In line with the opening up of Chinese society, a variety of policy adjustments have been undertaken to legitimise the voluntary service organisations (VSOs) that provide various services to the general public. This article applies the qualitative method in examining the legitimisation process of a faith-based VSO that has an international background, and aims to promote human rights and dignity. The findings indicate, first, that the VSO adopts rational compromise strategies, which include “doing rather than saying”, using the “right” words that are acceptable to the government, seeking common interests with the government and seeking common core values with the clients. Second, the compromise strategies help the VSO to achieve a formal legal status and enhance its organisational autonomy, including financial sustainability and independent power in personnel matters. Therefore, the aforementioned compromise approach is a new form of state–society interaction that may gradually facilitate the legitimisation of civil society.