Publication Details

This conference paper was originally presented as Irvine, HJ, How financial statements enhance(d) the long-term survival of an international religious/charitable organisation, In G. Carnegie (Eds.), The 2nd Accounting History International Conference (p. 23377). Deakin University.


The Salvation Army is a large international religious/charitable organisation with a high profile in Australia. In recent years, the profile of its financial reports has grown, particularly in the context of corporate fundraising. This is one manifestation of the importance for the Army, over its history, of a sound financial reputation. It has always relied heavily on external funds to continue its operations, and its financial statements are, and have been, a useful means by which its image has been enhanced, and it has established a legitimate claim for these funds. The Salvation Army's founding and early years, in the second half of the 19th century in England, provide evidence of this early legitimising role of its financial statements. This is consistent with institutional theory, which emphasises the importance of such legitimacy, but challenges the notion, prevalent in academic literature on accounting in religious organisations, that there is a resistance to the use of accounting as a "secular" activity in an organisation with a "sacred" mission. While techniques and presentation have changed, the need for a resource-dependent organisation like The Salvation Army to create an acceptable financial image in the eyes of the public, has not changed.