Care: At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 charity 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 charity’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, and
- Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.
1. A search on the ACNC Register for ‘Wycliffe Australia’ leads to a registeredcharity in the name Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia (Wycliffe). This is because the charity has ‘Wycliffe Australia’ recorded as one of two names under ‘Also known as’. (The other is ‘WTBA’.)
Neither of these names has been registered. Nor has the one used on the website.
2. There is nothing to indicate that Wycliffe uses either door-to-door or street collectors.
3. The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above]. Two logos on the first page of the giving process tell you that your information should be secure:
4. Wycliffe’s ABN record says that it is not entitled to receive tax-deductible gifts. Its ineligibility does not fit with the information under ‘Donate’:
No explanation of this inconsistency is given on this page. There are 14 projects that are tax deductible.
On the ‘Projects’ page the filter for ‘Tax-deductible’ gives one project, ‘Wycliffe Relief & Development Foundation’. Tax deductibility is explained by the fact that this is a separate charity owned by Wycliffe. This explains nine of the 14 tax-deductible projects.
Two of the others are for an ‘overseas aid and development fund’. A search on the website reveals that Wycliffe is collecting for a third charity, SILA Overseas Aid and Development Fund. It operates from the same address as Wycliffe, but is owned by yet another charity, Summer Institute of Linguistics Australia. This explains a further two, perhaps four, of the 14 projects.
5. The use of your donations
For their objectives and strategies, see the Directors’ Report in the Financial Report 2019.
This is what they did last year (from their Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2019):
The Financial Report 2019
The audited account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report on the ACNC Register.
Directors have a choice between two kinds of reports, special purpose or general purpose. The requirements of the former are less onerous than the latter. The directors of Wycliffe at the time (see below), decided on special purpose. The auditor, Matthew Hung, for rdl.accountants, agreed with this decision.
With professional management (six full time equivalent employees), activities in 16 overseas countries, and 333 volunteers [Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2019], the evidence is against Wycliffe being one of the exceptions. But that is the choice that the directors made.
One of the implications of their choice is that you can ring Wycliffe’s office and request that they prepare financial statements that answer the question or questions you have about the charity. We strongly doubt that they will agree. And if they don’t then the accounts presented by the directors are not for you. In fact, they say (in the Notes to the Financial Statements) that you don’t exist:
More on the accounts
There are some other significant things that reduce one’s confidence in Wycliffe as a manager:
- The directors’ choice allowed them to produce accounts that don’t include the transactions and balances of their subsidiary, Wycliffe Relief and Development Foundation Ltd (see above).
- They don’t explain how they seek donations for 126 named ‘Members’ and an indeterminate number of ‘Unlisted Members’, yet ‘Donations’ are only $12K.
- Where is the money that is collected for these ‘Members’ shown in the accounts?
- Why are their volunteers being paid?
- They don’t explain two revenue items comprising 54% of the total: ‘Levies income’ and ‘Operating income’.
- The directors don’t explain how a 50% interest in ‘Tree Tops Lodge Cairns’, worth $2.44 million, is consistent with its mission (see above) of Bible translation.
- Similarly, how does lending $1.83 million – the unexplained $1.40 million ‘Unsecured investment loan – RMBL’ and the unexplained $432K ‘Secured investment loan – Word’ – fit with the mission?
- All but one of the directors responsible for this year’s accounts were responsible for the three material accounting policies that had to be corrected this year (see Note 19).
- The auditor this year is the same auditor who approved the accounts last year with these incorrect accounting policies.
- Wycliffe collects donations for another charity, and shares its office with that charity, yet the relationship is not mentioned.
- Four of the revenue items have been artificially adjusted before they were reported:
Where the money went
If you are still happy to consider a donation to Wycliffe, here’s how they consumed their resources (i.e. accrual figures, with last year in the second column):
The interpretation of this list is hampered by
- The mixed classification, contrary to the Accounting Standards, of some expenses by function, some by nature.
- The inclusion of 30% of expenses as ‘Operating expenses’ is unhelpful. Aren’t all the other expenses ‘operating expenses’?
- No distinction between local and overseas expenses.
These are the directors responsible for the reporting (from the Directors’ Report, Financial Report 2019):
Is it this Elly Sharp?
Both Wycliffe’s website and the ACNC Register say that there have been no changes since then.
The board is responsible to the members. There were 454 members at year end. Good accountability is therefore possible.
Nothing systematic found. (There is an Impact Report on the website, but it is for 2016, and it is not a systematic study of Wycliffe’s impact (indeed, it used to be called Corporate Report)).
Wycliffe doesn’t seek feedback, but their values suggest that it will be valuable to them:
The introduction to the Mission Interlink standards (see above) includes this statement:
We sent the member a draft of this review. This was their response:
Thank you for your review and feedback on our organisation. Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia is very concerned about our transparency and public trust levels and we can see from your review that we need to improve our communication with the Australian public in a number of areas.
- Explaining activities that do not appear on the surface to fit with our purpose and mission
- Explaining better the relationship between WBTA, WRDF and SILA and the tax deductibility status of each of these organisations
- Considering a General Purpose Financial Report for the ACNC Register
- Maintaining up-to-date Impact Reports on the ACNC Register and on our website.
End of review.
- See here for the previous review. ↑
- A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering:
- 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?
- The ACNC implies, therefore, that it is a ‘legitimate’ charity. But this is not correct – as the ACNC itself points out, registration is voluntary. ↑
- Although Wycliffe is a public company, ASIC has allowed registration without the usual ‘Ltd’/’Limited’ on the end of its name. ↑
- The ACNC’s information (in its article above) is not correct for the Chrome browser; it does not have ‘https’. ↑
- It would be even better if they were hyperlinked. ↑
- For some reason SILA only collects for this Fund via Wycliffe. ↑