Trust, transparency, and legitimacy in NGO-donor relations

Vincent Charles Keating, Erla Thrandardottir

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Since the 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have faced increased scrutiny by academics, practitioners, and governments over the sources of their trustworthiness and legitimacy, often pointing to increased transparency as a solution to alleged deficiencies in these categories. In almost all of these critiques, trustworthiness and legitimacy are treated as interchangeable goals, sometimes reduced to floating signifiers of ethical merit that are then inexorably linked to particular favoured solutions. The purpose of this paper is to analytically separate out the difference between trustworthiness and legitimacy in NGO-donor relationships, focusing particularly on how the two terms have different social qualities and therefore differential importance to the relationship. It then proceeds to consider how this analytical separation helps to defend or criticize different transparency proposals as an appropriate means for NGOs to achieve both trustworthiness and legitimacy among their donor audiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Relations
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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