Melbourne School of Theology: mini charity review for donors

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.  Please start with the updated review published in March 2018, and come back to this one as needed.

Mini charity review of Melbourne School of Theology (MST) as an organisation that seeks donations online. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

(To see the situation last year, read this review.)

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • When sent a draft of this review, they asked whether MST had requested the review and where it would be published. I answered the same day but 11 days later I have not heard from them again.

Is MST registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
  • Other registrations:
    • As a public company, a company limited by guarantee.
      • It is permitted to omit ‘Ltd/Limited’ at the end of its name.
      • It’s use of ‘MST’ – see, for instance, Facebook – is not registered.
    • Raises funds in its home state, Victoria, but doesn’t hold a fundraising licence there. It solicits donations via the internet, so it may be that one or more of the other six states that have a licensing regime require registration[1].

What does the group do?

  • ‘MST exists to equip God’s people with transformational theology, biblical depth, and a missional heart, to effectively communicate the Gospel of Christ to a diverse and changing world.’

Does the group share the Gospel?

  • To students, undoubtedly. But the grant of tax-deductible status to both charities suggests that the use of the money raised shouldn’t include proselytising.

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing found.

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

  • The expenses are not classified to allow the calculation of the direct cost of achieving a change in the students.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • Yes. Both MST and MSTMF are Deductible Gift Recipients.
    • As are MST’s two funds Bible College of Victoria Building Fund and Bible College of Victoria Library.
      • There is, however, nowhere in the online donation form to specify the charity or fund.

Is the group’s online giving secure?

  • PayPal is used, so yes.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (on the last day, six months after their year-end).
    • 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 12 months in the past.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2015: No
    • No outcomes, and activity not linked to purposes in question 5.
    • Questions 10 and 11 are unanswered.
    • The first part of question 13 is answered incorrectly.
    • ‘Other income’ in Question 13 is incorrect. (With a consequence that ‘All other revenue’ and ‘Total revenue’ are also incorrect.)
  • Financial Report 2015: No
    • The Report is lodged as a ‘Group Financial Report’ yet is identical to the one lodged for MST. Not a consolidated report?
      • The titles of the financial statements do not support the idea that it is a consolidated report, Note 1 says that the Report is for the ‘individual entity’, and there is no Note giving the figures for the subsidiary.
    • The directors say the company is a ‘not a reporting entity’ because ‘there are no users who are dependent on its general purpose financial reports’.
      • They are in effect saying that anybody who is interested in this company has the power to contact the company and request a report tailored to their needs. This for an organisation with hundreds of students, 38 staff and donations of $1.61 m.
      • The result of the decision is that the accounts don’t comply with all the Australian Accounting Standards, and can disclose considerably less than that required for a general purpose report, a report designed for those people who are dependent on the charity’s report for the information they need.
    • Three of the four financial statements have no prior year figures.
    • No explanation for ‘Investments’ $517K.
    • Don’t student fees have to be repaid under certain circumstances?

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • The surplus as a percentage of income was 24%. (No prior year figures so no comparison possible.)
  • No obvious concerns with the financial structure.

What did the auditor say about the group’s last financial statements?

  • He gave a ‘clean’ opinion[2]. But
    • He says he audited a ‘consolidated financial report’ yet none of the statements are consolidated statements.
    • In accepting the engagement, he implicitly agreed with the directors’ decision that there were no users dependent on kind of financial statements that complied with all the Accounting Standards.

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

  • MST: Yes
  • MSTMF: Yes

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

  • None

Who are the people controlling the group?

  • The people shown on the website here.
  • The same list as under ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register, except without Tim Meyers.
  • The same ten people are MSTMF’s responsible persons.

To whom is the group accountable?

  • Not claimed on the website, but MST is a member of Missions Interlink
    • Missions Interlink is an organisation that has standards with which MA must comply[3].
  • Both charities are also accountable to the ACNC.

 

 

  1. The law in this area is not straightforward and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  2. To take the right amount of comfort from a ‘clean opinion’, please read here and here.
  3. For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.

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