The purpose of this paper is to investigate how trustees of small English registered charities understand and own the reporting and accounting requirements with which their charities must comply.
The research described is a multi-pronged qualitative and inductive study of three small Yorkshire charities as they approve their annual accounts. The case studies are based on observations of trustee meetings and interviews with a range of trustees and their independent examiner or auditor. The use of a practice lens focuses on the behaviours of individuals to understand the sense that they make of their charity’s accounts.
Trustees' understanding of their financial statements is limited; they tend to rely on key individuals who have knowledge. Group responsibility creates a shared way of understanding the financial statements. Treasurers and independent examiners simplify information for the trustees even resorting to corner cutting and rule bending. Narrative reporting is given very little attention. Trustees read their financial statements as a report to them not by them; accountability notwithstanding, thus ownership of their financial statements is conferred not intrinsic.
The findings are drawn from three specific case studies and therefore cannot be generalised, but they offer rich qualitative insights into small charities’ accounting and reporting.
This research provides a unique multi-viewpoint analysis of charity practices, and through its use of a practice lens dives deeper into examining trustees’ understanding and behaviour.
Thompson, J. and Morgan, G. (2020), "Conferred ownership: approval of financial statements by small charities", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-04-2018-0029Download as .RIS
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