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Measuring performance in the third sector

Carolyn Cordery (School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand)
Rowena Sinclair (School of Business and Law, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 18 November 2013




The purpose of this paper is to set the scene for this special issue by synthesising the vast array of literature on performance measurement to examine what constitutes performance measurement, and why it is important for the third sector. It also analyses key issues of performance measurement and introduces the papers that comprise this special issue of Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management.


This paper takes the form of a literature review. The authors draw on extensive research on performance measurement from a diverse range of disciplines to identify and explore key definitions, opportunities and challenges with performance measurement in the third sector.


Economic/financial efficiency approaches, programme theories, strategic and participatory approaches all present opportunities and challenges when measuring performance in the third sector. The papers in this special issue demonstrate the manner in which different organisations have dealt with these.

Research limitations/implications

This special issue of Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management aims to stimulate qualitative research into performance measurement frameworks within the third sector both inside organisations and to their external stakeholders (supporters, clients and the general public).

Practical implications

Those charged with governance and management in the third sector organisations (TSOs) will seek to use appropriate approaches to measuring and managing performance in order to learn and to discharge accountability. The different aspects of performance measurement will also be of interest to funders, donors, and those who seek accountability from TSOs.


The categorisations of methods and approaches to performance measurement should guide researchers and practitioners alike. A future research programme is also derived.



Cordery, C. and Sinclair, R. (2013), "Measuring performance in the third sector", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 10 No. 3/4, pp. 196-212.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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