The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability monitors the financial integrity of evangelical Christian ministries on an annual basis.
Christianity Today notes this week that ECFA’s standards are a bit rudimentary: Participating charitable ministries, for example, are permitted to pay most of their income in lavish salaries to executives and fund-raisers. The magazine says 30.9 percent of ECFA member organizations pay more than 25 percent of the income on fundraising, and four ministries spend more than 50 percent.
CT notes that another organization, MinistryWatch, goes a step further: It “provides ratings and detailed analyses of the financial and doctrinal particulars of more than 500 Christian ministries. When Wall Watchers detects problems, it issues donor alerts, suggesting that people ‘prayerfully consider withholding contributions.'”
As it happens, MinistryWatch monitors Exodus International, the ex-gay network.
Rated in the efficiency of its fund-raising and spending, Exodus ranks in 287th place out of 446 ministries. That’s the poorest 35 percent of the rankings, in terms of efficiency. However, Exodus ranks 29th, or in the top six percent, in how it uses its assets. Among all 22 rated organizations devoted specifically to issue advocacy, Exodus ranks halfway down the list in terms of efficiency.
In transparency of its financial disclosures, Exodus earns a round of applause: It gets an A.
However, on a chart comparing the organization’s revenues to its age, Exodus scores low: After more than 25 years, Exodus revenues are still under $1 million per year. Clearly there do not appear to be tens of thousands of successful ex-gays rallying financial support for Exodus operations.
MinistryWatch helpfully charts Exodus financials for every year from 1999 to 2002. The key trouble areas: heavy deficit spending in 2002, and little room in the annual budgets for long-term investment.
Not reported, unfortunately, are the primary sources of Exodus’ revenues; the extent to which the Exodus board overlaps with Focus on the Family, and the extent to which Exodus relies on Focus on the Family for marketing, publicity, and access to lobbyists and state and federal legislatures.
Focus on the Family’s own financials are far healthier, and again free of major scandal. But MinistryWatch notes some problems: consistently mediocre efficiency in financial performance; grandiose real estate holdings; profiteering by James Dobson’s private company; and overdependence on Dobson’s fan base, given Dobson’s age (68) and recent health problems.
Afterword: Christianity Today reported last year on longtime Washington Republican political insider Donald P. Hodel’s growing role as president and CEO of Focus on the Family.