Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students: mini charity review

Mini charity review of Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES) as an organisation that seeks donations online, and that is a member of Missions Interlink[1]. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

(For last year’s review, see here.)

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • I sent them a draft of this review on 28 June 2017.  Like last year, they…did not respond.

Is AFES registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
    • AEFS controls[2] another charity, Monash Evangelical Union House Trust.
      • The trustee has said that this is a Basic Religious Charity. But this is only correct if it is unable to be registered under any other ‘Entity Subtype’ than ‘Advancing Religion’, and as the Trust is primarily a property owner, this is doubtful.
      • The classification means that no financial information need be provided to the ACNC.
  • Other registrations:
    • As a public company, a company limited by guarantee.
      • It is permitted to omit ‘Ltd/Limited’ from its name.
    • AFES does business under the name ‘AFES’. This is not a registered business name.
    • AFES operates (per the ACNC Register) in all eight states. From their statement, in the Financial Report 2016 (see below), that ‘The results of the various Areas have been incorporated into these accounts[3].’, it is reasonable to conclude that AFES raises funds in most, if not all, states. It also has an internet invitation to donate. Combined, these two sources generate $9-10 m p.a. It is at least questionable then, why it still has only the one fundraising licence, in New South Wales.[4].

What do they do?

  • See their website, here.
  • More succinctly, in the Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2016:
    • Train and mentor university student (sic) to understand the Bible.
  • The Annual Campus Group Report[5], gives a good idea of the activities of AEFS on campus:
    • How many main meetings do you run per week?
    • Average number attending main meetings per week (total)
    • How many small groups do you run per week?
    • Average small group size
    • Average number attending small groups per week (total)
    • How many from your campus went to NTE [National Training Event] last year?
    • NTE Mission last December: Church attended/No. in team/What did you do on mission
    • Conferences/camps – give details of events your group ran/attended last year

Do they share the Gospel?

  • Yes

What impact are they having?

What do they spend outside the costs directly incurred in delivering the above impact, that is, on administration?

  • There is insufficient disclosure to calculate the split between the direct cost of the what the workers did with students in the universities (the ‘mission’), and the other costs.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No

Is their online giving secure?

  • If security is mentioned it is not until after the first page of information has been entered.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (two and a half months after their year-end, two and a half months earlier than last year).
    • But if you are considering a large donation, I would ask for more up-to-date financial information – the accounts are for a year end that is now over nine months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2016: No
    • I think the ‘Other names charity is known by…’ section is intended to record registered names; ‘AEFS’ is not such a name.
    • The ‘activities and outcomes’ description is essentially the same as last year, so not helpful as a description of 2016’s activities.
    • No outcomes are given.
  • Financial Report 2016: It contains all the required statements and reports, but
    • Why isn’t the charity they control, Monash Evangelical Union House Trust consolidated? The only mention of the Trust is in a Note, and that only in explanation of reserves[6]. It is not mentioned in the ‘Related Parties’ Note.
    • In the Statement of Income and other (sic) Comprehensive Income, not big things, but
      • Why is ‘Recovery of office costs’ recorded as revenue rather than a reduction of the expense?
      • Why is a long service leave expense ($148K) not included in ‘Staffing Costs’?
      • ‘Other payments to suppliers and Employees (sic)’, at $649K and the third largest expense, is arguably a little large to leave unexplained.
      • There is a mismatch between disclosing ‘Depreciation’ and ‘Amortisation’, both under $30K, and yet leaving ‘Expenses from Conferences and Events’, $1.03 m, unexplained.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • The surplus as a percentage of income was returned closer to its 2014 level, from 8% to 5%
  • Cash and cash equivalents and financial assets represent approximately seven months of revenue (the same as last year).
  • No obvious issues with either short-term or long-term financial structure.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • He gave a ‘clean’ opinion[7].

If a charity, is their information on the ACNC Register complete?

  • Yes

What choices do you have in how your donation is used?

  • An unspecified number of persons and campuses, and ‘Where most needed’.
    • The universities at which AEFS are represented are listed here (native English speakers), and here (non-native speakers).

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • The composition of the board is explained, but not the members’ names.
  • The ACNC Register, under ‘Responsible Persons’, says that it is these people:

To whom are AEFS accountable?

 

  1. Missions Interlink is an organisation that, among other things, gives members income tax exemption even though they do not meet the “in Australia” test and do not have deductible gift recipient status. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)
  2. The AFES directors are the ‘responsible persons’ of the Trust.
  3. file:///C:/Users/ted/Downloads/Understanding%20Monthly%20Accounts.pdf.
  4. The law in this area is not straightforward – for instance, is an internet invitation ‘fundraising’ – and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  5. This report doesn’t appear to be available on the public website; I found it via a Google search of the site.
  6. The Trust’s bank deposits are included under ‘Designated Funds’ in the AFES balance sheet, but the property is mentioned only in the Note.
  7. To take the right amount of comfort from a ‘clean opinion’, please read here and here.
  8. For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.

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