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The role of annual reports in a system of accountability for public fundraising charities

Flack, Edmund Douglas (2007) The role of annual reports in a system of accountability for public fundraising charities. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Charities are important in modern Australian society because they provide a substantial proportion of the health, community welfare, education and religious services available in the community (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002). Yet despite their social and economic importance, charities are often characterised in the media as being less accountable than either for-profit entities or government sector organisations. Annual reports are widely regarded as an important means of acquitting accountability in the corporate and government sectors and may be one of the means by which charities can improve stakeholders' perceptions of their accountability. Yet little is known of the annual reporting behaviours of charities or whether annual reports have the potential for improving perceptions of accountability among their stakeholders and the wider community.

This research focuses on a class of charities termed &quotpublic fundraising charities" (those that raise funds from the public rather than just their members), and the role that annual reports play in acquitting accountability and improving perceptions. The research uses a new combination of theories that have previously been used separately to explain accountability and annual reports in other sectors, and using the insights from these theories, examines the role of annual reports in a population of public fundraising charities in Queensland.

The major findings of this research are that annual reports have both functional and symbolic roles in the system of accountability of public fundraising charities. Functionally, annual reports are a useful and generally valued means by which public fundraising charities communicate a wide range of types of information about their activities and their performance to interested parties. Symbolically, annual reports also serve as an important signal of assurance to those who receive them. For those who prepare them, annual reports serve as useful signals of managerial and governance competence to those whose opinion is salient to preparers. Annual reports also have a role in the system of accountability for the maintenance of the mission of these organisations, in ways that statutory reports and returns do not.

This research makes three original contributions to the literature. First, it provides for the first time a detailed analysis of the role of annual reports in a system of accountability for public fundraising charities in Australia. Second, a new theoretical lens is proposed and tested for its descriptive and explanatory power in the examination the accountability of nonprofit organisations. Third, it makes an original contribution to accountability theory by identifying the importance of the annual report as a quality signaling device. The results of this research will be of use to public fundraising charities, regulators and policy makers, as they respond to the calls for charities to demonstrate that they are accountable.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16362
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ryan, Christine& McGregor-Lowndes, Myles
Keywords: nonprofit organisations, charities, accountability, annual Reports, regulation, fundraising
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Department: Faculty of Business
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Edmund Douglas Flack
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 14:01
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 05:46

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