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Scripture Union NSW: charity review

Care:  At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.  Use the ‘Search charity names’ box to see if there is a later review.  If the latest review has a message like this, you are welcome to make your case for an updated review via email to ted@businessbythebook.com.au.

This is a review in the series ‘Organisations accredited by the CMA Standards Council[1]. The CMA Standards Council is ‘a ministry of Christian Ministry Advancement[2], with a missionto help build faith and trust in Christian organisations, be they churches, charities, schools or otherwise, to enable them to achieve more effective outcomes[3]. ‘Scripture Union New South Wales’ is one of these accredited organisations[4].

‘Scripture Union New South Wales’ did not respond to a draft of this review[5].

Number 8 of the CMA Standards Council’s ‘Nine Principles of Ministry Accountability‘ is ‘The organisation must be transparent and accountable to its stakeholders’. One of the nine ‘Standards’ that ‘fall under’ that principle is about openness and responsiveness to feedback:


‘Scripture Union New South Wales is an organisation that seeks donations online. 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 organisation’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 ‘Scripture Union New South Wales’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[6].

1.  A search on the ACNC Register of charities for ‘Scripture Union New South Wales’ gives a nil result. ‘New South Wales’ is more commonly know as ‘NSW’. When that is used, a charity comes up, Scripture Union NSW (SU NSW)[7].


2.  Nothing on the Register or the website indicates that SU NSW uses door-to-door or street collectors.


3.  SU NSW’s ‘Donate’ pagebegins with ‘https’ and…there is a closed padlock symbol next to the website’s URL in the address bar”. But there is no information about the security of your information.


4.  The ABN record says that, unlike Scripture Union Queensland, no tax deduction is available for a donation to SU NSW itself, but that one is available if you donate to its fund, Scripture Union Schools Ministry Fund.

The ‘Donate’ page gives you a choice of tax deductible or not but does not mention the Fund.


5.  The use of your donations

Objects / Mission



In 2018, from the Directors’ Report [Financial Report 2018]:


Sharing the Gospel[8]?


How does this apply to the work in schools?



SU NSW operates in Australia, per the ACNC Register, only in NSW. Also overseas, in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu [the Register][9] – see here.


Giving options

  • Tax deductible:
    • ‘Schools’
    • ‘Where the need is greatest’
  • Not tax deductible
    • ‘Camps’
    • ‘Schools’
    • ‘Missions’
    • ‘Where the need is greatest’

What makes some giving to ‘Schools tax deductible and other giving not?


The use of your donations

The audited account of how SU NSW used your donations is the (Group) Financial Report 2018 on the ACNC Register.

There are serious issues with this Report. You should therefore be careful in relying on it:

  1. Revenue is understated by $995K or 40%, and expenses $980K or 62%. This is because, contrary to the Accounting Standards, the directors have recorded ‘Missions and Camps’ as a net figure.
  2. The directors think that it is acceptable that the internal controls over the revenue and expenses in 1. above are so incomplete that the auditor had to issue a qualified opinion.
  3. The Report does not comply with Condition 1 of SU NSW’s approval to report as a group:

4.  In not identifying Scripture Union NSW as the Operator of a PBI as a member of the group, either in that name (the legal name) or in the name ‘Scripture Union (NSW) Benevolent Fund’ (its ‘Also know as’ name’), the Report does not comply with Condition 2 of SU NSW’s approval to report as a group:

There is a ‘benevolent fund’ mentioned but its transactions and balance is included as part of the ‘General reserve’[10].

5.  The directors, by deciding, contrary to the Accounting Standards, to immediately expense ‘equipment and tents used by the missions and camps’, have materially understated assets, overstated expenses, and reduced the control over these items[11].

6.  The Directors’ Declaration does not comply with the ACNC’s requirements.

7.  The auditor, Scott Bennison, K.S. Black & Co., said that, apart from the effect of #2 above, the financial statements give a true and fair view and are compliant with the Accounting Standards. An adverse opinion seems more appropriate.

The people responsible for these decisions, the directors, are shown on the website[12], and with the addition of Andrew McLachlan, on the ACNC Register (‘Responsible People’)[13]:

  1. Andrew McLachlan
  2. Elizabeth Moll
  3. Eric De Rooy
  4. Graham Jones
  5. Michael Hastie
  6. Peter Stone
  7. Robyn Gillespie
  8. Stephen Billington
  9. Timothy Lihou[14]


Please contact me if you need a more in-depth review.




  1. The Directory has yet to be updated. This ‘Latest news’ article confirms that they are accredited:
  2. Link added by me.
  3. Emphasis in original.
  4. It achieved this by meeting the Council’s ‘Principles and Standards of Responsible Stewardship’, and therefore is able to be promoted as a ‘high quality organisation
  5. The only invitation that is on the website does not encourage, or even mention feedback:
  6. 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].
  7. Its legal name is Scripture Union NSW (its constitution), so why does SU NSW uses ‘Scripture Union New South Wales’ on its website? SU NSW is entitled to trade without appending ‘Ltd’/’Limited’ at the end of its name.
  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. SU NSW is a member of an ACNC reporting group. The Register entry for the Group, a combination of the information for each of the members of the group, adds ACT and omits Solomon Islands.
  10. For SU NSW, these are the only two conditions to its permission to report as a group – the third condition is not applicable.
  11. Here are some of the other issues with the statements:‘Computer software’ is included in ‘Property, plant and equipment’ rather than the required ‘Intangibles’.Do ‘Project funds for SU Vanuatu’ meet the definition of a liability?No explanation is given for why, with revenue of $1.47 million, they are holding $721K cash and cash equivalents for ‘Centralised banking for missions and camps’ in addition to ‘Operating cash’ of $1.43 million. And total cash and cash equivalents of $3.54 million.What is ‘Ministry income’? And ‘Ministry expense’? (The whole charity is a ‘ministry’.)

    How can bank accounts and investments can be held ‘on behalf of’ missions and camps ‘activity centres’ when these are part of SU NSW?

    There is no explanation for the payment of ‘Contributions – SUA and International’.

    The classification of revenue mixes the nature of the revenue with the method of generating it.

  12. From the Directors’ Report [Financial Report 2018] it appears that a Mr A Trewick, a director who had been allowed to serve for 29 years, left the board sometime after 18 September 2018.
  13. The difference is due to the fact that he is the Secretary, and this person is not automatically a member of a board.
  14. The board is accountable to the members. There were 52 members at the time of the Financial Report 2018, so there is, in principle, some accountability here.