Question for the Leaders of Mars Hill Church: Where Did the Global Fund Go?

In my prior posts on Mars Hill Global, I have established that in 2011 Mars Hill leaders reworked Mars Hill Global into a means of raising revenue and that nearly $2.3 million was donated toward the Mars Hill Global Fund in the fiscal year from July 2o12 to June 2013.
From the Mars Hill Church 2013 Annual Report:

According to a presentation at a recent Mars Hill vision breakfast, giving to Mars Hill Global remains robust. For instance, in December 2013, just over $340k was given to Mars Hill Global.

Prior to  May 2014, donors could designate gifts to the Mars Hill Global Fund which was distinct from the Mars Hill General Fund. However, sometime in May, the Global Fund disappeared. Now, donations for all purposes have to be given to the Mars Hill General Fund since the option to designate money to the Mars Hill Global Fund is no longer available. One wonders where the Global Fund went in the midst of the fiscal year.
As noted above, Mars Hill reported 2013 giving to the Global Fund but did not report disbursements from that fund. Here is the 2013 statement of income and expenses for the church from the Annual Report.

There is nothing here about Global Fund disbursements. Almost $2.3 million came in. Where did it all go?
The 2013 Annual Report has a whole page on Mars Hill Global activities (click the link to see the page) so some funds must have been spent. The “Church planting and partnerships” line item seems to be the most plausible place to look but disbursements from that line are quite modest.
In contrast to the current Mars Hill Global web page, there is no mention of the United States on the 2013 Annual Report Global page. Along with the accomplishments, the report presents the purposes for Mars Hill Global:

As noted, the focus is decidedly international and appears to be the international mission outreach for the church. Donors would naturally believe that their funds were going for international purposes.
After the recent changes to Mars Hill’s giving webpage, it is clearer that funds given for global outreach now go to the General Fund. There is no Global Fund option. Those who want to give to Mars Hill’s work in Ethiopia or India must hope that some of their donations will go to those ends, but there are no guarantees. However, prior to May of this year, donors could give to a specific Global Fund. According to guidelines of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, funds designated for the Global Fund should be allocated to global outreach. However, Mars Hill has declined to respond to requests to provide an accounting. Also, while the ECFA informed a correspondent recently that the watchdog group was “in communication” with Mars Hill, the ECFA has not responded to my inquiries.
Sources within Mars Hill have consistently informed me that the church uses very little of the Mars Hill Global money for work in Ethiopia and India, reportedly less than 5%. This may or may not be true, but at present, there is no independent way to know. The only leaders at Mars Hill who can speak to those claims are the Executive Elders (Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner) and the Board of Advisors and Accountability (independent members Michael Van Skaik, James McDonald, Paul Tripp, and Larry Osborne).  However, at present, they are not talking.

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in Communication with Mars Hill Church

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is “in communication” with Mars Hill Church amid questions about the Mars Hill Global fund.
Recently, Michael Martin, Legal Counsel and Director of Member Services told a questioner via email:

We are aware of the issues you mention and are in communication with leaders of Mars Hill concerning matters which relate to ECFA standards.

The questioner informed the ECFA that Mars Hill Global has been raising money under the heading of “Mars Hill Global” but may only use a fraction of those funds for global outreach. Martin responded that ECFA is touch with Mars Hill leaders about those issues.
ECFA has not responded to any of my questions regarding the standards for reporting donations made to special funds. Until recently, Mars Hill gave their donors an option to give the a fund called Mars Hill Global fund. Nearly $2.3 million was raised during the last full fiscal year. However, there is no information easily available about where those funds were disbursed. Mars Hill insiders tell me very little money goes to international outreach. However, it is not possible to check this since no reporting is available. With the changes Mars Hill has made thus far, the next step would be to post an accounting of how the money donated to that fund have been spent.
Recently, Mars Hill has changed the way they collect donations. The church no longer gives donors the option of giving to the Global Fund. All donations are to be given to the General Fund or the Mars Hill Foundation.
Related posts:
Website Changes: Donations to Mars Hill Global Are Now Donations to Mars Hill Church General Fund
Megachurch Methods: Apparently Mars Hill Global Money Can Be Spent Anywhere
Megachurch Methods: And By Mars Hill Global We Mean Mars Hill Local
Megachurch Methods: Mars Hill Global Wakes the Sleeping Giant

