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CMS Australia

This is review in the series ‘Members of Missions Interlink’, Missions Interlink being the Australian Evangelical Alliance Incorporated‘s ‘network for global mission‘. We review these charities because their membership means that they must sign up to a set of standards[1], and this, at least on paper, makes them a better bet for your donations.

CMS Australia’ is one such Member[2]. It seeks donations from the website linked by Missions Interlink.

Donors

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 Australia’[3], with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[4]

Question 1

A search on the ACNC Register of charities for ‘CMS Australia’ gives three charities:

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The first and third charities are controlled by the second, Church Missionary Society – Australia Limited (CMS Australia). So it is safe to assume that this is the Missions Interlink member[5].

Although there is an ACNC reporting group, CMS Australia Ancillary Fund is not a member. CMS Australia do not explain why.

Business names

On its website, CMS Australia uses ‘CMS’ and ‘CMS Australia’. Neither of these names are registered.

On the ACNC Register, it says that it is ‘Also known as’ “MENTAC’ ‘CMS-A’, and ‘CMS-Australia’. None of these names are registered.

Trading under a name that is not registered is illegal.

Question 2

There is nothing on the website nor on the ACNC Register to indicate that CMS Australia uses door-to-door or street collectors.

Question 3

The “web address begins with ‘https’ and there is a closed padlock symbol next to the web address in the address bar[6], so the website is secure [the ACNC article above].

On the giving page there is still no mention of the security of your information.

Question 4

CMS Australia

The Australian Business Register (linked from CMS Australia’s ACNC Register record), says that the charity is not entitled to receive tax deductible gifts. But that two funds that it runs are:

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There is no opportunity to give to either of these funds on the giving page. CMS Australia don’t explain why.

There is just one reference to the Building Fund and two to the Overseas Aid Fund on the website. Why no description?

All three references are incidental – on a direct debit form – but they at least show that donations are sought for the funds. Or at least by two of the six branches (both funds are on South Australia’s form, and only the Overseas Aid Fund is on Tasmania’s. Why aren’t both Funds on the form for each of the six branches?

Church Missionary Society – Australia as the operator of a PBI

The direct debit forms are the only place on the website where a third tax-deductible fund is mentioned:

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This fund belongs to the third of the three CMS Australia charities, Church Missionary Society – Australia as the operator of a PBI.

CMS Australia Ancillary Fund

There is only one reference to this Fund on the website (on the direct debit form for a third branch). Why no information CMS Australia?

Question 5

Context

‘About Us’ on the website:

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‘What We Do’ on the website describes the ‘fellowship’, not CMS Australia:

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The website supports the idea that ‘branches’ have the usual meaning – “one of the offices or groups that form part of a large business organization[7]:

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But we see below that the financial reporting does not support that.

Sharing the Gospel[8]

No

Annual Reporting

Annual reporting by a charity consists of an Annual Information Statement (AIS) and a Financial Report. Although the latter is now on the Register, there are still no AISs.

From previous experience, we know better than to ask the ACNC for the reason, so we accepted the invitation on CMS Australia’s website:

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The Company Secretary, like last year, did not respond.

Financial Reporting

The directors signed a declaration [Directors’ Declaration, Financial Report 2020] that

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For this to be true, the directors must have chosen the correct type of financial statements. They chose special purpose financial statements. These are only relevant where all the users can ring the CMS Australia’s office and command the preparation of financial statements tailored to their needs. If they can’t do this, then the users are dependent on a regulator to specify the form and content of the financial statements. These are called general purpose financial statements.

With ‘198 missionaries in 45 countries’ [Director’s Report], professional management, six branches, 45 members, revenue of $14.8 million (including government grants), the control of two other charities, four DGR funds, and an audit that costs $20K, the choice of special purpose statements is absurd.

The directors (see below for who they were) have therefore made a false declaration.

The auditor, Stephen Fisher, for Nexia Sydney Audit Pty Ltd, agreed with the directors’choice. This is a highly questionable decision, both because of the argument given above, and this opinion of his professional body[9]:

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The directors’ decision means that there is a major omission: consolidated financial statements (combining the three charities). And maybe the branches (see above).

And the omission many less significant, but still important, omissions. And are the branches related parties? Not a ‘true and fair view’.

Who was responsible?

From the Directors’ Report [Financial Report 2020], these are the people responsible for the financial statements:

Kirsty Brown

Geoffrey Girvan

Martin Hawkins

Simon Koefoed

Christine McComb

Graham McKay

Robert McPaul

James Oakley

Malcolm Richards

Howard Spencer

Pamela Thyer

John Lovell

Benjamin Harrington

Since that time, Koefoed, Richards Spencer and Harrington have gone, and Purton Tamra, Ray Ternes, and Scott Sargent have joined.

How CMS Australia uses its revenue

This, with the addition of Note 4, is all that is disclosed about the expenses:

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  • Why is the money paid to missionaries called ‘grants’? Are they not employees?
  • What are the projects? Project work is not mentioned in the Directors’ Report:

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  • What is included in ‘Missionary Support’ compared to ‘Communications’, ‘Development & Training’, and ‘Administration’?

Impact[10]

The question of the impact of your donations is still not addressed anywhere. (There is no Annual Report.)

Charity response

The introduction to the Mission Interlink standards (see above) includes this statement:

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We sent the ‘constituent’, CMS Australia, a draft of this review. Like last year, they did not respond.

  1. In return for something extremely attractive, an exemption from income tax: Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated 
  2. Graphical user interface, text, application, chat or text message Description automatically generated
  3. See here for the previous review.
  4. 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].
  5. Investigation was necessary because there is nothing under either ‘About Us’ or ‘Contact Us’ on the website linked from Missions Interlink identifying the legal name of the charity.
  6. In the Edge browser. For Chrome there is no ‘https’.
  7. CMS Australia and ‘as the operator of a PBI charity say on the ACNC Register that they operate only in Victoria and NSW. The Group’s entry, and the entry for the Ancillary Fund (which is not in the Group) says only Western Australia and Northern Territory. If CMS Australia doesn’t have traditional branches, then the correct disclosure is just it’s home state, NSW. If the branches are part of CMS Australia (not the ‘fellowship’), then the correct disclosure is all eight states.
  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. Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020.
  10. The ACNC has previously – the Fact Sheet is no longer on the site – explained impact this way: “Every charity has a mission that is associated with producing a public benefit. As this mission is pursued, the changes produced in individuals and their communities can be referred to as the charity’s ‘impact.’ If you are donating to a charity, you may wish to make sure that your donation is creating the greatest impact possible.’ There is no reason why this wouldn’t still be their view.
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