Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor Inc, charity review

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.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.

This is a charity review, a review for those with an interest in the Australian charity Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor Incorporated (SA).

It is structured according to the charity’s entry on the ACNC[i]Register, and its purpose is to supply some information extra to what is there, information that may be helpful in your decision about SA.

It is up to you to decide whether any or all of the information presented here is what you need in order to make that decision, and whether you should seek any other information, either from the charity itself or from other sources.

Ministry response

  • Prior to publishing this review, I sent my observations to the charity, on 13 April 2016, and invited them to comment. For publication, they submitted this comment:
    • Servants does not endorse this review and is disappointed with the review’s unreasonably pejorative interpretation of publicly available information about Servants.  Servants Australia is committed to good governance, financial transparency and accountability.  We are registered and compliant with Queensland Office of Fair Trading, ACNC and Missions Interlink.  We ask people seeking more information about Servants to contact our office, Missions Interlink or the ACNC website.
      • I asked them to identify where I had been unreasonable, but they did not respond.

Organisation of this review

  • The first part of this review is organised according to the headings in the Register entry. This is how to use this section of the review:
    1. For each heading in the register entry, first read the information under that heading.
    2. Then check if that heading is included below. (Headings for which there is no comment are not included.)
  • Then there is a section Membership of accountability organisations claimed.

Sources

  • ACNC Register (including links)
  • Google search on the charity’s name.
  • The website that SA shares with all the other offices in the network worldwide.
  • Social media, via buttons in the header of a webpage.
  • LinkedIn.
  • State government fundraising licence registers.
  • No reviews on Glassdoor

REGISTRATION DETAILS

Entity Subtype

  • Not a type that suggests that SA shares the Gospel.
  • This is not the case with the first object in the constitution though:
    • To enable Christian missionaries to initiate, assist and establish indigenous churches, fellowships and discipling movements particularly amongst Asia’s urban poor. This is an expression of Jesus’ own ministry to “preach the gospel to the poor” and “make disciples of all nations”
      • However, the organisation that they partner with for some of their work, Global Development Group (see Charity ABN, below) is not a Christian charity.

CHARITY DETAILS

Legal Name

  • SA is a Queensland incorporated association (No. IA31696).
  • Although an Australian association, another body, the ‘International Leadership Team (undefined), has the power to admit and the power to remove members.

Other Name(s)

  • SA has no business name registered.
  • In Australia, therefore, they are required to use their name (or the same but with Inc. on the end).
    • They go by the name Servants on the website and on Vimeo, ServantsAsia on Twitter, and Servants Australia on the website.

Charity ABN

  • Tax deductibility: No, you cannot claim a tax deduction for a donation to SA.
    • There is a different picture under the Donate button on the website:
      • …we partner with Global Development Group who provide tax receipts for the ‘Big Brothers and Big Sisters’ project in Cambodia, and ‘Lilok Organic Farm’ project in The Philippines. Other projects are currently in the process of obtaining tax deductibility status.
        • What does this facility cost SA?
        • Global Development Group is not a Christian organization, and would not be allowed to spread the Gospel via such projects anyway.         How then can such projects meet the objects of SA (see Entity Subtype, above)?

Charity Street Address

  • Postal address, from the website: PO Box 259 Red Hill, Brisbane Australia 4059.

Website

  • This is not SA’s website, but one that covers all the offices of the network worldwide. This is the page about Australia.

ANNUAL REPORTING

  • AIS 2015
    • This is SA’s compulsory Annual Information Statement 2015 (AIS 2015).
    • It was lodged seven months after year end, four days before the deadline (a deadline that had been generously extended for all charities).
    • It gives basic financial information:
      • 99% of the $103K income came from ‘Donations and bequests’.
      • Employees took 69% of the income (or 57% of expenses).
        • Elsewhere in the AIS, the number of employees is reported as five, all full-time. This equates to an average of merely $14K per employee – a mistake, surely.
      • The $34K ‘Grants and donations made…’ represents only 33% of income – they incurred a deficit in 2014 – or 27% of expenses.
      • It is not clear how this information relates to what prospective donors are told on the website:
        • There are several ways you can contribute financially to Servants’ vision to see the urban poor and their communities transformed by Christ.  Servants offices are fully staffed by volunteers and overheads are kept to a minimum in keeping with our commitment to simplicity. Donations can be made for specific Servants project funds or in support of individual missionaries.* No administration fee is taken out of donations to Servants projects and 100% of your gift will be sent to the field [emphasis in original].
      • None of the beneficiaries mentioned under Activities (below) have declared foreign donations to the Indian Government. Nor has Servants.
  • Unfortunately, this is the only financial information that you’ve got:
    • Because of its size SA doesn’t have to lodge a Financial Report.
    • Although SA is a member of Missions Interlink[ii], and one of their requirements is that members ‘have available for its members and supporters a clear and appropriate financial statement which has been approved by its auditor [Standards Statement, 4.1], they
      • did not choose to lodge one with the ACNC voluntarily, and
      • did not respond to my request for a copy of this ‘statement’.
    • I have therefore been unable to review the latest report.

