When reviewing the literature, a dearth of empirical research on accountability of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) towards their beneficiaries is observed. Most of the studies that do pay attention to this stakeholder group are characterized by important limitations.
By answering five questions, this study attempts to overcome some of these limitations:
- What mechanisms do NPOs use to gain insight in beneficiaries’ needs and objectives and to allow these stakeholders to have impact on organizational policymaking?
- What is the quality of these mechanisms?
- In comparison to other stakeholders, to what extent have beneficiaries or their representatives an impact?
- Which organizational effects are associated with their involvement in policymaking?
- In what way does each mechanism influence the organizational effects of beneficiaries’ or their representatives’ involvement in policymaking, and is this effect mediated by their impact?
Data were collected by surveying executive directors of 790 Belgian NPOs, representing 14 different industries. To answer the first four questions, descriptive statistics were used. A path analysis was performed to answer the last question.
Results show that the vast majority of NPOs implement mechanisms to involve beneficiaries and their representatives in organizational policymaking, mechanisms that vary between industries in type and quality. Despite the existence of such mechanisms, their association with impact on policymaking and therewith associated potential organizational effects is rather weak but positive, irrespective of industry.