The Nature Conservancy, the Press and the Social Construction of Accountability
Stephenson, Max O. Jr.
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This paper explores the May 2003 Washington Post investigative articles concerning The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for their implications for our understanding of the dynamics of accountability for nonprofit organizations. This series strongly suggested that the governing board of the nation’s largest environmental organization had permitted untoward, if not illegal, land transactions that benefited individual Chapter board members, had, in the name of its stated desire to work with corporate partners, too often lost sight of its environmental mission and had “wasted” many thousands of dollars on community based projects on Virginia’s Eastern Shore that had no hope of success. In short, the Post articles suggested that Conservancy governors had failed in ethical terms, failed in fiduciary terms and failed in their responsibility to stay focused on the organization’s mission. Moreover, these failures had, according to the Post, profoundly broken trust with the organization’s stakeholders.