Website Changes: Donations to Mars Hill Global Are Now Donations to Mars Hill Church General Fund

Without admission or acknowledgment, Mars Hill Church continues to change the focus of Mars Hill Global.
Previously, I have raised questions about where Mars Hill Global funds go. Church sources have told me on condition of anonymity that very little of the money designated as Mars Hill Global donations (nearly $2.3 million from July 2012 to June 2013) are disbursed to international missions. In recent days, someone at Mars Hill has directed changes to the website to make it clearer that donations to Mars Hill Global are also spent in the United States.
Recently, this sentence was added to the description of Mars Hill Global on the MHC website:

Mars Hill Global has the same mission as Mars Hill Church – evangelizing, making disciples, equipping leaders, and planting churches all over the world, including but not exclusive to Ethiopia, India and the US.

This sentence was added after my articles on Mars Hill Global were published.
Now, in contrast to the Google cache yesterday, a very similar wording has been added to the Mars Hill giving page.

This description alerts givers that all gifts go to support “evangelizing, making disciples, equipping leaders, and planting chures (sic) all over the world, including but not exclusive to Ethiopia, India, and the United States.” The language is now the same as on the Mars Hill Global page. Even though the Global promotional video is shot in Ethiopia, the new language does not restrict the donations to international causes.
Another change is the deletion of “Global Fund” as an option for giving. Currently, there is a drop down menu titled “Fund.” Now, there are only two options, General Fund (Local & Global) and Foundation/Endowment Fund (see below):

 
However, a screen capture from late April demonstrates that, at that time, donors had the option of designating their donation to the Global Fund.
 

Even though the page then noted that donations would help “global ministry efforts,” someone donating prior to the recent changes very probably believed that a gift to the global fund would actually go to international efforts.
Without acknowledging the situation, Mars Hill appears to be bringing themselves closer to compliance with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability guidelines on designation of giving.   I have written the ECFA several emails asking for comment over the past week but have received no answer. I have received no answer to my email to giving@marshill.com.
While Mars Hill appears to be giving more disclosure to potential donors, I cannot find on the Global or giving pages any disclosure of how much money has been disbursed to domestic and international efforts. Perhaps, the leaders won’t feel obligated to do so now, since they are being up front with the fact that Global and non-Global donations all go into the General Fund. However, potential donors might still want to know how much goes to Ethiopia and how much goes to the lease of a building in Bellevue, and past donors might want to know how much of their funds designated to the Global Fund went to that purpose.

Megachurch Methods: Apparently Mars Hill Global Money Can Be Spent Anywhere

Those in charge of Mars Hill Global seem to agree with me that Mars Hill Global is really Mars Hill Church.
Last week, I posted a 2011 document about the rebranding of Mars Hill Global (among other things, “cultivate an international audience and giving base”) and a slide showing the dramatic rise in giving on behalf of the MH Global brand. After those posts appeared, a sentence was added to the website description of MH Global:

Mars Hill Global has the same mission as Mars Hill Church – evangelizing, making disciples, equipping leaders, and planting churches all over the world, including but not exclusive to Ethiopia, India and the US.

The May 15 Google snapshot of the page looks like this:

The current page adds a sentence at the beginning:

My guess is that the sentence is designed to slightly better inform potential donors (remember the purpose of MH Global – “cultivate an international audience and giving base”) that the money they give to Mars Hill Global may not go to Ethiopia or India but to the general fund of Mars Hill Church.
Given the pictures of Ethiopian churches and children, some donors might think that their money was going to Ethiopia. However, according to current and former Mars Hill sources, that is not necessarily the case. This new disclosure hints that my sources are on target.
In the Mars Hill 2013 Public Disclosure package, there is no mention of Mars Hill Global, Ethiopia, India, etc., and only one mention of a mission fund:

