Barnabas Aid Looks Like a Good Choice When Viewed Through a Global Perspective
“They were put to death by stoning, they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” Hebrews 11:37
Thanks to excellent cooperation from the ministry, we have now had the opportunity to review Barnabas Aid’s audited financial statements and IRS form 990 for the ministry’s fiscal year ending August 2013. We have also reviewed the audited financial statements for the ministry’s US parent, the UK-based Barnabas Fund. We have also had extensive discussions with the UK based finance director of Barnabas.
Probably the most sensible approach for a US donor is to view Barnabas Aid by combining the small US operations of the ministry with the much larger UK-based parent Barnabas Fund as well as information from other Barnabas ministries in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately, financial statements that consolidate all of these organizations are not required to be prepared and are therefore not available. As a result, we can only estimate the global Barnabas ministry’s financial footprint, but it is a pretty good estimate given the data available. While the data is not in a form we can use in the MinistryWatch.com database, we can draw general conclusions about the financial efficiency of the Global Barnabas Ministries. In our opinion, Barnabas utilizes donor resources very efficiently. Fundraising costs are very low and administrative expenses for the global organization appear lower than average as well. One advantage Barnabas has in keeping its costs low is that a related ministry owns the facilities it operates out of and provides the ministry use of the buildings without any cost. Accordingly, more of a donor’s gift gets used in actual ministry. Staff salaries also are far from extravagant. We believe if we were able to run the ministry’s adjusted financial numbers through our rating system, it would likely produce a 4 or 5 star rating for the entirety of Barnabas’ global efforts. As such, Barnabas represents an attractive alternative for donors desiring to provide support for persecuted Christians, an area we believe is underfunded by the church at this time.
The UK-based Barnabas Fund has been in existence for 20 years (the US arm has been in place since 2005) and has built many longstanding relationships with organizations which minister to persecuted Christians around the globe. The ministry does not typically engage directly in providing aid, but rather makes monetary grants to carefully vetted groups in a region experiencing great needs. Therefore, the Barnabas Fund operates more like a foundation by collecting money from those wishing to help persecuted Christians, researching the best Christian organizations thru which distribute the money and then making financial grants to them so that lives can be saved and improved. In the most recent fiscal year, the ministry provided a record 625 grants to provide relief and meet the practical needs of Christians in 66 different countries. The ministry’s biggest effort last year was in support of Syrian Christians, for which the ministry purposefully chose to drain down its financial reserves in order to meet this large, pressing need. One organization estimated that Barnabas had helped meet the needs of at least 10% of persecuted Syrian Christians last year. As a result, however, the ministry ran a substantial financial deficit in fiscal 2013, knowing it had the financial resources to do so. This will not be repeated in future years since the reserves have been reduced and are not expected to be built back up to prior levels. Donors, however, should be pleased the ministry took the decision to move more money into programs where it was needed rather than have it remain unused in the company’s bank accounts. Barnabas also continued to offer feeding programs in Pakistan and Iraq among its many other programs. The ministry is also seeking to instigate greater prayer for those being persecuted via providing helpful prayer guides and increasing its focus on prayer in its communications. As we have noted earlier, Barnabas’ helps Christians on the ground meet the needs of fellow persecuted Christians in a very admirable fashion.
The concerns we expressed earlier about Barnabas Aid, the US arm of the global Barnabas ministry, no longer are as relevant now that we have been able to view the ministry’s UK-based parent’s financial statements. The deficit in net assets is a function of both keeping cash at the parent level rather than in the US and a large note for the buildings the US arm occupies. The US ministry, however, pays neither interest or principal payments on the note and will likely only pay the note off when the ministry moves out of the building due to the attractive terms given Barnabas by the related ministry we noted earlier. While the US operation still receives a substantial subsidy from the UK Barnabas, it transfers significantly more than that to the UK for programs. Additionally, the US ministry saw strong growth in revenue in 2013 and is now clearly making strides towards a goal of operating on a stand-alone basis. Basically, 75% of money donated to the Barnabas US gets transferred to the UK parent to fund ministry efforts, which is comparable with other persecution ministries we have looked at.
With the ministry’s quick response to our request for financial data, there is no longer any concern about Barnabas’ transparency. When looking at the global Barnabas organization, it is clear it operates very efficiently and quite effectively as well. While it is not possible to profile Barnabas on our MinistryWatch.com website due to the lack of consolidated financial statements and the differences in US and UK non-profit accounting, we believe we have enough information to be able to encourage donors to strongly consider Barnabas when they are looking to help persecuted Christians.