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The Church Missionary Society – Tasmania Inc

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]). ‘CMS Tasmania’ is one such member[4].

One the website linked from the Missions Interlink they seek online donations.

Donors

Given what Missions Interlink does, ‘CMS Tasmania’ 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 ‘CMS Tasmania’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’sWhat should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[5]

Question 1

A search on the ACNC Register of charities gives a registered charity in the name The Church Missionary Society – Tasmania Inc. (CMS Tas). This is because CMS Tas has‘CMS Tasmania’ recorded under ‘Also known as’.

Other registrations

  • The website is in the name ‘CMS Tas’, and uses ‘CMS Tasmania’. As does CMS Tas on its Facebook page. These name are still, three years later, not registered. To be legal, CMS Tas should therefore be using only its full name in public (including ‘Inc/Incorporated’ on the end).
  • It says, in the AIS 2020, that it intends to fundraise, and it has an online invitation to give. However, it is still, three years later, not registered to fundraise in its home state. Nor Victoria or New South Wales – other states not checked.

Question 2

There is nothing to suggest that CMS Tas fundraises door-to-door or in the street.

Question 3

The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above]. But there is still, three years later, nothing on the giving pages (for instance) about the security of your information.

Question 4

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

The Register information does not match the information on the giving pages (for instance):

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This is because, as you can see from the bottom of the above page, you are giving to another charity, Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd (CMS Australia).  There’s still, three years later, no explanation given for this.

Question 5  How are donations used

Context

‘Charity programs’ on the ACNC Register has only one program, a program that mixes the above page with what CMS Australia does: ‘Overseas cross-cultural workers’

The other places one usually goes on the ACNC Register to find out what a charity does, the charity’s record and its AIS, also mix information about CMS Australia and CMS Tas. And ‘What We Do’ on the website is about CMS Australia, not CMS Tas.

The relationship between the two bodies is explained in the Branch Council Report [Financial Report] (but still not explained on the CMS Tas website):

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A user should haven’t to go inside the Financial Report to find out this basic information about the charity.

Sharing the Gospel[6]

No – see above. (The missionaries are employed/contracted by CMS Australia.)

Financial Reporting

The account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.

The directors signed a declaration [Responsible Persons’ Declaration] Financial Report 2020] that

For this to be true, the financial statement must show ‘a true and fair view’. This means that they must comply with the Australian Accounting Standards. They don’t[7]:

  • These $400K transactions[8] are not included in the Financial Report:

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  • Many of the required Notes are missing.
  • ‘Total Income’ is overstated 26% by the inclusive of an amount for ‘CMS Australia – Tax Deductible Gifts’, gifts that don’t belong to CMS Tas.
  • The liabilities are overstated by 81% by the inclusion of ‘Provision for Maintenance’.
  • Buildings are not depreciated.
  • Contrary to what it says in Note 1, four of the five ‘Plant & Equipment’ items are not depreciated.
  • The directors do not say why they believe that CMS Tas is not a reporting entity.
  • In saying that CMS Tas is not a reporting entity, the directors imply that all users, both current and prospective, can ring the CMS Tas office and command the preparation of a financial report tailored to their needs. With professional management, an invitation to the public to become a member, 100 volunteers [AIS 2020], government grants, and donations from individuals and churches all over Tasmania, this is very unlikely[9].

‘Statement of Surplus or Deficit’

  • The format of the statement is incorrect, including the omission of Other Comprehensive Income.
  • The title of the statement is non-compliant.
  • A section of CMS Tas activity called ‘Summerview’ – which is not a term that is explainedis reported, contrary to the Accounting Standards, only by ‘Summerview Offertory’, ‘Summerview Income’, and ‘Summerview Expenses’.
  • The unusual term ‘Live Giving’ is not explained.
  • They do not explain why they needed to pay CMS Vic for ‘administration’.
  • Nor why, with ‘administration’ paid for, they also had two expenses ‘Clerical Assistance CMS NSW & ACT Ltd’ and ‘Fundraising & Admin’.
  • There is no explanation of what is included in ‘Fundraising & Admin’ $29K.
  • No explanation is given for continued substantial income from ‘Rent’ (12% of revenue) in the absence of an investment property.
  • CMS-Tas’s relationship with CMS Australia – the organization that collects its online donations and receives its money for missionaries – is not explained.
  • The relationship between the missionaries that it has sent overseas, employees, and CMS Australia, is not disclosed.

What did the auditor say?

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  • Geoffrey issued a ‘clean’ opinion:

  • However, before you decide how much comfort to take from this opinion,
    • read here and here to understand what a ‘clean’ opinion means, an
    • read again the Financial Reporting section above.
    • The auditor has the name of the client wrong and does not state his qualification for doing the audit.
  • The inclusion of the auditor’s name and contact information on the cover of the Financial Report suggests that the report was prepared by the auditor. If this was the case, this is illegal. Even if this is not the case, it is still inappropriate: the independence of the auditor from the client must be both actual and perceived.

Who was responsible?

Here, from the Branch Council Report [Financial Report 2020], are the directors who approved the Financial Report 2020:

Richard Condie has no right to vote, so should he be in this list?

The current members are not shown on the website. From the ACNC Register, Oakley, Sargent, and Stiltz are no longer, Bonnie Bonneville has joined, and ‘Louise Clifford’ is now Nattallee-Anne Louise Clifford.

The Board is responsible to the membership. The number of members is still not disclosed.

The use of your donations

If you are still prepared to consider a donation to CMS Tas, here is how the donations were used:

Cash spent

From the Statement of Cash Flows (with last year in the second column):

This presentation may be legal, but it is unhelpful in seeing where the cash went.

Resources consumed (i.e., accrual)

Here from the Statement of Surplus or Deficit (sic) are the three expenses greater than $25K (in a total of $397K):

‘Employment costs’ $122K

‘CMS Australia Ltd’ $48K

‘Fundraising & Admin’ $29K

Impact[10]

Nothing systematic found.

It is never legitimate to judge a charity solely by its administration costs as a percentage of its total costs. However, in the absence of information on impact…

If we assume that it is money transferred to missionaries that are CMS Tas’s expenses that are direct to the intended impact, then ‘administration’, the remaining costs, is 83% of the total.

Charity response

  • CMS Tas still, three years later, does not seek feedback generally.
  • CMS Tas only invites complaints about its ‘safe ministry and professional standards’.
  • Accountability is not mentioned on the website.
  • However, as a Member of Missions Interlink, it has accepted a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:

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We would therefore expect a response to a draft of this review[11]. However, as in previous years, they did not respond.

 

 

  1. See here for the previous review.
  2. https://missionsinterlink.org.au/about/
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  4. Graphical user interface, text, application Description automatically generated
  5. 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].
  6. ‘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].
  7. We use Accurri, respected in the profession as providing a very sound basis for producing compliant financial reports. To this I add an assessment of materiality (both quantitative and qualitative), where the users being considered are donors.
  8. Reported in the Branch Council Report (Financial Report 2020]:
  9. The result of this decision is that the directors can produce the lower-standard special purpose financial statements. One the main things they avoid is the disclosure of related party transactions. The AIS 2020 declares ‘No’ to ‘Did you charity have any related party transactions?’, but we know from the accounts that this is not true.
  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.
  11. I agree with Randy Alcorn when he says that ‘Any Christian leaders who resist financial accountability make themselves suspect.’ [Money, Possessions, & Eternity, Tyndale, 2003, 425].
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