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.This is a review in the series ‘Members of Missions Interlink’, Missions Interlink being ‘the Australian network for global mission’. Members must sign up to a set of standards, and this, at least on paper, makes them a better bet for your donations (or other involvement).
‘Discovery Church Melbourne’ is one such member, an Associate.
The website linked from the Missions Interlink membership goes to a website in the name ‘Discovery Church’. Here they offer online giving.
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”:
A search of the Register of charities gives a Nil result. Dropping ‘Melbourne’ gives four charities:
The email address for the first one shows that it is the Missions Interlink member (Discovery).
The suburb, email address and responsible persons for the third one shows that it is a charity controlled by Discovery (a subsidiary).
As a church, one would not expect Discovery to use door-to-door or street fundraisers. And there is nothing to suggest that they do.
It would be unusual for a church to be entitled to receive tax deductible gifts, and indeed ‘Will my donation be tax deductible?’ [Discovery’s Register entry] says that it isn’t.
However, this is contradicted by information on its website:
The use of your donations:
Nor are their beliefs even mentioned. They do have them though – see the ‘Statement of Faith’ on page 2 of the Constitution [ACNC Register].
This vision, mission and faith led Discovery to design these programs. Note the absence of ‘missions’.
Sharing the Gospel?
Discovery operates in Australia, per the Register, only in Victoria.
Although they have not disclosed it on the Register, they also ‘operate’ overseas via the ‘missions’ they ‘support’ (see two indirect references in the Annual Report 2019).
How activities translated into dollars spent
The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report 2019 on the ACNC Register. Because Discovery is a ‘basic religious charity’, it is not required to submit this report. It has, however, continued its practice of submitting it regardless (this time under ‘Documents’).
The directors – ‘Persons responsible’, below – signed a declaration [Financial Report 2019] that the financial report
For this to be true the financial statements had to comply, at a minimum, with the Australian Accounting Standards (AASs) [www.aasb.gov.au]. In turn, this means that the directors must present you with sufficient information to understand the full situation and performance of Discovery.
But there are material deviations from these Standards. So, no, the Report doesn’t present a ‘true and fair view’.
Special purpose financial statements
First up, they chose the lower-standard financial statements (called ‘special purpose’). This means that the directors can report less than they otherwise would have had to. (For instance, they avoid having to consolidate their two subsidiaries.)
Although, contrary to the Accounting Standards, they give no reason for this choice, it implies that there are no users who are dependent on the other type of financial statements, general purpose financial statements. These are the type that are designed for users who cannot ‘command the preparation of (financial) reports tailored so as to satisfy specifically all of their information needs’. Can you ring the office and get them to do this for you? I doubt it. Even if you can, can all the other adults in the 793 ‘average weekly attendance’ [Annual Report]? It stretches credulity to think that they all have this kind of power.
The auditor, Peter Shields, a partner in Saward Dawson, agreed with the Board’s choice. This is a highly questionable decision, both because of the argument given above and this opinion of his professional body:
Given this, special purpose statements again look completely unsupportable.
Although Discovery controls two other charities (see above), this is not mentioned in the statements.
But the same people are the Responsible Persons for the two charities.
Not a liability
They include a liability despite admitting that it is not a liability [Note 1]:
Land and buildings
They give insufficient explanation for their decision to treat the land and buildings as their own when they are owned by somebody else [Note 1(d)]:
The evidence points to a false declaration of a true and fair view.
The use of donations
If you are still willing to rely on the accounts, the Statement of Income & Expenditure (sic) and Other Comprehensive Income shows the expenses for 2019 (with last year’s in the second column):
.This presentation raises as many questions as it answers:
The directors in office at the time of the approval of the accounts are not identified, but these are the Responsible People now:
Is it this Haydn Stewart?
Saskia Van Schie
Nothing systematic on impact was found.
The introduction to the Mission Interlink standards (see above) includes this statement:
We sent them a draft of this review. They…did not respond.
[The format of this review was changed on 23 January 2021; the content was unchanged.]
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]. ↑
On can normally use the charity’s Register entry, but in the case of Discovery the address on the Register is ‘Australia’, there is no phone number, and the church does not show the ABN. ↑
‘https’ does not, as implied by the ACNC, appear in all browsers. ↑
It’s in the constitution, but not on the website. ↑
A summary is meant to be included in their AIS 2019 but they have instead put a copy of the ‘statement of purpose’ in the constitution. ↑
‘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]. ↑
Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting, March 2013, accessed from their website March 2020. ↑
Discovery should have included the figures for both charities in its accounts (i.e., consolidation), but this was one of the things it avoided by choosing special purpose statements. ↑