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“Accountability is closely related with programme evaluation and reporting which will be best done when organisations take it from a “collaboration” or “partnership” perspective.”

Talking about accountability to the donor, most of the grant-recipient organizations would say “Yes, it is an important task and we have always been doing it.” True as it is, there are tremendous diversities in the comprehension of the concept which naturally imply a whole lot of differences when the concept is translated into action. Accountability is closely related with program evaluation1 and is in one way manifested by reporting------needless to say, faithful reporting.
 

Some take it merely as a requirement. On the organization side, the less requirements, the better. This is certainly understandable when they have tons of workload piling up the office. With this passive perspective, it is not surprising that these organizations will try to find ways to avoid reporting or to do the least in reporting just to comply with the “requirement”. This may end up with writing as briefly as possible just to tell the actual financials and a summary of activities launched. Some would stay ready to answer to the donor’s queries while some may even celebrate at not being asked by the donor for supplementary information so that they can save a piece of paper work, not knowing that this short-term comfort may lead to long-term opportunity loss. Good reporting is conducive to the building of trust with the donor and requires the initiative of the organization.

 

Some take it as a fundamental responsibility. These organizations are perfectly aware of the significance of reporting in relation to accountability and try to report more comprehensively to the donor. They would report what they have achieved in terms of numbers as well as impact, as against what they have pledged when the grant is committed to them. However, there are instances when they assume that the donors do not bother those “professional or technical concepts” because they would not understand them anyway. Hence they become reluctant to report “how” they have achieved (or not achieved the impacts). To the donors, planned impacts being successfully achieved are certainly pleasing news, but the logic behind, i.e. how they are measured have to make sense too, or else they would only look like a self-consolation happy ending. The above assumption has obviously overlooked the point that many donors do take an assertive attitude of learning during the grant process. The spirit of giving often goes hand in hand with the spirit of learning.

 

Some take it from a “collaboration” or “partnership” perspective. These organizations consider reporting as a means of sharing their program or work with the donor; and they would do so irrespective of the presence or absence of requirements raised by the donor. On this basis they feel comfortable to share what they have and have not achieved; and more importantly, how and why. Professional or technical concepts in the process of the program or impact assessment would not be avoided or omitted but instead, appropriately explained. Of course there would still be a compromise when the concepts are really so technical that only a simplified version needs to be presented. Nevertheless such report reveals an attitude open to possible applause or critics by the donor or the other stake holders, and a view to improvements in future. Indeed to many donors the essence of giving in one aspect lies in the sharing with the grantee of the vision of a worthy cause, witnessing the program(s) being put into reality, the wisdom learned and the review of fruits or lessons gained in the entire process of the program. This is particularly true when donors give for long-term or large-scale programs.

 

The above discussions coincide with “informed giving” mentioned by Willie Cheng2. It means the donors “pay on the basis of outcomes and value delivered to the beneficiaries……It is asking donors to give on an informed basis, knowing what, why and how the charity is doing what it is supposed to do.” Undoubtedly, over the past decades philanthropists have moved forward from un-informed giving to “informed giving” to which grant-recipient organizations should respond positively and bravely with actions.

 

Connie Tsang, Executive Director


1. Rex A. Skidmore, “Social Work Administration, Dynamic Management and Human Relationships”, (3rd ed.), Allyn & Bacon A Simon & Schuster Company, 1995.
2. Willie Cheng, “Doing Good Well”, John Wiley & Sons (Asia) Pte. Ltd, Singapore, 2009

Talking about accountability to the donor, most of the grant-recipient organizations would say “Yes, it is an important task and we have always been doing it.” True as it is, there are tremendous diversities in the comprehension of the concept which naturally imply a whole lot of differences when the concept is translated into action. Accountability is closely related with program evaluation1 and is in one way manifested by reporting------needless to say, faithful reporting.
 

Some take it merely as a requirement. On the organization side, the less requirements, the better. This is certainly understandable when they have tons of workload piling up the office. With this passive perspective, it is not surprising that these organizations will try to find ways to avoid reporting or to do the least in reporting just to comply with the “requirement”. This may end up with writing as briefly as possible just to tell the actual financials and a summary of activities launched. Some would stay ready to answer to the donor’s queries while some may even celebrate at not being asked by the donor for supplementary information so that they can save a piece of paper work, not knowing that this short-term comfort may lead to long-term opportunity loss. Good reporting is conducive to the building of trust with the donor and requires the initiative of the organization.

 

Some take it as a fundamental responsibility. These organizations are perfectly aware of the significance of reporting in relation to accountability and try to report more comprehensively to the donor. They would report what they have achieved in terms of numbers as well as impact, as against what they have pledged when the grant is committed to them. However, there are instances when they assume that the donors do not bother those “professional or technical concepts” because they would not understand them anyway. Hence they become reluctant to report “how” they have achieved (or not achieved the impacts). To the donors, planned impacts being successfully achieved are certainly pleasing news, but the logic behind, i.e. how they are measured have to make sense too, or else they would only look like a self-consolation happy ending. The above assumption has obviously overlooked the point that many donors do take an assertive attitude of learning during the grant process. The spirit of giving often goes hand in hand with the spirit of learning.
 

Some take it from a “collaboration” or “partnership” perspective. These organizations consider reporting as a means of sharing their program or work with the donor; and they would do so irrespective of the presence or absence of requirements raised by the donor. On this basis they feel comfortable to share what they have and have not achieved; and more importantly, how and why. Professional or technical concepts in the process of the program or impact assessment would not be avoided or omitted but instead, appropriately explained. Of course there would still be a compromise when the concepts are really so technical that only a simplified version needs to be presented. Nevertheless such report reveals an attitude open to possible applause or critics by the donor or the other stake holders, and a view to improvements in future. Indeed to many donors the essence of giving in one aspect lies in the sharing with the grantee of the vision of a worthy cause, witnessing the program(s) being put into reality, the wisdom learned and the review of fruits or lessons gained in the entire process of the program. This is particularly true when donors give for long-term or large-scale programs.

 

The above discussions coincide with “informed giving” mentioned by Willie Cheng2. It means the donors “pay on the basis of outcomes and value delivered to the beneficiaries……It is asking donors to give on an informed basis, knowing what, why and how the charity is doing what it is supposed to do.” Undoubtedly, over the past decades philanthropists have moved forward from un-informed giving to “informed giving” to which grant-recipient organizations should respond positively and bravely with actions.

 

Connie Tsang, Executive Director


1. Rex A. Skidmore, “Social Work Administration, Dynamic Management and Human Relationships”, (3rd ed.), Allyn & Bacon A Simon & Schuster Company, 1995.
2. Willie Cheng, “Doing Good Well”, John Wiley & Sons (Asia) Pte. Ltd, Singapore, 2009