Summer Institute of Linguistics Australia: charity review

Since the last time I checked, a few months ago, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Australia (SIL) has become an associate member of Missions Interlink.

Such members have to accept a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:

The ACNC, in their article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”:

  1. Check the charity’s name
  2. Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
  3. Be careful of online requests for donations.
  4. No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one.
  5. Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.

Here’s the results for SIL:

1. There is a registered[1] charity in that name, but without the ‘(SIL)’.

2. NA

3. The “web address begins with ‘https’ and there is a closed padlock symbol next to the web address in the address bar”, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above]. But this is not relevant to your giving to SIL, for their Donate button transfers you to a separate charity, Wycliffe Bible Translators. So you have to trust that organisation, both generally and with your credit card information.

Wycliffe Bible Translators’ website is secure. For a review of that charity, see here.

For your credit card, you are told that ‘This site is secured by Trustwave for your protection’, but when you click on their logo, the message is that Trustwave doesn’t know Wycliffe Bible Translators.

The relationship between SIL and Wycliffe Bible Translators is not explained. Here’s something from SIL’s website. And here.

4. SIL says that ‘It is a Deductible Gift Recipient endorsed by ATO’. Not quite true – just the funds that it operates offer tax deductibility.

The donation page lists three funds, the Australian Business Register only two. The extra one doesn’t belong to SIL, but to a separate charity, SILA Overseas Aid & Development Fund.

5.  The audited account of how the donations are used is the Financial Report 2017 on the ACNC Register. Within that there are two statements that give information on how the donations were used. Most donors think in terms of cash, so if that’s you, you might turn first to the Statement of Cash Flows. What you might not know though, is that you first should turn to the Notes to the accounts (Notes to the Financial Statements in this case) to check out the ‘Basis of preparation’.

Do you provide or give things to, receive things from, or have oversight of, or review, of the SIL? Perhaps you intend to donate or are one of the donors who gave $27K last year [Financial Report 2017]? Perhaps you are one of the suppliers who shared in the $110K of payments? [Financial Report 2017], or one of their 31 volunteers [AIS 2017]. If so, can you ring SIL’s office and request that they prepare financial statements that answer the question or questions you have about the charity? I very much doubt it. You are therefore ‘potentially interested in the information provided in general purpose reports’[2].

You are therefore in the wrong place – I only have access to the published accounts of SIL, and the directors[3], with the agreement of the auditor[4], have again, on the grounds that you don’t exist, produced special purpose financial statements.

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If SIL is still in the running for your business –

  • Although Note 1 to the financial statements says that the Financial Report ‘covers [SIL] as an individual entity’, that is, they are not consolidated statements, the income statement includes a material amount called ‘OADF donations and contributions’.
  • There is no explanation for what is easily the largest expense, ‘Operating expenses’ $91K. Nor any other the other expenses (all except Depreciation are 8% or over of the total expenses).
  • There is no information about the recipient or recipients of the $38K (16% of total expenses) sent overseas. Not even their country[5].
  • There is no information about how they ensure that the money you give is used for the purpose for which it was given.
  • At the time of donating, you have three options. None of these are shown under ‘Revenue’, and only the third under expenses in the Financial Report 2017.

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Contact me if you need a fuller review.

 

 

  1. The ACNC implies, therefore, that it is a ‘legitimate’ charity. But this is not correct – as the ACNC itself points out, registration is voluntary.
  2. From Objective of General Purpose Financial Reporting (SAC2), www.aasb.gov.au: http://tedsherwood.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/word-image-15.png  
  3. The people shown here. After an assumption that David Nicholls is the Kevin Nicholls, this matches the ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register.
  4. Matthew Hung, CA, of rdl.accountants.
  5. Their entry on the ACNC Register says that they operate in China and Philippines.

 

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