Charity accountability in the UK: through the eyes of the donor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore accountability from the perspective of charity donors.

Design/methodology/approach – The research utilises semi-structured interviews with a range of donors. In addition, it summarises the main findings from key related research (that uses document content analysis and questionnaire surveys) as a basis for better appreciating donor engagement.

Findings – This research offers evidence that while donors are viewed as the key stakeholder to whom a charity should be accountable, the relevance of the information commonly disclosed in formal charity communications is questionable. This is viewed as significant in terms of small dependent donors, although less critical in the case of non-dependent large donors who have power to demand individualised information. However, although all donors do not particularly engage with these formal communications, they are viewed by them as having significance and their production and publication serves as an important legitimising tool in the sector (enhancing trust and reputation).

Research limitations/implications – This research is based on semi-structured interviews with individual small donors and large institutional donors to large UK charities and therefore any generalising of the conclusions beyond large charities, and beyond the UK, should be undertaken with care. In addition, it focuses solely on the perceptions of donors, and other stakeholder groups are also important in this process.

Originality/value – Despite the widespread acceptance that charities have a duty to discharge accountability to their stakeholders, there is limited knowledge of their information needs and whether the performance information currently being disclosed fulfils them. This study provides a unique insight into the perspective of a key stakeholder group (donors) with respect to accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259 - 278
JournalQualitative research in Accounting & Management
Issue number3/4
Early online date25 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2013


  • Accounting, Charities, Reporting, Stakeholders, United Kingdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Business and International Management


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