Financial accountability links integrity with stewardship
When it comes to financial stewardship, Fresno Pacific University willingly goes the extra mile. “Accountability raises the bar,” said Mark Deffenbacher, vice president for advancement and university relations and director of planned giving.
Some agencies, such as California Secretary of State and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WSCUC) require financial records in order to recognize FPU as a degree-granting institution of higher learning. In addition, the Fresno Pacific University Foundation files annually with the State Attorney General’s Office and Franchise Tax Board as well as the Internal Revenue Service.
Beyond these legal bindings, however, the university voluntarily submits to examination by a variety of agencies, including the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and the National Association of College and University Business Officers. In addition, FPU belongs to professional organizations including Independent Colleges of Northern California, the Council of Independent Colleges, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.
“Making ourselves responsible to these groups is part of our effort to be accountable and to let sponsors, donors and others know that we are accountable,” Deffenbacher said. “It’s a matter of integrity and stewardship.”
Being approved by organizations such as the ECFA, for example, is more than a matter of sending for an application. “If the auditor doesn’t like what we say, the auditor puts out a bad report,” Deffenbacher said. Those reports and sanctions by the association can be made public.
ECFA also rates institutions and sets standards on topics ranging from financial disclosure and fund raising to truthfulness in communication. The agency mission statement is “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.”
The association comprises 1,060 ministries involved in adoption, alcohol/drug rehabilitation, arts, Bible translation, broadcasting, children, counseling, education, prison work and other activities. ECFA was founded in 1979 following growing public and political concern over an increase of questionable fundraising practices among nonprofits. “Donors had nowhere to turn to obtain an objective assessment of the financial integrity of Christian organizations desiring their support,” according to the association web site (ecfa.org).
In 1989, ECFA began an on-site field review program. Members are randomly selected by an association representative to verify information submitted on the annual membership review form, to confirm compliance with membership standards and to identify areas of possible noncompliance.
Public reaction to the association’s efforts has been gratifying. “The fact that ECFA requires full financial disclosure satisfies many donors because they know that financial information is available when and if they want it. It also causes the member organizations to take more care in the expenditure of funds, and in properly carrying out the programs of the ministry. The ECFA seal is tangible evidence to donors that ECFA member organizations adhere to the highest standards of financial integrity and Christian ethics,” states the web site.
Deffenbacher puts it more simply: “It tells people we are what we say we are.”