This is a review in the series ‘Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Members’. ACFID ‘is the peak body for Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in international development and humanitarian action.’ It requires Members to adhere to a Code of Conduct.
The ACNC, in their article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”:
- Check the charity’s name.
- Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
- Be careful of online requests for donations.
- No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one, and
- Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.
There is nothing in AMS’s material to suggest that they use either door-to-door or street collectors.
The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above].
However, the only mention of security of your personal and credit card information is a ‘I’m not a robot’ box.
AMS’s ABN record (via the ACNC Register) says that a tax deduction is available for a donation both to it as an organisation and to a fund that it runs, Australian Marist Solidarity International Aid Fund.
The Fund is not mentioned on the website, and there is no chance to give to anything but the general purposes of AMS.
The donation page says that all donations are tax deductible.
Question 5 The use of your donations
For the context, see here.
AMS do not share the Gospel.
The audited account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.
The directors of AMS, in their Financial Report 2021:
- Show 73% of ALS’s its expenses, $2.07 million, in one line ‘International Programs – Funding’. With no breakup.
Given that this is where your donations went, it is quite reasonable to expect much more than this.
- Show the largest item of revenue, ‘Other income’ ($456K), without further explanation. Given that ‘other income’ is income outside ordinary operations, this is insufficient to understand this section of the income statement.
- Classify financial assets incorrectly.
grantsincome [edited 6.03.2023] received in advance as a liability without explaining why they chose that over revenue.
- Again chose to prepare a special purpose report rather than a general purpose one. Less onerous. Can you ring AMS’s office and request that they tailor a financial report to suit your questions? Most likely not. Effectively, that means they have made the wrong choice.
- The auditor, Simon Green, for Levert Audit Pty Ltd, has again seen nothing wrong with that decision. AMS has professional management, eight employees, 29 volunteers, activities in many overseas countries, grants from both international and local funders, and at least hundreds of donors giving a total of $2.19 million [Annual Information Statement 2021]. Given this, how do rate his decision against this advice from his professional body?
With all the above, there is a strong argument that the directors’ declaration that the statements ‘give a true and fair view’ [Statement by Members of the Committee, Financial Report 2021] is false. (And that the auditor should not have given a ‘clean’ audit opinion.)
The Directors’ Report [Financial Report 2021] shows that these were the people responsible for the above reporting:
The directors are responsible to the members. Although there are only seven members, they have the power to remove the directors.
Where did the money go?
Commitment 8.3 of the ACFID Code of Conduct requires AMS to include in its annual report ‘A description of the most significant aid and development activities undertaken during the reporting period and their impact’. The ACFID gives this example:
“We drilled 20 wells which improved the lives of 1000 people in the region by providing access to clean drinking water. In turn, this lowered the incidence of water borne diseases by 50% and reduced the infant mortality rate by 75%.”
This matches the description of impact in the link in our heading above.
However, there is no use of the word ‘impact’ in this way in the AMS annual report.
Nor on the website.
The same Code of Conduct Commitment requires AMS to include ‘information about evaluations’ in its annual report.
The AMS annual report, however, does not use the word ‘evaluation’
AMS welcomes feedback.
We sent them a draft of this review. They….did not respond.
- See here for our previous review. ↑
- A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering:
- Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community.
- Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives?
- Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?
- Is the charity being transparent about its activities?
- This is because the ACNC’s programmers didn’t allow for the equation of ‘Ltd’ and ‘Limited’. ↑
- The Financial Report 2021 shows that the account ‘International Aid Fund’ increased $4K, so presumably this was from a non-online source. ↑
- ‘When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett says this about sharing the Gospel: ‘A host of contextual issues determine the best manner and the appropriate time to present the gospel verbally, particularly in militant Muslim or Hindu settings. But without such a presentation, it is not possible for people to be personally transformed in all their relationships, which is what poverty alleviation is all about [Kindle Locations 1262-1264, Moody Publishers]. ↑
- Paragraph 112 (c) ↑
- We believe that the ACFID Code of Conduct supports you asking ACCI Relief for a report on the project or projects to which you have donated. ↑
- Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020. ↑