Across the world, charities and voluntary organisations face increased public expectations of transparency and, perhaps relatedly, increased requirements to file annual reports with regulators. This reporting includes not only financial data, illuminating the financial position and sustainability of these organisations, but also, critically for this sector, a range of (non-financial and narrative) performance information that can help us to evaluate these organisations’ progress towards their missions. In many countries this data has also become more accessible: often publicly available at no cost from regulators and/or other intermediaries.
In this chapter we argue that annual reporting data represents a potential goldmine for researchers seeking to understand the fundamentals of voluntary organisations and the sector at large, especially for organisations registered as charities. We reflect on our own ‘journey’ in researching an article using content analysis of annual reporting data to understand international regulatory approaches. A key aspect of that journey involved building on past research in the area for our research design. In this chapter we use this example and other recent research to highlight opportunities and challenges for further research.
We use the term content analysis loosely to cover a range of analysis types of information that may take a variety of forms, including quantitative and qualitative information. This chapter does not seek to redefine content analysis – the following sections demonstrate that the term is used quite broadly in prior research. Content analysis is widely used in for-profit (‘capital market’) studies, with researchers often utilising large databases and statistical methods to search for explanations of cause and effect.
Hager and Brudney (2004, 2005) developed a Net Benefits Index (NBI) to measure the performance of volunteer programmes. Their benchmarking tool scores an organisation's performance against six specific benefits and eight recognised challenges that organisations face in recruiting and managing volunteers. This article extends the NBI by demonstrating its use as an internal programme evaluation tool within two health non-profit organisations. By surveying all staff and volunteers (rather than relying on the organisational response from a single individual), the tool provides valuable insights into volunteer and staff attitudes about the volunteer programme. In addition to critiquing the NBI, this article highlights reasons for divergent scores between volunteers and staff and the improvements that can be made to a volunteer programme's effectiveness as a result of measurement.