Accounting as a mediating instrument in charitable organisations

Elisa Henderson, V. Lambert

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


At the core of many charitable organisations, a strong ethos of ‘doing good’ exists. In this paper, the role of accounting as a mediating instrument (Miller & O’Leary, 2007) is used to examine the relationship between the social mission of a charity and funding demands. Using an in depth case study into a Scottish children’s health charity, the development of accounting and wider calculative practices is found to refine the means by which charitable mission is achieved. Responding to the requirements to report on outcomes and achievements to large scale funders, the charity enrols calculative practices to render it achievements visible. Concurrently, the calculative practices impact on its front line activities, although the core mission remains consistent over time. The change in approach is considered a move towards a ‘professional service’ – one which not only does good but becomes adept at demonstrating it too. The paper contributes to the literature on accounting as mediating instrument and on accounting’s role in charity relationships with external funders (Thompson & Williams, 2014), as well as the literature which explores mission drift in charities (Bennett & Savani, 2011).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Apr 2015
EventAccounting Society and the Environment Workshop - Heriot Watt, University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Apr 20151 Apr 2015


ConferenceAccounting Society and the Environment Workshop
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Accounting, Charities, Mission Drift, Mediating Instruments, UK


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