pondered the, mainly negative, implications of going into discussions with agencies with a predetermined normative model of what information agencies should have if they were to live up to our high standards of internal and external accountability. Suitably humbled, we decided that a more modest, and more thorough, approach would be to start from the bottom up, ask agencies what information they currently had, and what they would like to have, and use this as a basis for some normative suggestions—for prescription that would be rooted in agency experience and needs. The opportunity arose to do detailed case studies of four human service NPOs—those described below, and the mental health organization discussed in the previous chapter—in Victoria, British Columbia (BC).
The objective of this part of the research is therefore to develop a proposal for a set of standards for performance reporting in human service NPOs; the argument is addressed primarily to client service programmes, but is also adapted to include fund-raising programmes. Interest in the subject reflects the increasing role that NPOs in BC are being required to play as the provincial government retreats from the delivery of social services, and arose specifically from the wide variety of forms of performance reporting in the absence of reporting standards, and the associated difficulties faced by NPOs in accommodating the varied and changing information requirements of public and private funders, and other users of performance information such as clients, volunteers, management and staff.
Conceptually, the paper draws on three of the perspectives on accountability discussed in Chapter 1: What accountability information is needed? When is it needed? And by whom is it needed? With respect to the first question, in broad terms we excluded procedural matters related to compliance with authorities and divided accountability information into two