If there is nothing wrong with the finances of "Set Free" than a simple solution would be to publish annually an independently audited financial statement that details any and all compensation (e.g. salaries) and expenses paid out from the ministry.
[b:7a3be7ac27]Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability says:[/b:7a3be7ac27]
There are many worthy ministries to support within the Body of Christ. Like many people, you may be overwhelmed by all the needs in the world. Wanting to do your part to help, you may also wonder where to begin giving of your time, talents and financial resources.
At ECFA, it is our goal to assist donors in making wise giving decisions. While we do not tell you which ministry to support, the questions listed below may provide you with helpful tools to facilitate your decision-making process.
ECFA can be an effective means of confirming God's direction for the stewardship of resources He has entrusted to you. Ultimately, your support of any organization must be made in response to the Holy Spirit's leading in your life.
To help find a ministry to support, ask yourself the following questions:
When I give to an organization, how important are factors such as accountability, independent oversight and financial disclosure?
While all organizations believe in accountability, ECFA members and their subsidiaries have acted upon that belief by voluntarily submitting to the ECFA Standards of Responsible Stewardship and demonstrating their compliance through an annual review process. The ECFA seal is evidence to donors that these organizations are committed to integrity and excellence in ministry.
Use the ECFA Member Directory link to review a list of ECFA members.
Accountability, independent oversight and financial disclosure are important to me, but I don't see my favorite charities listed with ECFA. What can I do to obtain a greater comfort level when giving to them?
If the factors mentioned above are important to you, but you do not see your favorite organization among ECFA's members, ask them the following suggested questions, and expect a timely, courteous and informative response.
ECFA firmly believes that good charities willingly answer tough questions:
Does the organization have a clear and strong commitment to a certain project area?
Is there an independent board that accepts responsibility for the activities of the organization and oversees its operations?
Are the financial records audited annually by certified public accountants?
Are copies of the audited financial statements provided to anyone who requests them?
Is information provided to donors about any program that the donors have supported?
How does the organization avoid conflicts of interest?
What are its guidelines and standards for fund-raising?
Is there a review procedure to assure compliance with fund-raising standards and guidelines?
Use the Donor's Bill of Rights link to help you to know what may reasonably be expected from organizations seeking your support.
Without unlimited resources, I cannot give to everyone. How can I narrow my search for one or more ministries to support?
The ECFA Web site offers the ability to search its member list according to primary ministry objectives. There are forty-one ministry categories from which to choose.
On the Member Directory page of this site, follow instructions to search "by ministry type." Select a category that interests you. A list of ECFA member organizations in that category will appear. From that list, you may click on each individual organization to pull up more details.
Do I like the idea of supporting a nationally known organization with an international outreach, or a smaller, local ministry with local or regional outreach?
Many donors like the personal connection and involvement that is afforded when supporting a local ministry. However, larger ministries with a national or even international presence offer opportunities to reach into communities that donors may never see in person, giving donors the ability to affect lives on a global scale.
How involved in the ministry would I like to be? What opportunities to participate beyond financial giving do I desire?
Whenever an individual decides to give to an organization, he or she is establishing a relationship with that organization on some level. Many supporters want only to send in periodic financial support, and receive only minimal information to keep them apprised of ministry efforts and prayer needs. Others like to know the doors are open to participate in a more personal way, visiting outreach centers, volunteering in soup kitchens, or joining short-term mission projects. Many organizations welcome volunteerism and supporter participation beyond financial support, affording numerous opportunities for such involvement. Other organizations may be less equipped to do so. Identify your own level of desire for relationship and participation with the ministries that interest you, and ask them how well their ministry can accommodate that desire.
What types of ministries have impacted my life or the lives of others I care about?
Sometimes the best way to determine how God might want you to direct your stewardship is to consider what organizations have significantly and positively influenced your life or the lives of others you know. Did God use a youth ministry or campus outreach to help you grow in your relationship with God? Did a family member in need due to natural disaster or illness benefit from the outreach of a particular ministry? Answers to these questions may assist you in making your giving decisions.
How do I know how much of my donation is used for the mission, rather than for “overhead” expenses?
Many people are concerned about how much of their donation actually ends up directly supporting the cause. It is reasonable to expect that every effort be made to maximize the use of donations so that the charity’s ministry objectives are achieved. Financial statements will reflect how much a charity spends on overhead expenses, and how much is spent on ministry.
ECFA members are required to provide a copy of their most recent audited financial statements upon written request. This Web site contains a financial summary on each ECFA Member Profile. To review a Member Profile, search the ECFA Member Directory using the instructions, and then once a list of organizations appears, select one of them. A profile of that particular organization will appear on the screen.
The financial summary uses the following terms under the Expenses heading: Program Services, General and Administrative, and Fund-Raising. Program services expenses are those directly related to carrying out the purposes for which the organization exists. In other words, these are ministry-related expenses. The sum of General and Administrative Expenses and Fund-raising expenses would be considered “overhead.”
When considering this financial information, keep in mind that in order for ministry objectives to be met, overhead is necessary. Low overhead should not necessarily be considered synonymous with efficiency. See the next question for more information on this topic.
How important is the percentage of overhead expenses vs. program expenses in my giving decisions?
Many people assume that the best organizations to support are those with the highest program expenses and the lowest fund-raising and general and administrative expenses. It is an easy calculation, and often used as a quick formula to determine “efficiency.” However, ECFA cautions against making judgments about ministry efficiency solely upon the calculation of expense percentages. Because of variables between ministries and the many factors that affect the reporting of expenses, a true “apples to apples” comparison is not possible.
For example, an older, well-established ministry with a strong donor base may not have to expend many resources on fund-raising, while a younger organization may have to do so in order to build name recognition. Also, accounting rules leave some room for interpretation, so expenses that might be recorded as “overhead” by one organization may well be considered “program” by another. While calculations of financial ratios can be useful and important, they should not be the determining factor in giving decisions. For more discussion of this topic, click below to access an article that examines the subject in more detail.
For more information about this topic, click the related link at the top right side of this page: "How Much for Fund-Raising?"
It would be easy to make giving decisions if ECFA would rate its members. Why doesn’t ECFA rate its members?
ECFA believes rating its members against one another to determine, on behalf of donors, the “best” organizations to support is not a responsible means of assisting donors in good stewardship decisions. Rather, each ECFA member is measured against an independently established set of standards, which must be met to maintain membership. Rating systems would have to be based on measurable and objective criteria, and ECFA does not believe that evaluating an organization’s faithfulness to God’s calling can or should be reduced to mere numerical calculations. Measuring changed lives and saved souls is subjective, at best. ECFA’s philosophy encourages donors to establish their own criteria to evaluate ministries, based on their own values and expectations.
To learn more about ECFA's position on rating ministries, click "Rating a Ministry" under links on the top right