Gospel for Asia and Compliance with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s Standards: The 2015 Letter, Part 3

In CEO and founder K.P. Yohannan’s recent “exclusive personal response” to the fraud lawsuit settlement involving Gospel for Asia, Yohannan traces GFA’s problems to a “confidential letter from a financial standards association we were part of, and of which we were a charter member.” That letter was from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and outlined 17 potential violations of ECFA financial standards. In October 2015, ECFA evicted GFA from membership. To help donors understand the nature of the concerns ECFA had about GFA, I am posting one of the concerns each day. You can read all of the posts by clicking this link.

Read the entire ECFA letter on GFA’s violations here.

From that letter, here is the third compliance issue:

3. Delay in sending funds to the field. It was not until the meeting on August 12 that we learned that $47,898,342, or approximately 82%, of gifts received by GFA in 2014 designated for India were not sent to the field until the last two days of the calendar year.

To be clear, nearly $50 million of gifts were raised from January to December, with only modest amounts sent to the field until the end of the year. ECFA staff expressed concern over failing to send gifts to the field on a timely basis, raising compliance issues under ECFA Standards 4, 7.1, and 7.2, particularly given the urgent nature of many GFA gift solicitations. Subsequent to this discovery, GFA staff indicated that field partners requested the delay of sending the funds to the field due to challenges in transmitting funds into India. ECFA could not confirm if the delay in transferring the funds was justified.

Based on ECFA’s review of GFA’s internal financial statements as of June 30, 2015, GFA had a cash balance of $28,338,841 in funds designated for foreign field partners, or more than the total of all funds received for the field in the first half of 2015. In other words, the practice of sending funds to the field on a significantly delayed basis was not only followed for 2014 but also during the first half of 2015.

GFA staff informed ECFA on August 12 that part of the cash balances held by GFA on June 30 were transferred to field partners during the month of July. On August 21, GFA staff indicated there is now a plan to send funds to field partners on the 15th of each month.

When ECFA staff asked if the board was apprised of the delays in transferring funds to the field, GFA staff indicated the board was informed of this fact because the board received periodic financial statements. However, the internal financial statements erroneously reflected field funds as a liability and as an expense immediately upon receiving the funds. Thus, it would have been very difficult for the board to learn of the delays in sending funds to the field because the interim financial statements indicated the funds had been sent to the field when they had not. Therefore, ECFA found no indication that the board had approved, or even been clearly informed of the questionable practice of delaying sending funds to the field.

One of the reasons former GFA board member Gayle Erwin resigned related to his realization that he was being kept in the dark about how funds were spent. In this case, funds were being held from the field. Even though GFA representatives urgently solicited donations, the funds were not sent until near the end of the year.

There was no problem in submitting funds to India. However, the field partner Believers Church (K.P. Yohannan is the head of that church as well as CEO of GFA) may not have liked the scrutiny of the Indian government. Spacing out donations might have been part of their plan to manage foreign contributions. However, it is still unclear to me why GFA held back so much money.

In any case, GFA raised millions and held it for several years all the while begging for funds. The next post will deal with that problem directly.

Next post: 4. The level of urgency communicated in GFA donor appeals contrasted with reserves held by foreign field partners and delays in sending funds to the field.