Charging, accessibility and legitimacy: a case study of a third sector ‘arts and health’ charity
Swan, Peter (2018)


With statutory income becoming scarcer or more restricted, many third sector organisations have considered charging clients to make up shortfalls in funding. However, many organisations work with some of the poorest people in society, who may be incapable of contributing financially
towards the cost of accessing the service they provide. Using the case study of ‘Artspace’, a community ‘arts and health’ charity, this article investigates, with particular reference to Goffman’s theory of ‘impression management’, how organisations can maintain legitimacy with their beneficiaries
while implementing potentially unpopular decisions. Artspace initially utilised ‘excuses’ and ‘justifications’ when consulting with clients about the need for additional fees. However, the somewhat fragile nature of the relationship between the organisation and the community necessitated
a wider, more bespoke range of strategies. Artspace was able to successfully maintain legitimacy with beneficiaries largely because of its perceived and actual capability of responding to challenges in a timely, user-centred and innovative manner.


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