Pioneers of Australia Inc.: mini-charity review

Mini-charity review of Pioneers of Australia Inc. (PoA), an organisation that seeks donations online, and is a member of Missions Interlink. (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?

  • I sent them a draft of this review before publication. Like last year, they…did not respond.

Is PoA registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
    • You (still) would not know it from their entry in the ACNC Register, nor from their accounts, but the people who run PoA also run another four charities, all with the same directors, the same office, and the same email addresses:
  • You would have to read the privacy statement on the website to the finish for an explanation of the group. This confirms the connection between PoA and PMF, and adds other unspecified entities to the mix:
    • “Pioneers” refers to Pioneers of Australia Inc, Pioneers Ministries Foundation and other entities of the Pioneers consortium.
      • ‘Consortium’ is not a grouping recognised by the ACNC. It allows group reporting, but PoA has not taken advantage of this. (Nor, if the relationship is the other way around, has PMF.)
  • PoA doesn’t consolidate, that is incorporate the transactions of the others in its accounts. These other entities are not even mentioned in its Financial Report (see below).
  • Other registrations:
    • As a Victorian incorporated association (A0035283T).
    • The name that it uses for its website, Pioneers Australia, is not a registered business name. Nor is the its name without ‘Inc.”, also used on the website. (It is arguable that PoA’s enabling legislation requires the full name to be used.)
    • It has the registration necessary to operate outside its home state (ARBN 080211730).
    • PoA operates in all six states that potentially require it to register as a fundraiser, and has an invitation to give on the internet. But it has no fundraising licences[1].

What does PoA do?

  • See the ‘About’ page on their website.
    • PoA, per the ACNC Register, says it doesn’t operate overseas. This doesn’t match their statement, on the above page, that they work in partnership with local churches overseas.

Do they share the Gospel [2]?

  • No? (What, if anything, do they do overseas?)

What impact are they having?

  • There are some stories that showing the impact of PoA work, but nothing systematic.

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

  • Although there is an item ‘Administration’, there is insufficient disclosure about the other expenses to estimate how much administration expense is included in them.

Do they pay their directors?

  • There is insufficient disclosure in the accounts to answer this.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No, not per the ABN record.
    • Tax deductible giving is offered via the ‘Give’ page only because PoA is collecting for other charities:
      • Only gifts to Pioneers workers or projects approved by our Overseas Aid and Relief Fund (OARF) can receive tax deductible donations.
        • The charity that is soliciting ‘gifts to Pioneer workers’ is not disclosed.
        • Nor is the relationship between PoA’s 29 employees (AIS 2016) and these ‘workers’.
        • The Fund, formally APCM Overseas Aid and Relief Fund, belongs to Pioneer Ministries Foundation.

Is PoA’s online giving secure?

  • NA.
    • Although there is an online giving facility on the website, it appears from the breakup of their revenue in the accounts (Note 3), that none of the money given online goes to PoA.
      • Security is not mentioned.

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • They show zero for ‘Grants and donations made…’ in the AIS 2016.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (six and a half months after their year-end, two weeks 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 15 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2016: No
    • ‘Donations and bequests’ doesn’t match the accounts.
    • The amount recorded for ‘Employee expenses’ includes ‘ministry’.
    • For a charity with 29 employees and operating throughout Australia, a description of its ‘activities’ as ‘employ, train and facilitate workers in Australia and overseas’, is inadequate.
    • No outcomes are given.
  • Financial Report 2016:
    • There’s no mention of PMF and the other three charities, so if PoA controls them, then, no, it doesn’t comply.
    • Even if control is by one of these other four charities, the relationship should be disclosed:
    • $1.58 m in expenses and 29 employees, but the lack of non-current assets is still unexplained.
    • 97% of revenue are ‘grants’. There is still no explanation of this item, an item that is counter-intuitive for a Christian charity that is ‘advancing religion’.
    • There is no explanation for the non-standard item ‘Employment & Ministry’ (71% of expenses).
    • We now know that last year’s unexplained ‘PI levy’ is an ‘International contribution’ ($161K). But to whom and for what?
    • Employee benefits liability is still incorrectly disclosed.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • For at least the last three years, the surplus has been less than 1K.
  • ‘Employment and ministry’ rose from 67% of revenue to 71%.
    • The relationship between this item and the standard descriptor ‘Employee benefits expense’ is not given.
  • There are no non-current assets (without explanation).
    • This suggests that part of the financial picture is missing.
  • Non-current liabilities are $46K, but the negative long-term position is more than covered by the positive working capital.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • The auditor, Joel Hernandez, of rdl.accountants, issued a ‘clean’ opinion.
    • Joel is only qualified to do this audit because of the ACNC’s transitional provisions for reporting by incorporated associations:  the Victorian regulator doesn’t require the audit of PoA to be performed by a registered company auditor.
    • Before you decide how much comfort to take from his finding, I suggest that you
      • Read here and here.
      • Re-read the information above under ‘Financial Report 2016’.

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

  • Not quite – ‘Date Established’ is blank.
  • ‘Phone’ and ‘Website’ are still blank, but these are not compulsory.

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

  • NA – although there is an online giving facility on the website, it appears from the breakup of PoA’s revenue in the accounts (Note 3), that it is still the case that none of the money given online goes to them.
  • If you are happy to donate to the unregistered ‘consortium’, these are your options:
    • ‘Give to a Global Project’
      • ‘Aid & Relief Projects’
        • 10 projects with Pioneers Ministries Foundation
      • ‘Special Funding’
        • ‘Unexpected needs’
        • ‘The cost of preparing to go overseas’
        • ‘Customised giving to a particular ministry’
      • ‘Ministry Projects’
    • ‘Give to a Pioneer Worker’

Who are the people controlling PoA?

  • Not shown on the website.
  • Per the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’):
    • Graham Conway
    • Ian Fryer
    • James Gow
    • Jessica Grozsek
    • Timothy Macready
    • Timothy Meyers
    • Timothy Silberman
    • Judith Simcoe-Fitzmaurice
    • Compared to last year, the same people except that Malcolm Gill and Patrick Lok have gone.

To whom are PoA accountable?

  • Not claimed on the website, but PoA is a member of Missions Interlink, an organisation that has standards with which it must comply.
    • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.
  • PoA is also accountable to the ACNC.
  • And to the Victorian regulator of incorporated associations.

 

 

 

  1. The law in this area is not straightforward and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  2. “Good living and social concern are important [to the cause of evangelism], but they are not uniquely Christian graces…I’ve met a lot of fine Hindus, Muslims and atheists. Just living the life is not going to bring someone to Christ. There is much more to it than that. We must help people, certainly, but we must also share with them why we are motivated to do so. We must stand against injustice, poverty and need, but we must at the same time point to the One who brings justice and who can meet the deepest need. Until they know our reasons, how can they come to know our Lord?” [Dan Armstrong, the Fifth Gospel: The Gospel According to You, Anzea Books, pp. 13-14. 

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