ECFA Charter Member, Wycliffe Associates, Resigns Membership While Under Review
Wycliffe Associates, one of the charter members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), voluntarily resigned on Feb, 21, 2020, “while under review of compliance with Standards 7.1 and 7.2.”
Standard 7.1 says:
In securing charitable gifts, all representations of fact, descriptions of the financial condition of the organization, or narratives about events must be current, complete, and accurate. References to past activities or events must be appropriately dated. There must be no material omissions or exaggerations of fact, use of misleading photographs, or any other communication which would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding.
Standard 7.2 says:
Statements made about the use of gifts by an organization in its charitable gift appeals must be honored. A giver’s intent relates both to what was communicated in the appeal and to any instructions accompanying the gift, if accepted by the organization. Appeals for charitable gifts must not create unrealistic expectations of what a gift will actually accomplish.
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability began in 1979 as an attempt to ward off government regulation of Christian ministries and to codify standards and best practices for Christian ministry operation. According to Dan Busby, Wycliffe Associates was one of “about 150 charter members” of the organization. The ECFA now has more than 2430 members.
Wycliffe Associates, founded in 1967, began in association with Wycliffe Bible Translators. But it received its own separate tax-exempt status in 1995 and is now a completely separate organization. In the early 2000s, the organization petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to classify itself as a church, and it hasn’t released its Form 990s to the public since 2007. However, its annual report, published at its own website, has some financial information. For fiscal year 2019, Wycliffe Associates reported about $49-million in revenue. Fundraising and management expenses totaled about $9.2-million, or nearly 19 percent of its total budget.
Wycliffe Associates’ withdrawal from the ECFA comes about four years after it withdrew from the Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA). The WGA is a partnership of more than 100 Bible translation agencies around the globe.
In 2015, Wycliffe Associates introduced a new system of Bible translation that it claimed could cut the time spent translating the Bible from years or decades down to mere months. Wycliffe Associates called the process MAST, Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation. But Bible translation experts raised concerns about the new process’s ability to deliver on the promises made by Wycliffe Associates. However, MAST and its purported capabilities have been a key part of the fundraising message of Wycliffe Associates. In fiscal year 2016, the year after it introduced MAST, its annual revenue was $30-million, but its fundraising and management expenses approached $10-million, or nearly a third of its total income.
The claims made by Wycliffe Associates regarding the capabilities of MAST caused dramatic growth in the organization, with revenue increasing more than 65 percent from 2016 to 2019, but those claims were also among the reasons the ECFA had placed the organization under review.