ABOUT THE CHARITY

  • Statement of Faith
    • None specifically for SA on the website; presumably they subscribe to the network’s ‘what we believe’ statement.

 Date Established

  • No history of SA found.
  • Here’s how Servants started.

Who the Charity Benefits

  • Vision and Mission
    • None found for SA.
    • Nor for the network.
  • Activities (What did SA do?)
    • From the Description of charity’s activities and outcomes in the AIS 2015:
      • Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor pursued its charitable purposes in 2014-15 financial year by supporting Australian families and individuals who live and work in the slums of Asia, participating with the poor to bring hope and justice through Jesus Christ. To enable this an Australian Office was maintained to support these workers through receiving and processing worker support donations and general donations, and also to prepare interns, and assist with re-settlement needs of workers returning home. Together with networking conferences and training across Australia, Servants Annual Dinner (non-fundraising) was held in Brisbane on October 17, to raise awareness and celebrate what God was doing among the urban poor, and in recognition of ‘The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty’. In India the not for profit social enterprises ‘Ashadesh’ and ‘Kiran’ continued to develop. Ashadesh is in the business of carbon offsets, which was generated by enabling many families in the slums to access clean burning stoves, thereby also reducing carbon emissions. By buying carbon offsets carbon footprints were reduced as well as good health and social benefits for the poor. ‘Kiran’ jewellery vocational training centre continued to grow and employ local women. Also through advocacy work for a local NGO there are now English and Hindi manuals detailing government services for the poor, for all the most populous states of North India
        • Is this the Kiran NFP? If so, Servants is not mentioned.
        • Is this the Ashadesh NFP? Again, Servants is not mentioned.
        • Both are run by the Australians Steve and Jane Wilson.
  • Outcomes (What did SA deliver?)
    • See Activities, above.
    • Nothing systematic found.
  • Impact (How were people’s lives improved?)
    • Nothing systematic found.

Size of Charity

  • If there were a size smaller than ‘Small’, SA would may well qualify.

Financial Year End

  • The next AIS (including Financial Report if they choose to include it) is due by 31 December 2016. (or 31 January if the ACNC give their generous extension again.)
  • Before that the financial information on the Register will be up to 18 months out-of-date.
    • You may therefore need to ask for more up-to-date information.

WHERE THE CHARITY OPERATES

Operating State(s)[ii]

  • No information found to explain why four states are listed here.
  • SA doesn’t have a fundraising licence in these states. Is it fundraising?
  • It doesn’t have a licence in any of the other three states that have a licensing regime.
  • SA invites donations on its website.
    • Apart from exemptions, whether it needs such a licence in a particular state depends on whether that state thinks that SA, by calling for donations publicly, is ‘fundraising’ in their territory.

Operates in (Countries)

  • This matches the information under Activities,

CHARITY’S DOCUMENT (SIC)

  • There is no Annual Report/Review available on the ACNC Register.
  • Nor on the website.

RESPONSIBLE PERSONS

No. of Australian ‘responsible person’ positions[iii]

Catherine Delaney       This function was not working at the time of publication

Jon Eastgate

Lisa Elliott

Nathan Elmes

  • There is no mention of the committee members on the website.
  • The composition is consistent with the constitution.

(End of review of the ACNC Register information)

Membership of accountability organisations claimed

  • The page for Australia on the website claims membership of Missions Interlink. Confirmed.

(End of review)

[i] Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Australia’s national regulator of charities.

[ii] This is how the ACNC explains ‘operating locations’ in  their application guide: ‘You need to give details about where in Australia your organisation conducts (or plans to conduct) its activities.’

[iii] Because of the possibility of two (or more) directors having the same name on the register of responsible persons, it is not possible to be definitive about the number of directorships held.