The Church Missionary Society – Tasmania Inc

This is a charity review of The Church Missionary Society – Tasmania Inc (CMS-T), an organisation that seeks donations online and is a member of Missions Interlink. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

For the previous review, see here.

Are they responsive to feedback?[1]

  • CMS-T do not seek feedback generally, but they do provide a way to complain or give feedback about privacy
  • Other complaints have their own page.
  • Accountability is not mentioned on the webpages.
  • I sent them a draft of this review. Like last year, they…did not respond.

Is CMS-T registered?

  • Even though the short name for CMS-T in its constitution is ‘the branch’ – because it is a branch member of Church Missionary Society – Australia Limited (CMS-A) – the constitution also says that it is autonomous.
  • CMS-T is a Tasmania incorporated association (TAS 03628C), and a registered charity.
  • It trades under two other names, CMS Tasmania and CMS Tas. Neither these nor any other name is registered. It should therefore be using its full name in public (including ‘Inc/Incorporated’ on the end) at all times
  • CMS-T operates, per the ACNC Register, only in Tasmania. It says in the AIS 2017 that it intends to fundraise there, but it doesn’t explain why has no fundraising licence.
    • Although it has an online request for donations, it is collecting for another organisation (CMS-A), so perhaps that explains the lack of fundraising licences in the other states that have a licensing regime for charities.

What do they do?

  • Generally: see the first section here.
  • More specifically: from the AIS 2017:
    • We educate and engage churches and their members in Tasmania about cross cultural Christian mission. Our major annual event was the SummerView Conference held at Port Sorell from 12-15 January 2017. Regular regional prayer gatherings are held in the north, south, and northwest of the State. Missionary information was disseminated at these and other occasional events held during the year. Twentyseven churches were visited throughout the year by our State Director, as well as three schools. Identifying and endorsing suitable candidates for cross cultural overseas Christian ministry. Support of cross-cultural workers in cross cultural service through the Church Missionary Society Australia Ltd. From December 2016 to June 2017 we pastorally supported and provided for our two missionary units (a single person and a married couple) who were on Home Assignment. Supporters increased by 66% and donations improved by 10%, for the most part resulting from the employment of our new State Director, Rev’d Scott Sargent from 1 November 2016. A new Tasmanian candidate was accepted for missionary service and will head to St Andrew’s Hall for cross cultural training in 2018.
  • CMS-T has two ‘missionary units’ (AIS 2017) and sent $151K overseas (AIS 2017). (When it says on the ACNC Register that it does not operate overseas therefore appears to be a mistake.)

Do they share the Gospel[2]?

  • Only if they have one or more missionaries who are proselytizing rather than working with believers.

What impact are they having?

  • No information found.

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

  • If ‘Distribution of Funds’ is defined as the money that goes to achieve the impact, then 51% is administration (up from 40% last year).
    • But an undisclosed amount of this distribution is to cover CMS-A’s overhead, so the figure is greater than 51%.

Do they pay their board members?

  • The CMS-T governing document does not prohibit this.
  • There don’t appear to be any board members’ fees in the Statement of Surplus or Deficit.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • Not for a donation to CMS-T.
    • Nevertheless, the giving page that they use is, without explanation, the one belonging to Church Missionary Society – Australia Ltd, and it does offer tax-deductible giving.

Is their online giving secure?

  • Security is not mentioned.

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • $241K was received in donations (Statement of Surplus or Deficit). $151K ‘grants and donations’ were made (AIS 2017), all to CMS-A.
    • Like last year, some of this didn’t belong to CMS-T in the first place – they collected $21K tax-deductible donations for CMS-A as their agent.
    • There’s no information in the financial statements about the destination of the non-tax-deductible money.
      • It is most likely the payment talked about in the ‘Branch Council Report’ (included in the Financial Report 2017):
        • CMS-A pays all missionary allowances and direct costs, and makes provision in their accounts for resettlement when they return home. As CMS-A has no income of its own, each Branch is responsible for meeting the cost of their missionaries, along with a proportional share of CMS-A costs including staff, administration, pastoral care, training and governance via the monthly payment of an amount budgeted by CMS-A each financial year.
        • So, the $151K is both to pay CMS-T’s missionaries and to run CMS-A. We are not told the split.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (lodged six and a half months after their year-end, two weeks before the deadline, and the same time as last year).
    • 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 nearly 12 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2017: Like the last two years, no.
    • CMS-T is indeed known by the name CMS Tasmania, but it’s also known as CMS Tas. (Neither are registered, so by ‘Other Name(s), the ACNC means registered names, which is likely, then neither should be included here.)
    • No outcomes are given.
    • Two of the (substantive) figures under ‘Gross Income’ are incorrect.
    • No overseas countries are mentioned.
    • ‘Tas Fundraising No.’ is blank.
  • Financial Report 2017[3]: Questionable. Like last year,
    • Money collected for another charity (CMS-A) is included.
    • 90% of liabilities, ‘Provision for Maintenance’, are not a liability.
    • Buildings are not depreciated.
    • The committee says that CMS-T is not a reporting entity. This allows them to make less than a full disclosure about CMS-T’s finances and operations. They give no reason for the choice, but, by definition, they are saying that there no current or prospective stakeholders who depend on their financial statements to make decisions. With 500+ members [State Director’s Report], this is implausible.
    • No explanation is given for the substantial income from ‘Rent’ (16% of revenue).
    • CMS-T’s relationship with CMS-Australia – the organization that collects its online donations and receives its money for missionaries – is not explained.
      • There is an explanation in the Directors’ Report, but this is not audited.
    • The relationship between the missionaries that it has sent overseas, employees, and CMS-Australiais not disclosed.
      • The Directors’ Report says that CMS-T is responsible for the cost of its missionaries, but this cost is not disclosed[4].

