Gospel for Asia and Compliance with ECFA’s Standards: The 2015 Letter, Part 4

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 compliance issues here.

From that letter, here is the fourth compliance issue:

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. In light of the significant cash balances held by field partners and the delay in sending funds to the field, ECFA staff raised concerns about the appropriateness of communicating urgency in many donor appeals. This includes appeals indicating “When we share with you about the urgency to reach the untold, lost millions—and the opportunities to win them to Jesus—it is not done to produce feelings of guilt or manipulate.” One appeal we reviewed indicated “One blanket, like the one Hetaksh received, will literally make the difference between life and death for them and especially for their small children and elderly relatives.”

The delay between when a donor gives a gift and when the funds are actually made available for designated purposes on the field is inconsistent with the level of urgency in many appeals and the timeliness of using donor-restricted funds as required by ECFA Standards 7.1 and 7.2. On August 12, GFA staff indicated that despite the delay in making foreign contributions available to carry out programmatic work, at least some designated funds were disbursed on a timely basis through the use of field-generated income.

Our review of the board minutes did not indicate the GFA board had approved, or even been notified, of GFA’s practice of soliciting funds based on urgency with a corresponding delay in disbursing funds to the field.

GFA Recycles Urgency

Even after being called out for this in 2015, GFA used this same urgent appeal in 2017. In a 2017 Patheos article, an anonymous GFA staff person recycled this appeal as follows:

To Hetaksh’s surprise, God answered his prayer for financial breakthrough in a very practical way—and just before winter started, too: He and his family received a thick, warm blanket!

This blanket came as a gift through Pastor Mrithun’s church during a blanket distribution to the poor—a distribution sponsored by our dear Gospel for Asia friends around the world. The blanket was big enough to keep the whole family warm at night, night after night, throughout the entire cold season.

This visible sign of God’s love and care greatly encouraged Hetaksh. No doubt the Lord will continue to care for this precious family and make them a powerful witness to others.

Urged to Give

Every winter, our partners in Asia feel the urgency of those around them, and we do, too. They pray for means and opportunity to distribute thousands of blankets and articles of winter clothing among those who lack adequate shelter and clothing to survive the freezing cold temperatures. They know that one blanket, like the one Hetaksh received, can make the difference between life and death for a family, especially for small children and the elderly.

It’s crazy to realize what a blanket can do. They are so small, but they work. For those who don’t have extra blankets for every family member, like we may, one blanket can mean a whole lot.

This recycled story (who knows if it is true) of Hetaksh  is presented as if it is current and represents an urgent need. In fact, GFA has had millions sitting in accounts and could have provided thousands of blankets. Instead, some of that money eventually went to other projects and some went to complete the Wills Point headquarters.

It is hard to believe that GFA was called out for this very appeal in 2015 and then reused it in 2017. So few people know about the ECFA report that apparently the GFA marketers believe it won’t matter.