In October 2012 alone, nearly $150,000 came in to the Mars Hill Global brand. From July, 2012 to June, 2013, nearly $2.3 million was given to Mars Hill Global. However, in available reports (the 2013 Annual Report and Public Disclosure package), where the Mars Hill Global money was disbursed is not reported.
What would be nice is Mars Hill leadership would simply indicate on the website how much money is given on behalf of Mars Hill Global and then where that money goes.  In fact it would be more than nice, it would satisfy the guidelines of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.  The guidance is clear that reporting should make it clear where money is spent. According to the ECFA:

Historical practices of faith missions and other charities has conditioned donors to give for specific purposes and to expect their funds to be used for those stated purposes and not for the organization’s general use. Such practices include raising funds to support specific projects or programs as well as the ministry of specific workers. Fundraisers acknowledge that specific use appeals are more effective than general appeals.

Currently, I cannot find such an accounting. Last Thursday, I wrote giving@marshill.com and asked if donations to Mars Hill Global go to missions or the Mars Hill general fund. Perhaps some accounting exists and the folks at giving@marshill.com will let me know this week, although it is possible that the sentence added above indirectly addresses the matter.

Megachurch Methods: And By Mars Hill Global We Mean Mars Hill Local

Yesterday, I posted a Mars Hill Church document about the rebranding of Mars Hill Global as a revenue source. The document was sent out by MH Pastor Sutton Turner in 2011 to the Media and Communications Teams and began:

When it comes to giving potential, Mars Hill Church’s global audience is a sleeping giant.

Since 2011, the giant has indeed ceased from slumber. At a recent Mars Hill vision breakfast meeting, this slide was presented to the congregation:

These numbers are increasing rapidly while overall giving has been flat, and according to sources in Mars Hill, declining in recent months.  In fact, the situation is troubling enough that sources tell me that the church will be approaching an entity known internally as “The Lucas Group” to help raise money. In addition, I have heard from several former staff members that the amount of Mars Hill Global money disbursed on behalf of missions outside of the United States is very low, less than 5%.
According to these sources, the rest of the funds are pooled in the general fund which is used to support administration of the  Mars Hill franchises. Consistent with that claim is the fact that MHG website lists the United States as a target of Mars Hill Global. All the franchises are listed, including the churches surrounding Seattle. Reviewing the April Mars Hill Global newsletter, it looks like global is local with most of the material being about the U.S. churches.
In 2011, Sutton Turner asked if there was a better name than Mars Hill Global for the cultivation of the international giving base. I think the better name would be Mars Hill Church.
 
 

Megachurch Methods: Mars Hill Global Wakes the Sleeping Giant

Subtitle: “Mars Hill Global Cultivates the Giving Base.”
Like businesses and other organizations, megachurches like to brand things. They brand pastors (Mark Driscoll: “I am the brand!”), and brand ministries. Probably nothing really wrong with that if the brand accurately represents what is being done and offered. For Mars Hill Church, Mars Hill Global is a phrase that describes the Christian market outside of Seattle. According to the MHG web presence, Mars Hill has things going on in Ethiopia, India, and online which is everywhere else.
In addition to whatever else it is, MHG appears to be a source of funding for Mars Hill Church. In November 2011, Mars Hill Executive Pastor Sutton Turner sent a document to the Media and Communications Team touting Mars Hill Global as a way to cultivate the international “giving base.” The document is here:

Note the prime purpose for MHG is to cultivate donations to Mars Hill. The strategy involves what appears to be a lot of good things, but it is hard to escape the impression that the end game is an increase in revenue.
Mars Hill Global existed prior to this memo. However, this memo promoted a new strategy. As a part of that strategy, the Media and Communications team is urged to “Craft the Origin Story.” Everybody likes a good origin story. Perhaps Mark Driscoll really did receive letters requesting resources. But maybe he didn’t. It is hard to tell. I can’t tell from the current website what story was originally crafted.
Currently, MHG takes in about $300,000 monthly. This is a dramatic increase from when this memo was sent. Apparently, the sleeping giant is awake.