Who Checks on Christian Charities?

People want their gifts to make a difference. How do they decide where to give their money?

Most charities are honest, well-run organizations. Some are poorly managed and a few are outright frauds. What should you do before you write that check? Increasingly, Christians are looking for the seal of approval from ECFA–the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The ECFA seal–on appeals received in your mailbox or on the Web site of a charity–indicates that the organization complies with a strict set of standards covering board governance, independent auditing, financial disclosure and fund-raising practices.

Formed in 1979 in an effort to encourage financial accountability and excellence among Christian nonprofit organizations, ECFA now has nearly 1,500 members, representing a wide spectrum of ministry. These charities submit to a rigorous review process each year. ECFA also randomly performs site visits on members to look behind the application forms.

Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) is a charter member of ECFA.

By virtue of its membership with ECFA, Lutheran Bible Translators is committed to demonstrating compliance with the ECFA Standards of Responsible Stewardship, thereby making itself accountable to the public. In addition, LBT has also received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities.

It’s easy to check up on ECFA members. You can learn whether a charity meets ECFA’s standards by checking out its Web site, www.ECFA.org. Or call ECFA (1-800-3BE-WISE) to request a free copy of its “Giver’s Guide.” Call or write an ECFA member and they will send you a copy of their most recent audit report—no questions asked. That includes us. Since we’re committed to financial accountability and transparency, we’ve posted our financial reports on our website. If you have questions, call David Snyder at 630-897-0660 ext 14.

Good Charities Willingly Answer Tough Questions

Before you give to any charity, ask these questions. Nonprofit organizations should be willing to supply the answers.

  • 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?
  • Does the charity practice full disclosure?
  • Is a copy of the audited financial statements provided to anyone who requests it?
  • Is information provided to donors about any program that the donors have supported?
  • How does the organization avoid conflicts of interest?
  • What are the guidelines and standards for fund-raising?
  • Is there a review procedure to assure compliance with fund-raising standards and guidelines?

Donor’s Bill of Rights

Make sure your charity’s standards and guidelines assure you of a “bill of rights” as a donor. You have the right to:

  1. Know how the funds of an organization are being spent.
  2. Know what the programs you support are accomplishing.
  3. Know that the organization is in compliance with federal, state, and municipal laws.
  4. Restrict or designate your gifts to a particular project.
  5. A response to your inquiries about finances and programs.
  6. Visit office and program sites of an organization to talk personally with the staff.
  7. Give without being high-pressured by the organization.
  8. Know that the organization is well managed.
  9. Know that there is a responsible governing board and know who those board members are.
  10. Know that all appeals for funds are truthful and accurate.