TEAR Australia: mini-charity review

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.  Please contact me if you are facing a significant decision with this charity and an updated review would be of help.

Mini-charity review of TEAR Australia (TEAR), an organisation that is one of the first three organisations to be accredited by the CMA Standards Council, Christian Management Australia’smajor new initiative, accrediting Christian organisations against a set of standards of good governance, financial oversight, and fundraising ethics.’

(For last year’s review, see here.)

Is it responsive to feedback?

  • The comments that they wanted published have been included below.

Is it registered?

  • Yes, as a charity.
  • TEAR is a public company, a company limited by guarantee[1].
  • TEAR has a fundraising licence in five of the seven states that have a licensing regime. As it is accredited by AusAid, it is exempt in the ACT, but no reason was found for the lack of a licence in Victoria.

What does TEAR do?

Do they share the Gospel[2]?

  • No.
  • Here’s their answer to the FAQ ‘Does TEAR fund evangelism’?
    • No. TEAR’s policy is to finance the relief, development and advocacy activities of organisations who are motivated by their faith in Christ, and by their desire to demonstrate the depth of God’s commitment to justice, to mercy, to the poor. We do not fund proselytizing activities, but we rejoice and celebrate when we know of people whose lives have been wonderfully and beautifully enriched by the embrace of God in Christ. But we will not support any attempt to misuse relief and development activities to manipulate people into the church. We believe such attempts lack integrity, result in poor development, and dishonour the One who is our motivation.
      • TEAR implies that proselytizing as part of relief and development is automatically an attempt ‘to manipulate people into the church’. It’s not. In fact, there are many Christians who argue that development without sharing the Gospel is automatically an incomplete solution.
      • Ministry comment: ‘TEAR works hard as a Christian organisation to learn from the mistakes of past aid and development practice by many well-intentioned Christian NGOs, churches, and mission agencies which have hurt the church and communities they are trying to serve.  TEAR aims for best practice in the ways it undertakes its mission in light of its calling in the body of Christ and kingdom of God.  A useful reference for deeper understanding of TEAR’s ethos can be found by accessing “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett.’
        • Reviewer’s response: When Helping Hurts says this about sharing the Gospel: ‘A host of contextual issues determine the best manner and the appropriate time to present the gospel verbally, particularly in militant Muslim or Hindu settings. But without such a presentation, it is not possible for people to be personally transformed in all their relationships, which is what poverty alleviation is all about [Kindle Locations 1262-1264, Moody Publishers].

What impact are they having?

  • To measure impact one needs a ‘theory of change’. TEAR has one.
    • It appears from this that the results at the end of the TEAR process are not the changes in the beneficiaries in the community, but the changes in the ‘four “pillars” or prerequisites of change’ in that community.
  • There are two reports of impact on the website, both done prior to the new definition of impact:
    • Impact Report – Livelihoods and Food Security
      • This shows the number of people impacted in various categories of impact in 2013-14 across all projects having ‘a proportionately significant element of livelihood and food security sectoral work.’ Here is an example of the information for each category:
        • CASH FOR WORK/ DIRECT ASSISTANCE (2832 people)

Cash for work, or direct assistance is appropriate in areas of extreme poverty, disaster recovery, or where there is only a small money-based economy that can be leveraged for growth. Such direct assistance provides short-term livelihood benefits and can be used as a foundation for longer-term economic strengthening at a household or community level.

        • The assumption is therefore that there were net benefits to each of the individuals receiving this assistance.
    • Impact Report – Sector Analysis for Basic Health
        • Like the above, but for health in 2014-15.
    • One would think that ‘effectiveness’ would also have something to say about impact. And as the abstract for the Effectiveness Report 2015-16 says, it did in previous years:
      • This report is a departure from previous Effectiveness Reports that have sought to quantify aspects of TEAR’s work in more detail. While measuring the impact of our work continues to be important, TEAR’s primary role is to work closely with partners to support them, and help them develop their own work. To do this effectively requires us to learn so we can pass on that learning to our partners. This report therefore highlights some of the key ways that TEAR has learned over the past year and how it hopes to use this learning to improve its own practice and core business of supporting partners more effectively.

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

  • The item ‘Accountability and administration’ is 7% of expenses (8% of revenue).
    • 7% is the figure they quote in the Annual Report and on the website.
    • This figure does not include all employee expenses.
      • Employee expenses are not disclosed in the accounts. From the AIS 2016, they are 19% of expenses.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • Yes

Is their online giving secure?

  • eway is used, so yes.

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

  • Unless you choose from the ‘Useful Gifts’, none.
  • ‘Useful Gifts’: choose from six categories:
    • Build a Village’
    • ‘Community’
    • ‘Education’
    • ‘Good food’
    • ‘Good health’
    • ‘Water & Sanitation’
    • Ministry comment: ‘Donors are able to direct giving to any of TEAR’s projects (not just those listed in your summary), and donors who give via phone are specifically asked if there is a particular project they would like to fund, with suggestions offered based on the caller’s indications.’

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (five months after their year-end, a month later than last year).

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • Annual Information Statement 2016 (AIS 2016): No
    • ‘Activities’ are not particular to 2016.
    • No outcomes are reported.
    • ‘Other comprehensive income’ and ‘Total comprehensive income’ are both understated by $301K.
      • Ministry comment:  [Added 30.05.17 at their request] ‘The Other Comprehensive Income item (and subsequent flow on to Total Comprehensive Income for the Year figure) is not included in the ACNC online report. This is due to negative items for this field not being able to be entered because of a known technical glitch in their system.
  • Financial Report 2015: Yes
    • There are no definitions of the major expenses items.

What financial situation was shown in that Report?

  • The surplus as a percentage of income has decreased from 12% to minus 10%.
    • This was largely due to a decrease in donations.
  • 5.5 months of revenue is held in cash and short-term deposits.
  • Both short-term and long-term financial structure appear sound.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • He gave a ‘clean’ opinion[3].

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

  • ‘Phone’ and ‘Website’ are blank, but neither are compulsory.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • These people shown on the website as members of the board:
    • Joanna Betteridge
    • Peter Noble
    • Barbara Deutschmann
    • Brett Gresham
    • Matthew Maury
    • Barry Morris
    • Peter Snowsill
    • Joanna Watts
    • Lauren Bonnet
  • With a swop of Lauren Bonnet for James Burnet, the same people are shown on the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’):

To whom is TEAR accountable?

  • As they themselves say:
    • TEAR Australia is fully accredited with The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which manages the Australian Government’s overseas aid program, and
    • A signatory to the Australian Council For International Development Code of Conduct.
      • They received 33% of their revenue from DFAT.
  • To the CMA Standards Council as an accredited organisation.
  • To the ACNC as a charity, and to ASIC as a company.
  • Ministry comment: ‘In addition to those listed, TEAR also has accountabilities to the Integral Alliance.

 

 

  1. Not, as TEAR says on its ABN record, an ‘Other Incorporated Entity’.
  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.
  3. To take the right amount of comfort from a ‘clean opinion’, please read here and here.

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