This paper aims to examine the puzzles of “ownership”, the legal and psychological commitment of directors, through the experience of the work of boards at non-profit organisations.
An exploration of the literature on charity governance leads to a first-person reflection on the tensions in directing two common types of non-profit organisations.
In the UK as in other countries, charities are companies, bound by company law as well as regulatory constraints of the non-profit sector. This creates responsibilities of ownership without the material benefits. In contrast to corporate share ownership, a sense of psychological ownership may pre-date appointment as a director, facilitating stewardship behaviour, facilitating stewardship and accountability.
This paper calls for expanded empirical work on boards of non-profit organisations, giving a focused agenda of aspects to highlight the differences between charities and the corporate sector.
The focus on psychological ownership can influence recruitment, induction and organisation of the work of charity boards, helping to ease resource deficits.
With pressure mounting in deliver of public services, the charity sector needs to fill growing gaps in provision. The constitution of boards plays a valuable role.
By incorporating psychological ownership in a framework of accountability, this paper points towards both a research agenda and practical considerations for charity boards.
Nordberg, D. (2021), "Who’s in charge, in whose interest? The experience of ownership and accountability in the charity sector", Management Research Review, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 460-476. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-04-2020-0190
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