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • The auditor, Geoffrey V Powell, of Powell Accounting, Chartered Accountants, issued a ‘clean’ opinion. However, before you decide how much comfort to take from this opinion,
    • read here and here to understand what a ‘clean’ opinion means, an
    • read again the ‘Financial Report 2017’ section above.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • The surplus declined from 31% of revenue to 8%.
  • ‘Employment costs’ increased from 5% to 25%. No explanation is given.
  • Based on the figures, financial structure is sound.
  • Together with ‘Cash’, ‘Deposits with Trustees of Diocese of Tasmania’, represents 21 months of revenue. There’s no information in the financial statements about why so much is held at the same time as continuing to seek donations.
    • CMS-T includes this comment in the Branch Council Report (in the Financial Report 2017):
      • C.M.S. Tasmania through its relationship with C.M.S. Australia, has a commitment to fund CMS-Tas missionaries. While this commitment will be met in part by the ongoing support of our donors, CMS-Tas seeks to hold sufficient financial reserves to cover future missionary commitments payable to CMS-A. Our current financial reserves are adequate to cover this commitment.
        • Why should past donors support the future unmet needs of missionaries?
    • The same section in the Branch Council Report continues
      • The health of the Church Missionary Society – Tasmania Inc is dependent upon the grace of God and the continued financial support of its members.
        • By keeping significant financial reserves, CMS-T is dependent on neither the grace of God nor its members.

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

  • No,
    • ‘Who the Charity Benefits’ is incomplete.
    • CMS-T does operate overseas.
    • The name CMS Tas is missing.
    • They are indeed known by the name CMS Tasmania, but if by ‘Other Name(s), the ACNC means registered names (which is likely), then CMS-T’s inclusion of this name is incorrect.

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

  • In one sense, you have no choice – it all goes to another charity, CMS-Australia.
  • These are the choices given by CMS-A:
    • ‘General Missionary Support’
    • ‘General Tax Deductible (sic) Gift’
    • ‘A particular worker’ (with a dropdown listing all the workers)
    • ‘Other’
      • This includes two with CMS-T in the title, CMS TAS Membership Donation’ and ‘CMS TAS SummerView support Fund’.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not shown on the webpages, but on the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’), they are:
    • Craig Arnold
    • Anita Booker
    • Richard Condie
    • Michael Guerzoni
    • Emily Isham
    • Francis Lee-Jones
    • Suzanne Morton
    • Joel Nankervis
    • James Oakley
    • Scott Sargent
    • Robert Stanley
    • Leonie Stiltz
    • Richard Condie has no right to vote, so should he be in this list?
  • The Board is short one member.
  • The Board is responsible to the membership. There are over 500 members [‘Annual Report’, the Register].

To whom are CMS-T accountable?

  • Nothing claimed on the webpages.
  • As a (registered) charity, to the ACNC.
  • And to the Tasmanian incorporated associations regulator.
  • Although not mentioned on their webpage, they are also accountable as a Member of Missions Interlink.
    • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.

 

 

  1. I agree with Randy Alcorn when he says that ‘Any Christian leaders who resist financial accountability make themselves suspect.’ [Money, Possessions, & Eternity, Tyndale, 2003, 425].
  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. I use the Pinnacle Financial Statements, respected in the profession as providing a very sound basis for producing compliant financial reports. To this I add an assessment of materiality (both quantitative and qualitative), where the users being considered are donors.
  4. In addition,
    • The total of ‘Cash reserves’ is much greater than the total of cash and cash equivalents.
    • The Statement of Surplus or Deficit does not comply with the relevant Accounting Standard.
    • The result of CMS-T’s major annual event, SummerView, is included as a single figure, thereby understating both revenues and expenses.
    • ‘Receipts from activities’ and ‘Payments (sic) operating costs’ is an insufficient disclosure of cash flows.
    • There are no Notes for the Statement of Surplus or Deficit.
    • Without explanation, some of the figures reported for the prior year do not match what was reported last year.

 

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