Pioneers of Australia Inc.: 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The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.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 October 2017, and come back to this one as needed.

Mini charity review of Pioneers of Australia Inc. (PoA) 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…did not respond.

Is PoA registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
    • You would not know it from their entry in the ACNC Register, nor from their accounts, but the people who run PoA also run at least another four charities, all with the same directors, the same office, and the same email addresses:
      • Pioneers Ministries Foundation (PMF). The website linked in the introduction (above) combines, almost seamlessly, the operations of both PoA and PMF. (There are only three references to PMF.)
      • Action Partners Inc.
        • There are only three references to this charity on the website, all in accounts of the history of ‘Pioneers’.
      • Asia Pacific Christian Mission (Png) (sic) Inc
        • Four references only, three in historical accounts.
      • South Pacific Partners Inc
        • Only one reference, history.
      • You would have to read the privacy statement on the website for an explanation. 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 charity regulator. 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).
        • Nor do these entities mention PoA.
  • Other registrations:
    • As a Victorian incorporated association (A0035283T).
    • Neither of the names that it uses on the internet, Pioneers Australia and Pioneers of Australia, are registered.
    • It has the registration necessary to operate outside its home state (ARBN 080211730).
    • PoA operates in all seven states that have a fundraising regime, and has an invitation to give on the internet. But it has no fundraising licences[1].

What does PoA do?

  • Their Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2015 says that they ‘Employ, train and facilitate workers in Australia and overseas’.
    • ‘Workers’ should be seen in the context of the mission statement on the website:
      • Pioneers mobilises teams to glorify God amongst unreached peoples by initiating church planting movements in partnership with local churches.” The terms used here are defined on the same page.
    • At the time of the AIS 2015 they had 25 employees, and since there are 28 employees in the Australian team now, and PMF said it didn’t have any, this implies that somebody else is employing the people who are working overseas.

Does PoA share the Gospel?

  • No

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing systematic found.

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

  • If we define ‘direct’ as ‘Employment & ministry’ plus ‘Mobilisation’, then the figure is 29%.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No

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.)

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (on the second last day, seven 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 over 16 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2015: Not quite
    • ‘Other Income’ doesn’t match the accounts.
    • No outcomes are given.
  • Financial Report 2015: Questionable
    • 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:
    • $1.04 m ‘Employee expenses’ (25+ employees) but zero non-current assets without explanation.
    • 98% of revenue are ‘grants’. There is no explanation of this item, counter-intuitive for a Christian charity that is ‘advancing religion’.
    • There is no explanation for the non-standard item ‘Employment & Ministry’ (67% of expenses).
    • $152K in the unexplained ‘PI levy’.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • There was a surplus of a little above zero again this year.
  • There are no non-current assets.
  • There is minimal equity.
  • All this suggests that part of the financial picture is missing.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • He gave a ‘clean’ opinion[2].
    • Re-read the information above on PoA’s financial reporting and make up your own mind on the validity of this.

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

  • Not quite – ‘Phone’, ‘Website’ are blank.

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 their revenue in the accounts (Note 3), that none of the money given online goes to PoA.)
  • If you are happy to donate to the unregistered ‘consortium’, these are your options:
    • ‘Fiji Cyclone Recovery Fund’
    • ‘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, but listed under ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register:
    • Graham Conway
    • Ian Fryer
    • Malcolm Gill
    • James Gow
    • Jessica Grozsek
    • Patrick Lok
    • Timothy Macready
    • Timothy Myers
    • Timothy Silberman
    • Judith Simcoe-Fitzmaurice

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[3].
  • PoA is 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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