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‘CMS NSW & ACT’: charity review

There is a later review, published 10 July 2021.

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]). ‘Church Missionary Society (NSW/ACT)’ ‘is one such member.

The website linked from the Missions Interlink membership goes to a website in the name ‘CMS NSW & ACT’. Here they seek online donations.

Covid-19

Donors

Given what Missions Interlink does, ‘Church Missionary Society (NSW/ACT)’ 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 ‘Church Missionary Society (NSW/ACT)’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’sWhat should I consider when deciding which charity to support?’[4]

1.  A search on the ACNC Register of charities gives no result in that name; going to just ‘Church Missionary Society’ gives a charity, in a slightly different name, Church Missionary Society NSW & ACT Limited (CMSN&A).

One of the three names that CMSN&A says, on the ACNC Register, that it is ‘Also known as’, ‘CMS’, is not a registered business name.

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2.  There is nothing to suggest that CNSN&A fundraise door-to-door or in the street.

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

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

This Register information does not match the information on the giving page:

This is because, as you can see from the bottom of this page, you are giving to another charity, Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd (CMS-A).  No explanation is given for this.

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5.   The use of your donations

Here, from the Directors’ Report [Financial Report 2019] is what CMSN&A is about[5]:

The audited account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register. Because CMSN&A controls another charity, Church Missionary Society Trust, the Report is for the consolidated entity.

Directors have a choice between two kinds of reports, special purpose or general purpose. The requirements of the former are less onerous than the latter.

CMAN&A’s auditor, Peter Vilimaa, is a partner in the firm Manser Tierney & Johnston. This is what his professional body, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, has to say about the choice between the two types of reports[6]:

With 47 full-time equivalent employees, 1000 volunteers [AIS 2919], $7.98 million in donations from 5999 individual and 350 churches, and 122 missionaries all over the world [Directors’ Report] it is hard to see how a special purpose report is the right choice. But that is the choice that the directors of CMSN&A made.

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

One of the implications of their choice is that you can ring CMSN&A’s office and request that they prepare financial statements that answer the question or questions you have about the charity. I strongly doubt that they will agree[7]. And if they don’t then the accounts presented by the directors are not for you. In fact, they say (in the Notes to and Forming Part of the Financial Statements) that you don’t exist:

Other issues with the Financial Report

  • ‘Profit on disposal of property’ is incorrectly classified as ‘Other comprehensive income’.
  • Without explanation, and in contravention of the applicable Accounting Standard, buildings are not depreciated.
  • We have seen that another charity, CMS-A receives the donations made online to CMSN&A. How, then, can CMSN& A say that ‘CMS NSW & ACT receives donations from its supporters to be passed on to CMS-A’s DRG funds’?
  • With the correction to the change in policy for legacies, were the accounts restated?
  • Where is the transfer of the opening balance of the Legacies Equalisation Fund, $2.36 million shown in the expenses?
  • Why include a Note [Note 14] on the results of a charity of which it is a member, CMS-A?

Directors

Here are the directors who approved the Financial Report 2019:

  • Alastair Christie
  • Christine McComb
  • David Clarke
  • Gregory Olliffe
  • Ian McFarlane
  • John Menear
  • Kathryn Thompson
  • Paul Sampson
  • Robert McPaul
  • Stephanie Menear [Directors’ Report][8]

The CMSN&A website says that the current board is the above people minus Paul Sampson. The listing on the ACNC Register appears to be out-of-date, still having John Lovell, Malcolm Richards, and Paul Sampson, as directors, but missing John Menear.

The use of your donations

If you are still prepared to consider a donation to CMSN&A, here is how the donations 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):

It’s two lines more than most charities have, but still not enough to tell where the $2.81 million went in any detail.

CMSN& A don’t explain how, if the donations are collected by CMS-A (see above), the donations are in CMSN& A’s ‘Mission Support Fund’ to send to CMS-A.

Resources consumed (i.e. accrual)

This, from the Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income, is how the activities translated into expenses (with CMSN&A in the first two columns, the consolidated figures in the last two):

This is the explanation of the major expense, the $6.52 million sent to CMS-A:

There is no comment on the control (if any) that CMSN&A have over the amount that must be sent to CMS – A.

Impact

Nothing systematic found.

Charity response

Both Members and Associates have to accept a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:

We sent CMSN&A a draft of this review on 20 April 2020. They chose not to respond.

 

 

  1. See here for the previous review.
  2. https://missionsinterlink.org.au/about/
  3. 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].
  4. The usual places one goes to find out about a charity, the ACNC Register and their AIS, are no good in the case of CMSN&A because the information there is about CMS-A.
  5. Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020.
  6. 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].
  7. The directors are accountable to the members. There were 693 members at 30 June 2019 [Directors’ Report].
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