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International Justice Mission Australia

This is 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. ‘International Justice Mission Australia’ is one such Member.

The name in the ACFID membership list links to a website for ‘IJM’. Here they seek donations from the public.

Donors

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, and
5.Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.

Here’s the results[1] for ‘International Justice Mission Australia’, with consideration also given to the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[2]

Question 1

A search on the ACNC Register for ‘International Justice Mission Australia’ gives a charity in the name IJM Australia Limited (IJM).  This is because IJM has recorded ‘International Justice Mission Australia’ under ‘Also known as’.

Question 2

There is nothing to indicate that IJM uses either door-to-door or street collectors.

Question 3

The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above].  But the donation process has no information about the security of your information.

Question 4

IJM’s ABN record (via the ACNC Register) shows that you are entitled to a tax deduction for your donation.

But there is nothing about tax deductibility on the donation pages[3].

Question 5

Context

 Both the CEO and the Board Chair mention ‘mission’ in the 2019 Annual Report (page 1 and 2 respectively), but it’s not given on the website, including in the Annual Report (nor under the description ‘purpose’).
 Our Work’ is about IJM globally, not IJM[4]. There is no description on the website of what IJM does.
a.IJM is a fundraiser for work overseas. You will see this from the listing of expenses, below.

Sharing the Gospel[5]

Although it ‘is established to work from a basis of Christian belief and values’ [Constitution, section 3], no, it doesn’t share the gospel.

How IJM uses its revenue

The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report 2019 on the ACNC Register.

The directors – most likely those shown below – signed a declaration [Financial Report 2019] that included this statement:

For this to be true the financial statements had to comply with the Australian Accounting Standards (AASs) [www.aasb.gov.au]. This means that the directors had to make the correct choice between the two types of financial statements, special purpose and general purpose.

The distinction is important because less will have to be reported with special purpose statements.

Special purpose financial statements are only appropriate when there are no users dependent on the other type. You, as one of these users are not dependent on general purpose statements if you can ring the IJM office and ‘command the preparation of (financial) reports tailored so as to satisfy specifically all of …[your] information needs’. If you can’t do this, then you are dependent on a regulator to specify the contents of IJM’s financial report, that is, you are, contrary to what the IJM directors assert, dependent on general purpose reports.

The directors of IJM [Financial Report 2019] said that there are no such users:

In its 2019 Annual Report [page 2], IJM said that it had ‘thousands of supporters’ and that 20,000 people heard the IJM message in 2019. It therefore stretches credulity to suggest that none of these users is dependent on the accounting regulator to get them the reports they need.

The choice of special purpose statements was done with the agreement of their auditor, Jeffrey Tulk, a Principal at Saward Dawson. And he did this despite this advice from his professional body, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand:

At the time of the decision, IJM had

 Thousands of stakeholders all over Australia [2019 Annual Report]
 Professional management (14 employees) [AIS 2019].
 A reported significant impact in the community [2019 Annual Report].
 97% of the $1.98 million revenue coming from donors. [Financial Report 2019].

Knowing this, how did the directors conclude that special purpose statements were appropriate? And then how did the auditor press on with the audit after he found out about this decision?

The evidence points to a false declaration of a true and fair view.

Other issues

1.There is insufficient information about the expenses (see below).

a.If the risk is beyond IJM’s control,[6] why did IJM spend time and money ensuring that cash collected by supporters made it into IJM’s Grassrootz account?
b.How did they do this?
3.The directors say that IJM has intangible assets, but nowhere do they say what they are.

Directors

These are the people who were on the Board when the 2019 Annual Report was issued (and therefore likely to be the people who agreed to the Financial Report 2019:

Lindsay Mcmillan

Adam Achterstraat

Jacky Hodges

Garth Tinsley

Christa Hayden (sic) Sharpe

Joanna Mansfield

Emma Ten Kate

There have been no changes since. (The ACNC Register has one extra name, but Emma ten Kate has been entered twice.)

The board is responsible to the members. At the end of 2019 there were only 15 members[7], and as directors must be members, there’s little accountability here.

How did IJM use its revenue?

Should you still choose to rely on the financial statements, here is where the $1.98 million revenue went:

 Other than an unidentifiable destination for the funds (see below), there is no further explanation of any of these figures.
 For instance, we are not told how much the employees cost.
 ‘Funds to international programs’ is an amount smaller than all bar one item.
 Even if we do as the directors want and add $235K to the $290K because it was budgeted but not sent (the **), it is still exceeded by ‘Accountability and Administration’. However, if you adjust this year in this way, you must adjust both last year and next year as well.
 Note 12 says that the funds were sent to a ‘related party’, ‘IJM Global’. Other than a sole proprietorship in New Jersey, no ‘IJM Global’ could be found. So where did the money go?
 How do IJM ensure that the money sent overseas (a) reaches the intended recipient, and (b) is used for the purpose(s) for which it was given?
 ‘Community Education’, 21% of the total, is not part of the rescuing, restraining or restoring work overseas yet is, without explanation, included in ‘program expenditure’ by IJM [2019 Annual Report, page 22]. Without this inclusion, ‘overhead’ would have been 84% of expenses:

Impact

Nothing was found about IJM’s impact.

IJM reports, in the 2019 Annual Report, this ‘impact’ was achieved from the money raised in Australia:

These are outcomes rather than impacts. (It would be interesting to know what sustained changes in those rescued, restrained and restored occurred because of these outcomes, especially those changes that the individuals achieved themselves.)

External accountability

The mixing of IJM and the global organisation continues in its description of external accountability in the IJM 2019 Annual Report [last page].

 Charity Navigator, Guidestar and BBB have nothing to say about the Australian IJM.
 The US organisation is NOT ‘recognised by Charity Navigator’ for its ‘exceptional commitment to financial responsibility, accountability and transparency’. Its score is less than ‘exceptional’:

 If IJM is ‘committed to modelling and maintaining the highest standards in [its] work, including [its] commitment to financial integrity’, why is
 the US IJM organisation not a member of the Christ-led ECFA?
 the US organisation not scoring highly with the Christ-led Ministry Watch?[8]
 And, most importantly, why is the Australian organisation not a seal holder with the CMA Standards Council?

Charity response

Contrary to the ACFID Code, IJM does not invite either feedback or complaints.

We sent them a draft of this review. This was their response: “Thanks for sending us a copy of your draft review. We will consider all the issues you raise and if appropriate will make any relevant changes.”

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  1. See here for the previous review.

  2. A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering:

    1.Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community.
    2.Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives?
    3.Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?
    4.Is the charity being transparent about its activities?
  3. But a FAQ says yes (although it implies that the deduction is due to IJM being a charity, which is incorrect.)

  4. The ‘Summary of Activities’ on the ACNC Register is incorrectly about IJM globally, not IJM. Similarly, the ‘Description of charity’s activities and outcomes’ in the Annual Information Statement 2019, is meant to be about what went on and what was achieved in the year by the charity, but it too is a general description of what IJM does globally.

  5. ‘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].

  6. The link to IJM’s fundraising guidelines is broken.

  7. From the Financial Report 2019:

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