The Bible League Incorporated: mini-charity review

Mini charity review of The Bible League Incorporated (TBL) an organisation that seeks donations online and that 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?

  • Neither feedback nor complaints is mentioned on the website.
  • I sent them a draft of this review. Like last year, they did not respond[1].
    • Some changes that they have made after receiving the draft suggest that they did respond, just not to me.

Is TBL registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
    • With TBL’s website being in the name Bible League International, don’t confuse TBL with the charity Bible League International (APAC) Pty Limited, or the US Bible League organization Bible League International.
      • Bible League International (APAC) Pty Limited is indirectly related to TBL, being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the US organization. It receives revenue almost entirely from the parent, and after expenses (28% last year), distributes it in the Asia-Pacific region.
    • TBL also trades under the name Bible League Australia. They have registered this name.
    • Ten times on the website it also refers to an entity called Bible League Australia and New Zealand. This is a business name belonging to TBL. But there is no combined organization[2].
  • Other registrations:
    • As a NSW incorporated association (Y2857836). (Not, as TBL is still saying on the Australian Business Register, an ‘Other Unincorporated Entity.)
    • TBL operates – according to the ACNC Register – throughout Australia.
      • If it’s ‘carrying on business’ outside NSW, as it appears to be, then it still doesn’t have the required registration (an ARBN).
      • It is registered to fundraise in all states that have a licensing regime except for Western Australia and South Australia. Presumably it still believes that is exempt in these two states.

What do they do?

  • Not what the website or the Committee’s Report (in the Financial Report) says – that’s about the international effort. But what was again said in the AIS before they changed it recently[3]:
    • Fundraising through marketing to supply bibles.

Does they share the Gospel?[4]

  • No.

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing systematic found.

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

  • If we define ‘direct’ as ‘Distribution of Funds Raised’ then 52 cents of every dollar of expenses is administration. Last year it was 45 cents.
    • ‘Employment expenses’ are 31% of total expenses. Last year it was 27%.
    • No explanation is given for these significant increases.
    • It would be reasonable to ask TBL why it would not be more efficient for you to send your donation direct to the US organisation.

Do they pay their board members?

  • Such payments are not prohibited by the constitution.
  • From the (unaudited) Detailed Income and Expenditure Statement, the only item possibly relevant is Committee expenses $3K.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No
    • But if that’s critical for you, TBL say that there may be a solution:
      • However, businesses are able to gain some tax advantages by supporting the ministry through a business sponsorship.

Is their online giving secure?

  • eWay is used, so yes.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (a little over three months after their year-end, a month later than last year).
    • 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 15 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2017: No.
    • Again, this year
      • Two of the figures in the Income Statement do not match those in the Financial Report.
      • No outcomes are given.
    • TBL is incorporated in one state, not four.
  • Financial Report 2017: No
    • The directors still don’t say why they have chosen to produce the lower disclosure special purpose financial report. But whatever their reasoning, such a report, one that assumes that all TBL’s stakeholders, both present and prospective, are capable to getting TBL to produce a report tailored for their purposes, is not, for a charity that collects $3.0 m from donors all over Australia, consistent with the required true and fair view.
    • TBL has the same directors as Bible League International New Zealand, collects money for it, and appears to keep its books. Yet the relationship is not mentioned.
    • TBL continues to produce a Report that
      • excludes ‘Other Comprehensive Income’,
      • omits some necessary Notes to the accounts,
      • includes negative depreciation without an explanation,
      • makes an incomplete or incorrect disclosure about land and buildings and financial assets,
      • uses a mixed classification of expenses,
      • includes a second profit or loss statement without explanation,
      • refers to ‘authoritative pronouncements of the Associations Incorporation Act’, and
      • provides an audit report that excludes one of the required statements from its scope.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • Last year’s result of slightly over zero surplus was converted into a 1% deficit this year.
  • No obvious concerns with the financial structure.

What did the auditor say about the financial statements?

  • The auditor, WJ Piepers FCA, for berger piepers, Chartered Accountants, gave a ‘clean’ opinion.
  • Before you conclude on how much comfort you should take from this opinion, please
    • read on the meaning of ‘clean’ here and here, and
    • re-read the section ‘Financial Report 2017’. (To do the audit, WJ Piepers had to be comfortable with the directors’ decision to not produce general purpose financial statements.)

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

  • No:
    • ‘Operates in (Countries)’ is blank. Money is sent to the US and New Zealand, and the same people run both the Australian and New Zealand Bible League organisations.

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

  • The following areas for ‘My Gift to Plant Bibles’:
    • Where Most Needed’
    • ‘Ethiopia – Making a Dream Come True’
    • ‘Middle East – Planting God’s Word’
    • ‘Ethiopia – eNews’
    • ‘Philippines – eNews’
    • ‘Bibles for the Persecuted’
    • ‘Bible League Friend’
    • ‘Run4Bibles’
    • ‘New Zealand Purposes’

Where were your (net) donations sent?

  • Note 1 in the Notes to the Financial Statements says that
    • The Associations (sic) origin likes in raising funds for the distribution of the Gospel as shown in the Committee’s Report[5]. The cost of distributing the Gospel is borne by The Bible League in the United States of America. It is understood between the parties The Bible League Incorporated retains sufficient funds to enable it to continue with the task of fund raising.
    • Beyond this, there is no disclosure.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not shown on the website.
  • Per the ACNC Register (under ‘Responsible Persons’):
    • Arie Baalbergen
    • Raymond Condon
    • Donald De Vries
    • Blayne Herr
    • Peter Knight
    • Dirk Reitsma
    • Jarrod Thompson
    • The same people are the directors of Bible League International New Zealand.
  • The directors are responsible to the members of the association. The number of members is not disclosed.

To whom are TBL accountable?

  • As a charity, to the ACNC.
  • As an association, to the New South Wales regulator of incorporated associations.
  • Membership of Missions Interlink, an organisation that has a general accountability regime, is claimed on the website. Confirmed.
    • For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.
  • Membership of FIA, an organisation that has a fundraising code of practice, is claimed on the website. But TBL are (still) not in the list of members.

 

 

  1. Bible League in Australia continues to maintain the highest level of financial integrity. We are committed to financial disclosure and trustworthy stewardship [From their bequest promotion brochure, https://bl.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/The_Enduring_Word_AU_Web2.pdf].
  2. The history on the website records that Bible League Australia and BiblesinAction (NZ) merged on 1 September 2012. The New Zealand charity Bible League International New Zealand was registered three months later. But there is no mention of a combined organisation under ‘Global Offices’ on the TBL website, nor in the Financial Report. TBL’s website has a button to go to the New Zealand site, and vice versa.
  3. It now says ‘Present the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ through the distribution of Scriptures to churches, individuals and homes without Bibles globally.’
  4. 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.
  5. No, that Report says that ‘The principal activity of the association during the financial year was to present the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ through the distribution of Scriptures to churches, individuals and to homes without Bibles.’

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