Sowers International Australia Incorporated: mini charity review

Mini charity review of Sowers International Australia Incorporated (SI) as an organisation that (a) seeks donations from the public via its website, and (b) is a member of Missions Interlink[1], (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

See here for the previous review.

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • I sent them a draft of this review 8 July 2017. After an initial exchange, they sent the following response to my comments:
    • SIAust raises funds for the work in six African countries and these funds are used to support the work in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya. SIAust has no paid staff and uses 7% of donations for administration.
      • Reviewer response: This figure cannot be confirmed from financial statements.

The impact is reflected in the annual statistics from these countries. For example, 

From August 2015 to July 2016 in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique:

*             459 teams held 2080 open air meetings

*             54,130 people heard the Gospel

*             Over 21,800 people were counselled

*             Over 11,700 people were followed-up

*             More than 4,400 people joined churches with SOWERS teams. Many more joined other churches and

*       55 new churches were planted

Reviewer response: These figures are for ‘SOWERS’ internationally, not SI. SI raises money.

It is Sowers International policy not to include the full name of people on its websites.  Hence under the photo, only the Christian name is shown.  Peter is Peter Gazard, Paul is Paul Mosiejczuk and Ella is Delia Yon.

Reviewer response: The information publicly available on the ACNC Register negates the effectiveness of this policy. (I have told them that they can apply to have the names withheld.)

Is SI registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
  • Other registrations:
    • SI is a NSW incorporated association (No. Y1946305).
    • Not currently registered for GST. This is not an issue until its revenue reaches $150K.
    • The absence of a business name means that SI must use its full name on all documents and publications.
    • It operates in Australia, at least per the ACNC Register, only in New South Wales. It therefore does not need an ARBN registration.
    • SI doesn’t have a fundraising licence in any of the seven states that have a licensing regime[2].

What do they do?

  • From the website:
    • SOWERS International Australia helps local churches in Africa to reach their communities with the gospel through open air meetings.The SOWERS Program trains and equips church teams in culturally appropriate ways to lead people to Christ and disciple the new believers.

Do they share the Gospel [3]?

  • Yes, in conjunction with local churches.

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing systematic found.
    • A couple of stories here – but Sowers internationally rather than just Australia?

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

  • If ‘direct’ is defined as ‘Overseas Ministry Costs’ – which probably include all the costs of both getting overseas and working overseas – then ‘administration’ is 47%.
    • SI gave a figure of 7% in their comments on the draft review (see above). This cannot be confirmed from the financial statements.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No

Is their online giving secure?

  • NA

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (lodged five+ 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 a year ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2016: Except for the absence of outcomes, yes.
  • Financial Report 2016: NA
    • Although not required to submit a financial report to the ACNC (because of its size), SI has submitted one anyway. Because it was a voluntary submission, the Report does not need to comply with the ACNC’s requirements.
    • But SI, as a member of Missions Interlink, is required to ‘have available for its members and supporters a clear and appropriate financial statement which has been approved by its auditor [Standards Statement, 4.1]
    • If ‘appropriate’ has any reference at all to what professional accountants do (at least should do), then this Report falls well short of the Missions Interlink requirement.
    • Once again
      • There is no Statement of Changes in Equity.
      • Nearly all the required Notes to the accounts are absent.
      • SI has confused expenses with transfer to reserves.
      • The Statement by Committee is unsigned.
      • There is no reason given for the Committee’s questionable decision – given the public invitation to donate and the dependence on donations – not to produce those statements that are needed by users (and prospective users) who can’t request tailor-made statements.
      • They are using neither the cash basis nor the accrual basis.
      • There is no distinction between current and non-current in the Balance Sheet.
      • There is no explanation why Mission Funds held in Trust (100% of the liabilities) are classified as liabilities.
      • With the Statement of Income and Expenditure
        • The section ‘Other Comprehensive Income’ is missing.
        • The only explanation for 95% of the expenses was that they were ‘Ministry Operating Costs’.
    • The Committee claim compliance with the ‘Charitable Fundraising Act NSW’ yet they are not a licensed fundraiser.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • No reliable comment can be made.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

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

  • Not quite:
    • The ACNC say that they have yet to select an Entity Subtype.
    • ‘Date established’ is blank.
      • “Phone” and “Website” are blank, but neither are compulsory.

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

  • These (but not online):
    • ‘A NATIONAL SOWER AND HIS MINISTRY: Please state which country.
      • PRINTING: Counselling booklets, contact tracts, manuals, follow-up materials
      • EQUIPMENT: Sketchboard kits,
      • BIBLES for new churches
      • BICYCLES, MOSQUITO NETS, SLEEPING BAGS for Trainers’

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Sometime in 2016 it was the people in this photo on the website.
  • Per the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’):
    • Neil Clark
    • Peter Gazard
      • Is it this Peter Gazard?
    • Wendell Merchant
    • Paul Mosiejczuk
      • Presumably it is this Paul Mosiejczuk?
    • Christine Sexton
    • Selwyn Sexton
    • Geoffrey Tomkinson
    • Delia Yap
  • The website includes ‘Ella’, but the Register has Delia Yap instead.

To whom are they accountable?

  • To Missions Interlink, as a member. Membership confirmed[4].
  • And to the regulator of New South Wales incorporated associations.

 

 

  1. 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.
  2. The law in this area is not straightforward – is an internet invitation ‘fundraising’ for instance? – and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  3. “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. 
  4. For one opinion on the strength of the Missions Interlink accountability, see the section Activities in this review.