Care: At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.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 email@example.com.
This is a review in the series ‘Members of Missions Interlink’, Missions Interlink being the Australian Evangelical Alliance Inc‘s ‘network for global mission‘. We review these charities because their membership means that they 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).
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”:
- Check the organisation’s name.
- Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
- Be careful of online requests for donations.
- No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one.
- Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.
1. A search on the ACNC Register of charities for ‘Trinity Theological College’ brings up two charities using that name:
Trinity uses the name without the ‘Inc’ even though it does not have this registered as a business name.
2. Nothing on the Register or the website indicates that Trinity uses door-to-door or street collectors.
4. The ABN record says that no tax deduction is available for a donation to Trinity, but that one is available for a donation to its funds, Trinity Theological College Building Fund and Trinity Theological College Inc Library Fund.
There is no description of how to donate to these funds on the ‘Donate Now’ page (see above). But a Google site search on the …Building Fund reveals that the ‘choose your preferred Way to Donate’ on that page leads to this information:
The first ‘area’ above is the second charity identified in the search of the ACNC Register (see above). Controlled by Trinity, but not Trinity.
The second and third options are the two Trinity funds for which a tax deduction is available.
General Fund (the first ‘area’ above)
The description is incorrect. It misleads the reader into thinking that this is Trinity’s money. It’s not; it’s a collection for the second charity we identified (see above), the Trustee for the Trinity Theological General Fund. This charity is a public ancillary fund, and it is wrong to imply that donations to this fund can automatically be used by Trinity. One of the required characteristics of such a fund is that
Trinity does not explain on the website (a) the relationship between Trinity and the General Fund, and (b) how the General Fund is able to transfer money to Trinity, a non-DGR entity.
The answer to (b) was disclosed last year but deleted for this year:
So, this is how your donations to the General Fund travel: Trinity (as collections for a third party) General Fund Australian College of Theology Foundation Australian College of Theology Limited Trinity (as donations).
So, donor diligence for a potential donation to the General Fund is needed on the Foundation, not Trinity.
5. The use of your donations
See ‘About Us’ and ‘Study’ in the main menu.
Sharing the Gospel?
As part of the curriculum, yes.
How donations are used
The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report 2019 on the ACNC Register.
There are some issues with Trinity’s accounting/reporting:
Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income
- No explanation is given for a 98% reduction in the third highest source of revenue, rent.
- The explanation is given in the The Report of Council, but this Report does not form part of the package that is audited.
- Donations to the three funds are not included in revenue.
- No surplus is disclosed.
- The library is not depreciated. This is because Trinity says that ‘its useful life is indeterminable’. It may be a difficult estimate to make, but it’s not ‘indeterminable’. This is supported by the reporting of other bible and theological colleges in Australia.
Notes to the Financial Statements
- There have been some significant new Accounting Standards in the period. Their effect is not disclosed.
The charity Trinity controls (the General Fund)
- Trinity does not include its transactions and balances in its accounts (consolidation).
- It does not explain its relationship with the other charity.
- It mentions its but once in its financial statements (the disclosure that it paid for the work of its auditor).
- It doesn’t explain how the money that is donated to it is able to be used in Trinity’s operations.
From the Statement 0f Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income:
How ‘Outgoings’ differ from all the other items, which are also outgoings, is not explained.
The ‘Australian College of Theology Ltd – fees’ are offset by the $628K donation from the same organisation [Note 2].
The ‘Audit fees’ seem high for the size and complexity of the organisation. This is because they are (a) not all audit fees, but included other work by the auditor, and (b) also covered the audit of another charity [Note 21].
Here, from The Report of Council [Financial Report 2019], are the directors responsible for these decisions:
The same six men were responsible for the 2018 accounts.
The same six men are still the directors [ACNC Register].
The Council is responsible to the Trustees. There are 33 trustees (including the six people above.)
COVID-19 and the accounts
The accounts were signed post-COVID. This is the directors’ response:
This comes on top of a deficit for 2019 equal to 24% of revenue due to the reduction in rent received (see above).
Trinity does not address the impact of its work.
Both Members and Associates have to accept a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:
Trinity does not invite feedback or complaints via its website.
We sent a draft of this review to the charity. They…did not respond.
- See here for the previous review. ↑
- 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]. ↑ ↑
- Technically then, Trinity is not using the seal correctly here: only the first ‘area’ is a charity. ↑
- ‘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]. ↑
- We use the templates produced by the industry respected IFRS System. ↑