Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management
Prior research has shown that many donors utilize charity ratings for decisions and they give more to higher rated charities. Because ratings are partly or completely based on financial information, the financial reporting quality of highly rated charities is more critical to donors than that of the poorly rated ones. In this study, we examine whether the financial reporting quality of charities systematically varies with charitable ratings. Examining a sample of human service charities. we find that highly rated organizations are more likely to underreport fundraising expenses and overstate program ratios. Highly rated organizations appear to be exercising accounting discretion to achieve this desirable outcome. Collectively. our findings suggest that stakeholders should be cautious when they use the rating information.