Non-profit arts managers as multi-stakeholder managers: the plate-spinning of accountability

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This paper identifies that more can be understood about how accountability operates within an increasingly complex non-profit environment by applying stakeholder theory to the study of managers in non-profit theatre organisations (NPTOs). On the surface, this may sound simple or appear to be ground already covered. Accountability has already been recognised largely as a social construct made meaningful through stakeholder relationships (Balser &McClusky, 2005; Ebrahim, 2003; Mitchell, 2015). However, the research discussed here opens up this discussion to new thoughts on how non-profit managers are compromised in their roles in the face of multi-stakeholder complexity(Johansen & Nielsen, 2016; Mitchell, Weaver, Agle, Bailey, & Carlson,2016) and dominant stakeholder demands (Bridoux & Vishwanathan, 2018).Deriving its findings from a wider study of non-profit theatre in the UK (FitzGibbon, 2019b), this paper poses some thoughts about the subjective, multiple and highly complex forms of accountability at play within NPTOs and suggest that the response to these accountabilities is guided by managerial attention to dominant players, by the highly interdependent relationships within a given sector of activity, and in consideration of degrees of self-interest both at individual managerial and organisational level. This study suggests debate on the assumed correlation between effectiveness and accountability, suggesting no one organisation can be deemed ‘effective’ given the multiple conflicting interpretations and directions of accountability that exist. Managers at the centre of decision-making face leadership expectations and competing claims for attention leading to paralysis and burnout. With NPTOs (and their managers) sitting at the vanguard of new more complex non-profit models of business, it suggests more study of NPTOs and non-profit arts organisations could yield greater knowledge of the effect of multi-stakeholder management in understanding managerial accountability and decision-making in contemporary non-profit management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFinancial Accountability & Management
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021


  • stakeholder
  • accountability
  • arts management
  • non-profit management


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