Having Faith in Your Charity: The ECFA and Non-Profits

Do your research, or run the other way, when someone says, “Trust me…

A small remote village in Africa is desperately in need of water. A well-intentioned organization in America sees the need. The organization puts out a widespread appeal to dig a well in the village. Many people hear the plea to help. Some give to pay in full the cost to dig a well, some in part. Difficulties are later found with the local and national governments. The monies collected are then redistributed to provide individual water filtration devices to some in the original area of appeal and much of it to others.

What’s the problem with this?

The intention of this generous Partner was not fulfilled. Trust is compromised, if not destroyed.

ECFA President (ret.,) Dan Busby wrote the book on trust.  Literally, the title is Trust: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness.  I met Dan in his office at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in Winchester, Virginia, where I was handed a signed copy at the end of our visit.  After many conversations over the years with ECFA’s Member Services, it was thrilling to be in the headquarters of the biggest and best accountability partner of Christian churches and organizations.

Where did the ECFA come from?

The ECFA was founded in 1979 by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the US branch of World Vision to provide accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, fundraising, and board governance. Members include Christian ministries, denominations, churches, educational institutions, and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.

Blessing Broker® is in the long, detailed process of accreditation with ECFA.  (Full Disclosure: We are currently in the third year of operation as a 501(c)(3) and not yet at the income level to qualify for membership).

At its inception, the ECFA established, and maintains, its Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ which are drawn from scripture and are fundamental for operating with integrity.

These standards include adherence to:

  1. Doctrinal Issues (Biblical Faith)
  2. Governance by a responsible board
  3. Having financial oversight
  4. Use of resources in compliance with laws
  5. Transparency
  6. Integrity in compensation
  7. Excellent stewardship of charitable gifts

It is these standards for which Blessing Broker® was born.

The Necessity of Trust

I received a call many years ago from a friend in tears. Martha (alias) said through her shaken voice, “David, I just learned that this ‘Fellowship’ I’d been sending money to has been lying to me!” My reply to Martha was three questions; “Didn’t you give this gift to the Lord?” Secondly, “When you learned that it wasn’t used as you’d intended, is it not still His?” Lastly, “What will you do the next time?” She dried her tears and we chatted about a few other things before we said goodbye.

What initially shocked me the most was the income and investments of the CEO exceeding $6,000,000.00 per year.

I immediately went to ECFA.org and found that this large ministry was not a member. So, I went to the organization’s website and found their annual reports and 990’s (IRS tax-exempt return). I was shocked at what I found! I won’t turn the dirt here, but something stunk!

The IRS Form 990 provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization. What initially shocked me the most was the income and investments of the CEO exceeding $6,000,000.00 per year. Though the notes within the 990 file expressed commensurate compensation of salaries for the CEO and the organization’s executive salaries, which by the way are also seemingly extreme to this observer, it made everything else stink.

Would you have trust in a ministry that paid its CEO millions per year?

As Martha and I continued the conversation over time, she has learned how to ask different questions and do different research on work that she wanted to support and be a part of. My suggestion: Start at ECFA.org.

Mr. Busby and his staff never said, “Trust me….” They didn’t have to. Their integrity, accountability, and excellence speak for themselves. But don’t take our word for it. Check things out for yourself!

Blessing Broker is here to help you ask the great questions, research needs and solutions, and be the blessing with integrity and confidence.


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David Blakeslee

David works as a Realtor® and co-founder of Blessing Broker. He is passionate about reading and studying the Bible; leading Bible studies and helping others hear about God. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” – Isaiah 62:1 NIV

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