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Church Missionary Society Victoria Inc

This is a review[1] in the series ‘Members of Missions Interlink’, Missions Interlink being ‘the Australian network for global mission’[2] (and a means for a Member to get income tax exemption when it might not otherwise be available[3]). ‘CMS Victoria’ is one such member[4].

On the website linked from the Missions Interlink they seek online donations.

Donors

Given what Missions Interlink does, ‘CMS Victoria’ is probably a charity.

The charities’ regulator, 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”:

  1. Check the charity’s name.
  2. Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
  3. Be careful of online requests for donations.
  4. No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one.
  5. Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.

Here’s the results for ‘CMS Victoria’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’sWhat should I consider when deciding which charity to support?’ [5]

Question 1

A search on the ACNC Register of charities gives no result in that name; similarly for the name of the website, ‘CMS Vic’. Going to just ‘CMS’ still gives no result. Expanding ‘CMS’ to ‘Church Missionary Society’ gives a registered charity in the name Church Missionary Society Victoria Inc[6] (CMS Vic).

A charity shouldn’t make itself so hard to find on the Register[7].

Other registrations

  • CMS Vic has the necessary Victorian fundraising registration. And in Tasmania. Why not the other states that have a registration requirement?
  • The website uses the names ‘CMS Vic’ and ‘CMS Victoria’, and the Facebook ‘CMS Victoria. CMS Vic has no business names registered, so trading in other than its full name (including ‘Incorporated’ / ‘Inc’) is illegal.

Question 2

There is nothing to suggest that CMS Vic fundraises door-to-door or in the street.

Question 3

The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above]. But there is still nothing on the giving pages about the security of your information.

Question 4

The Australian Business Register (linked from CMS Vic’s ACNC Register record), says that the charity is not entitled to receive tax deductible gifts. We have seen above, however, that CMS Vic is a ‘legitimate charity’.

The Register information does not match the information on the giving pages (for instance):

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This is because, as you can see from the bottom of the above page, you are giving to another charity, Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd (CMS Australia).  There’s still no explanation given for this.

Question 5  How are donations used

Context

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‘Charity programs’ on the ACNC Register has only one program though, ‘Summer Under The Sun (SUTS).

The usual places one goes on the ACNC Register to find out what a charity does, the charity’s record and its AIS, are no good in this case because they mix information about CMS Australia and CMS Vic. And ‘What We Do’ on the website is about CMS Australia, not CMS Vic. The relationship between the two bodies is still not explained on the CMS Vic website.

It is explained in the Branch Council’s Report [Financial Report]:

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A user should haven’t to go inside the Financial Report to find out this basic information about the charity.

Sharing the Gospel[8]

No – see above. (The missionaries are employed/contracted by CMS Australia.)

Financial Reporting

The audited account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.

In Note 1(a) (Notes to the Financial Statements, Financial Report 2020], the directors says that ‘there are no users dependent on a general purpose financial report’:

This allowed them to provide the less onerous type of report, a special purpose report.

What the directors are effectively saying is that you, and all the other people and organisations potentially interested, now and in the future, in CMS Vic, can ring up the CMS Vic office and command the preparation of a financial report tailored to your needs[9].

With professional management, 14 employees, 205 volunteers, $4.03 million in donations [AIS 2020], 1637 individual and 149 church supporters [Branch Council’s Report], that is ludicrous. But that is the choice that the directors of CMS Vic made.

And the auditor, a Chartered Accountant, agreed with them.

CMS Vic’s auditor, Jeffrey Tulk, is a partner in the firm Saward Dawson. This is what his professional body, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, has to say about the choice between the two types of reports[10]:

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Other issues with the Financial Report

  • The Statement by Branch Council is not in the form required by the ACNC Act.
  • The most prominent thing on the cover of the Financial Report is still the logo of the auditor, Saward Dawson. At best this suggests that the auditor is promoting their services; at worst it suggests that the Report was prepared by the auditor, which is illegal. The Report belongs to CMS Vic, and independence of the auditor from the client must be both actual and perceived.
  • The directors continue to split ‘investing’ revenues and expenses from those they classify as ‘operating’.
  • There is still no total for revenue.
  • They still don’t explain why they have chosen such a high rate of depreciation, 14% p.a., for buildings.
  • The disclosure for $4.16 million of ‘Other financial assets’ (a description that doesn’t match the description in the balance sheet) is still limited to ‘Investments managed by Perpetual’.
  • They still don’t explain how giving $1 million to the St Andrew’s Hall Redevelopment Project – whatever that is – is consistent with the branch’s mission.
  • The disclosure of the expenses is still non-compliant.

The directors’ false declaration

The decision to produce special purpose statements, plus the decisions listed above, mean that the statements do not comply with the Accounting Standards, which, in turn, means that they neither comply with the Act governing charities nor do they show ‘a true and fair view’. Consequently, this declaration the directors made in the Financial Report is false:

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Who made this declaration?

Here, from the Branch Council’s Report, are the Council (committee) members who approved the Financial Report 2020:

Kirsty Brown

Graeme Chiswell

Peter North

Jane Peters

Andrew Reid

Roslyn Schnerring

Ray Ternes

Pam Thyer

Wei-Han Kuan

Julia Jordan

The current committee members are shown on the ACNC Register. This shows that Andrew Judd, Anita Curnow, and Graham Parkin have joined, while Chiswell and Thyer have left.

The directors are responsible to the members. The number of members is still not disclosed.

The use of your donations

If you are still prepared to consider a donation to CMS Vic, here is how the last lot were used:

Cash spent

From the Statement of Cash Flows (with the group figures in the second pair of columns, and last year in the second column in each case):

This may be legal, but it is of little help in seeing where the cash went.

Resources consumed (i.e., accrual)

This, from the Statement of Income and Expenditure and Other Comprehensive Income (sic), is how the activities translated into expenses (with last year in the second column):

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There was also $28K ‘Investment fees’.

  • Here’s Note 4:

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There is still no comment on the control (if any) that CMS Vic have over the ‘contribution commitment’, the amount that must be sent to CMS Australia.

CMS Vic still don’t explain how, if online donations are collected by CMS Australia (see above), CMS Vic has those donations available to send to CMS Australia.

  • The ‘Employment benefits expenses’ total $1.17 million. This is an average salary of $74K pa.

Impact

Nothing systematic found.

It is never legitimate to judge a charity solely by its administration costs as a percentage of its total costs. However, in the absence of information on impact…

If we assume that ‘Mission Support’ is the direct cost of creating an impact, then ‘administration’, the remaining costs, is 63% of the total.

Charity response

  • CMS Vic still does not seek feedback generally.
  • CMS Vic only invites complaints about its ‘safe ministry and professional standards’.
  • Accountability is not mentioned on the website.
  • However, as a Member of Missions Interlink, it has accepted a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:

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We would therefore expect a response to a draft of this review[11]. However, like last year, they did not respond.

 

 

  1. See here for the previous review.
  2. https://missionsinterlink.org.au/about/
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  5. 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? [A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering].
  6. The name on both the ACNC Register and the ABN register is slightly incorrect. It should be Church Missionary Society – Victoria Inc.
  7. The solution is to use the ‘Also known as’ section of the Register.
  8. ‘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].
  9. If you can’t do this the accounting profession says that you are therefore ‘potentially interested in the information provided in general purpose financial reports’. [From Objective of General Purpose Financial Reporting (SAC2), www.aasb.gov.au].
  10. Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020.
  11. We agree with Randy Alcorn when he says that ‘Any Christian leaders who resist financial accountability make themselves suspect.’ [Money, Possessions, & Eternity, Tyndale, 2003, 425].
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