Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia: mini charity review for donors

The charity's Annual Information Statement current at the time of this review has since been superseded.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 Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia (WBT) as an organisation that seeks donations online. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

(To see the situation last year, read this review.)

Are they responsive to feedback?

  • When sent a draft of this review, they…did not respond.

Is WBT registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
  • Other registrations:
    • As a public company, a company limited by guarantee.
    • It is permitted to omit ‘Limited/Ltd’ at the end of its name.
    • But not ‘Australia’, as it does on its website.
    • WBT operates in all states that have a fundraising regime, and has an invitation to give on the internet. It has a licence in only the ACT and NSW[1].

What do they do?

  • Generally.
  • Succinctly:
    • During the financial year the principal continuing activities of the company consisted of:
      • recruiting volunteers
      • training personnel
      • raising finances [Directors’ report, Financial Report 2015 (see below)].
  • Which means that the description in the Annual Information Statement (AIS) 2015 is not just about WBT, but about the wider Wycliffe organisation (see below):
    • In 2015 more language communities have had some Scriptures published in their language through the direct involvement of Wycliffe Australia members. Australian translation consultants, trainers and program managers have made valuable contributions to the success of over 100 local translation teams globally. These local translations teams are often working in multi-language clusters with strong training components. Some Scripture publications were digitally released for phone applications, in audio, and downloadable from the internet. More people were recruited and trained to provide training and logistical support to partner organisations in Australia and other countries. The vision and goals of the organisation were promoted among the Australian Christian community.
      • It’s also, with a change of year, identical to what was said the previous year.
  • More so than for most other charities, theology is central to what they do. You can read about some of their decisions here and here.

Do they share the Gospel?

  • 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?

  • The expenses are not classified to allow this calculation.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No
    • However, WBT also collects donations for another charity, Summer Institute of Linguistics Australia (SILA). See ‘What choices do…’, below.
      • SILA is one of WBT’s ‘partners’, organisations where “Australian Wycliffe members serve in various roles…

Is their online giving secure?

  • Auspost Securepay is used, so yes.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (on the deadline, six 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 10 months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2015: Not quite
    • Wycliffe Australia is not a business name.
    • No outcomes are given.
  • Financial Report 2015: Questionable
    • The directors say that ‘there are no users dependent on general purpose financial statements’. These statements are normal financial statements, the type you would use if you can’t ring the charity and request statements tailored to your needs – which is most of us. This allows them to produce special purpose financial statements, the type that doesn’t comply with all the Accounting Standards. 276 members of the company, $1.90 m in revenue, including $902K in donations, a joint venture with another charity, and operating in every state and eleven overseas countries- you decide whether it is reasonable to say that there are no users, past or prospective of their financial statements.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • Last year’s deficit of 7% of revenue was increased to 8%.
  • The loss on the joint venture was increased from 4K to 6K.
  • No employee benefits are shown.
    • In the AIS 2015, ‘Employee expenses’ are shown as $41K. This seems very low for three full-time employees and two casuals (also in the AIS 2015).
    • The relationship between employees, members and missionaries is not clear:
      • An insider says that WBT loans the people it finds to SIL for Bible translation work, and that makes them both a member of SIL and an employee of WBT.
      • The Wycliffe Global Alliance site says that WBT’s
        • 300+ members are working around the globe and within Australia to make God’s Word available to all who need it, in the language people understand best.
  • The financial statements still:
    • Don’t show donations received (in either the accrual or cash view).
    • Don’t explain the terms
      • ‘Operating income’ (47% of revenue)
      • ‘Program income’ (27%)
      • ‘Rental income’ in the absence of investment properties (19%)
    • Understate ‘Legacies’ by 41.5%.
    • Don’t explain why they are making unsecured loans to members totalling $479K.
  • The financial statements no longer disclose:
    • The borrowers of the $2.02 m under Non-current assets – other financial assets’.
    • And still don’t disclose the terms of these loans.
    • The contingent liability to do with a member owning a share of a property on WBT land.
  • The description of the largest item under Non-current liabilities – payables has been changed from ‘Amounts owed to related parties’ to ‘Designated funds external’. It is now an item without an obvious meaning, yet unexplained.
  • No obvious concerns with the financial structure as presented.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • He gave a ‘clean’ opinion[2].
    • But in accepting the engagement, he implicitly agreed with the directors’ decision to produce financial statements that didn’t comply with all the Accounting Standards.

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

  • Yes. (But Wycliffe Australia, under ‘Other Name(s)’, is not a registered business name.)

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

  • ‘Member Support’
    • Choices not shown
  • ‘Project Support’
    • With a link to the choices.
  • ‘General Donation or Tax Deductible Fund’
    • ‘Where most needed’
    • ‘Wycliffe member on low support’
    • ‘Tax deductible: SILA Overseas Aid and Development Fund’
    • ‘Tax deductible: SILA School Building Fund’
    • ‘Tax deductible: SILA Scholarship Fund’
      • SILA is the charity Summer Institute of Linguistics Australia. Although possibly not a ‘related party’ (which would account for its absence under ‘related parties’ in Note 23 of the Financial Report), it appears that SIL is a member of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, a connection so close that
        • Notwithstanding Clause 18, a member of another organisation associated with the Wycliffe Global Alliance who is seconded to WBTA and who has signed their agreement to this Constitution, shall be deemed a Voting Member of WBTA.… [Clause 22, the constitution].
        • This probably works the other way too:
          • Wycliffe Australia partners with the Australian Christian Community and other organisations in the global Bible translation movement. Our primary partnerships are with SIL and its entities, national Bible translation organisations and other national partners. Australian Wycliffe members serve in various roles in these organisations….

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • The people shown half way done here. (The same as those listed under ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register, except that Wilkerson is shown twice.)
    • ‘Timothy Wilson’ sits on eight (8) charity boards, and ‘Tim Wilson’ four (4). Other not-for-profits, and of course businesses, are not included on the Register.
    • If a part-time director serves on many boards, you can reasonably ask if he has the time to do justice to all those positions.

To whom are WBT accountable?

  • Not claimed on the website, but WBT is a member of Missions Interlink, an organisation that has standards with which it must comply[3].
  • WBT is also accountable to the ACNC.

 

 

  1. The law in this area is not straightforward and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  2. To take the right amount of comfort from a ‘clean opinion’, please read here and here.
  3. For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.

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