by: Mike Sunderland, CFEI®, Wealth Advisor
Have you ever hesitated to give to an organization because you are not familiar with who they are or do not know for certain what they are doing? Many organizations claim to help the poor or claim to make disciples of Christ. Can you know with a high degree of certainty that you fully support the organization’s endeavors or that you can trust them to use your giving wisely?
This month’s opportunity for gospel and kingdom investing looks at an organization that sets standards of quality for other organizations and ministries. It holds them accountable to the standards so that gospel investors can trust their offering is being used well and for its intended purposes.
Perhaps you have seen the familiar blue and black circular logo of the ECFA on websites or marketing materials of Christian organizations. Often seals such as this signify that a website is secure and your financial information is protected from theft. The ECFA seal means something similar, except that their seal means the underlying organization is secure in the faith, and your financial giving is protected from mismanagement. If you see it, you can know that the organization upholds ECFA standards as a trustworthy and reputable group. Let us look at those standards in more detail, so that you can know what ECFA is looking for when it gives its approval. ECFA members commit to adhere to its “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™”.
1. Doctrinal Issues – Written statement of faith or demonstration of commitment affirming evangelical Christianity and operation in accordance with Biblical truth and practice
2. Governance – Board of at least five members whose majority is independent with semiannual meetings
3. Financial Oversight – Complete, accurate, and strongly monitored financial statements
4. Use of Resources and Compliance with Laws – Responsible, biblical, and legal operations and use of resources
5. Transparency – Disclosure of financial statements, reports, and other documents required by law on request
6. Compensation-Setting and Related-Party Transactions – Integrity and propriety in setting compensation for its leader(s) and addressing transactions
7. Stewardship of Charitable Gifts- Truthfulness, meeting expectations and intent of givers, good communication, acting in givers’ best interests, and compensation not based on percentages of contributions
The math adage that every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square applies similarly in this case with giving. ECFA enhances the trust of already trustworthy organizations, but not every trustworthy organization is accredited by the ECFA. The business of becoming accredited can be more than what many organizations want to do with their time and energy, so there are many good, godly organizations that do not have ECFA accreditation. Without it, however, a gospel investor needs to conduct more research of his or her own to determine whether or not to trust the organization or ministry. Perhaps the ECFA standards can provide a good outline of what to look for. Thankfully, the ECFA does the research on our behalf when it is able, and we can give with greater confidence when we see their seal.
For more information on ECFA, go to www.ecfa.org.
Financial Planning & Investment Advisory services offered through Beacon Wealth Consultants, Inc.