"All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, we decided to check and see whether Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association were members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). You know, the organization that has gained our trust by monitoring religious charitable organizations… Yes, both organizations are in good standing with ECFA. We wondered this because of how quickly Franklin Graham, when faced with public exposure, gave up his retirement funding (at least for the time being).
Here’s some background we found about the ECFA.
“The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) is an accreditation agency to promote fiscal integrity and sound financial practices among member organizations. Founded in 1979, it comprises over 2,000 evangelical Christian organizations which qualify for tax-exampt, nonprofit status and receive tax-deductible contributions. As of 2006, the total income of ECFA member organizations is reported to be approximately $15 billion.
The ECFA was founded at a time when there had been several proposals in the U.S. Congress to enact laws that would result in the regulation of all not-for-profit entities.
ECFA was founded with the establishment of seven standards of accountability that covered board governance, the requirement for audited financial statements, the requirement for public disclosure of the audited financial statements, the avoidance of conflicts of interest, and standards regarding fundraising activities. It was believed that the proposed standards of accountability generally exceeded the requirements of law. Charities that met those standards and paid the membership fee were granted a seal of approval. Membership fees were based on donated income. Evangelical charities could apply for accreditation and were required to submit information that would be reviewed and evaluated against those standards. Those meeting the standards would be accredited and granted a seal of approval.”
As we have mentioned on The Wartburg Watch several times before, especially in connection with the prosperity preachers, we are concerned about ministries not being held accountable for the generous contributions they receive. If the religious community doesn’t regulate itself, you can be sure that the Federal government will! That’s why the ECFA needs to fulfill its mission to the best of its ability.
What is the mission of ECFA? (again, from Wikipedia)
“The mission of ECFA was to assist religious charitable organizations and to maintain the public respect and confidence in the operations of the respective charity through the compliance with the Standards, and to protect the donor public from possible unethical conduct in the management of the affairs of the charities. There was a religious witness component to the mission statement that served as a motivation for member compliance with the Standards.
The mission statement adopted by the ECFA is as follows: "ECFA is committed to helping Christ-centered organizations earn the public's trust through developing and maintaining standards of accountability that convey God-honoring ethical practices." Commentary on the mission statement can be found on the ECFA Website.”
Finally, here are the integrity standards of the ECFA:
“As an accrediting organization, ECFA attempts to protect the integrity of its seal. ECFA has taken action against member organizations who are unable or unwilling to comply with the Standards for Responsible Stewardship. Typically, members are allowed to resign but in some cases are suspended for a period of time that the ECFA determines is sufficient to put "affairs" back in order. The ECFA learns of Standards violations both through results of field audits which are conducted on a regular basis by ECFA employees as well as complaints received directly from the public.”
We went to the ECFA link and pulled up Samaritan’s Purse. Here’s the link:
While the general financial information for Samaritan’s Purse is provided on the ECFA website, we are concerned about this footnote to the financial documentation:
Data for year ended December 31, 2007 per the organization's financial statements
We assume this statement means that the 2008 financial statements for Samaritan’s Purse have not been submitted to the ECFA for review. The financial information for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is for the year ending December 31, 2008, so it is current.
Dee called the ECFA this afternoon to inquire about the press coverage regarding Franklin Graham’s salaries from two of their member organizations. It seems they have been getting quite a few calls about Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. They followed up with a statement which was e-mailed to Dee. In case you would like to know the ECFA’s position on the matter, here is their official statement:
Thanks for your call.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse are both members in good standing with ECFA.
Here is our statement on the topic of Mr. Graham’s compensation:
Form 990 reporting requirements relating to deferred compensation placed in certain types of retirement plans result in data which, at best, is very challenging to communicate and understand. Nearly half of Mr. Graham’s 2008 compensation as reported on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) Form 990 had been previously reported on the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Form 990. This unusual reporting requirement resulted in the BGEA reporting three prior years? retirement contributions a second time in 2008. Therefore, there was no substantial increase in Mr. Graham’s compensation in 2008. To adequately understand the nuances of these Form 990 reporting requirements requires significant analyses of the information.
ECFA standards are based on the principles of good governance, accountability, integrity and transparency, and do not place dollar limits on the compensation of its members' leaders.
In ECFA’s view, the boards of Samaritan’s Purse and the BGEA have exercised diligence in their compensation-setting procedures through the use of independent compensation committees and comparability analyses. Their compensation-setting procedures are in compliance with ECFA standards.
ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)
~ A Higher Standard ~ A Higher Purpose ~
Depending on how you feel about Franklin Graham’s earnings from these two charities, you may want to do your own due diligence regarding the non-profits to which you contribute. Are they meeting YOUR standards of integrity and accountability? Sadly, we believe we have just learned that there are times when one should question the ECFA Seal of Approval.