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Accountants’ perceptions of communication in not-for-profit organisations: inhibitors, enablers and strategies

Lyn Daff (School of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia)
Lee D. Parker (Department of Accounting, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) (Adam Smith Business School, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 11 August 2020

Issue publication date: 8 October 2020




The not-for-profit (NFP) context displays unique characteristics that include stakeholder diversity, multiple stakeholder agendas, and the pervasiveness of philanthropic values and related organisational mission. This study investigated accountants’ perceptions of NFPs’ characteristics that enable and inhibit their communication along with the strategies they adopt to overcome their communication challenges.


This qualitative interview-based study is informed by Giddens’ structuration theory. Thirty NFP accountants, from three Australian states, were interviewed. Thematic analysis was used to identify the relationships between NFP organisational characteristics and accountants’ communication strategies, and their interactions with organisational structures.


The study reveals important relationships between many stakeholders with limited financial acumen, organisational resource constraints, the currency of NFP information technologies, the dominance of operational mission over financial imperatives, and the supply of organisational accountants. Accountants’ structural adaptations emerge in their adopting multiple forms of communications reframing.

Research limitations/implications

The NFP environment exhibits a mix of characteristics, some of which pose challenges for accountants’ communication while others facilitate their communication.

Social implications

Increasingly, governments are relying on NFPs for the provision of services once provided by the state. Enhancing NFP accountants’ communication has the potential to improve outcomes for NFPs.


The study broadens prior research on accountants’ communication beyond formal written reporting to recognise and articulate their informal communication strategies.



The authors thank Dr Keith Howson for his support of this research project. The authors would like to acknowledge Professor Patrick Danaher and Professor Alan Lowe for their helpful suggestions on previous versions of this paper. The authors also acknowledge the financial support provided by the University of South Australia and Avondale University College that assisted with this research project.


Daff, L. and Parker, L.D. (2020), "Accountants’ perceptions of communication in not-for-profit organisations: inhibitors, enablers and strategies", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 1303-1333.



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