A contingency-based accountability and governance framework for the non-profit sector in the post-COVID-19 era

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Purpose: The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused significant disruptions to the non-profit sector, highlighting the issues that the narrowly focused, traditional conception of governance fails to address. The purpose of this paper is to propose a contingency-based framework with its theoretical underpinnings in the existing literature, in order to support future empirical research on non-profit governance and accountability practices. Design/methodology/approach: From a theoretical perspective, this paper synthesizes relevant existing literature and proposes a contingency-based accountability and governance framework in the non-profit sector. This paper draws on Ostrower and Stone’s (2010) contingency-based framework on boards and Hyndman and McDonnell’s (2009) conception of governance systems. This paper engages with the New Zealand and Australia context while reviewing relevant literature and relevant regulations. Findings: The global pandemic has caused severe worldwide disruptions both socially and economically. There have been dramatic changes to the ways in which non-profit organisations (NPOs) operate. There is an urgent need to understand how such changes in the external environment impact on NPOs’ governance and accountability practices. In this context, the contingency-based accountability and governance framework proposed in this paper has important implications for non-profit research, while opening up an avenue for future research in this field. Research limitations/implications: This paper does not involve empirical analysis. Practical implications: This paper contributes by facilitating better understanding on how external contingencies like the COVID-19 global pandemic affect the external and internal environment of an NPO, how they impact on stakeholders and their interplay with an NPO’s governance and accountability systems. It also suggests that regulators of the non-profit sector, umbrella support organisations, and funders proactively encourage and guide NPOs to embrace a wider scope of governance and strengthen the level of governance in the sector. Originality/value: This paper contributes to the literature by proposing a contingency-based accountability and governance framework in the non-profit sector to support future research in this field. It also sheds light on competing theoretical debates relating to the conceptualisation and operationalization of accountability and governance.
Pacific Accounting Review, 2023, 35 (1), pp. 50 - 65