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Questions Surround Convoy of Hope’s Stunning Growth

COH has more tripled in size in last 5 years

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Convoy of Hope, a faith-based, humanitarian organization that has distributed more than $2 billion in aid since its founding in 1994, is on a roll, nearly tripling in size since 2018.

Courtesy of Convoy of Hope

The ministry’s annual revenue has grown from $180 million in 2018 to $515 million in 2022, with the bulk of income consisting of in-kind gifts of goods, which grew from $129 million in 2018 to $377 million in 2022. Convoy distributes goods through its own work and, in 2021, also delivered loads of goods to more than 150 ministry partners.

Cash contributions also rose, from $51 million in 2018 to $138 million in 2022.

The growth has allowed Convoy to increase its programs and expand its international reach to more than 125 countries. It feeds children, provides disaster relief, promotes women’s empowerment, and organizes rural initiatives and agricultural projects.

Because the bulk of its income comes from in-kind gifts, it can claim a much higher efficiency rating than ministries that must transform cash into benefits. Still, Convoy may be overstating its efficiency.

Convoy receives high grades from MinistryWatch and Charity Navigator for its efficiency and transparency, and it makes its financial information readily available on its website: “Integrity and openness in financial practices are Convoy of Hope’s highest priorities,” it says.

Its website claims it spent 92.3% of income on programs in 2020, but our analysis of that year’s audited financial statement shows it actually spent 86% of income ($369,328,524) on programs ($317,857,171).

MinistryWatch has questions about Convoy’s rapid growth, its executive salaries, and potential leadership conflicts. We reached out by phone and email to Ethan Forhetz, the ministry’s vice president of public engagement, but received no response.

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Rapid growth

Few ministries double or triple in size over five years, but Convoy has grown at a phenomenal pace:

  • $180 million in 2018
  • $200 million in 2019
  • $369 million in 2020
  • $439 million in 2021
  • $515 million in 2022

It spent $20 million on fundraising in 2021, but it’s not clear whether growth resulted from fundraising efforts or greater generosity among donors.

Large grants to small groups

Convoy receives large donations of food and supplies that it ships out to food banks and other ministries, some of them small.

In 2021, it gave $19 million in goods to Goodness Outreach Depot in Fort Worth, a ministry which had a total income of only $331,986 in 2019.

Its largest grantee was Seek Ye the Way of the Cross in Harlingen, Texas, a small ministry that received $29 million in goods.

Other 2021 grant recipients included Children’s Hunger Fund in San Antonio, Texas ($21 million), Fountain of Hope in Atlanta, Georgia ($12 million), Tabernacle of God Ministries in Dillon, S.C. ($7 million), and $5 million each to Feed the Children and World Help.

Executive compensation

Convoy is based in Springfield, Missouri, where it has strong ties to the Assemblies of God denomination, also headquartered there. Its top nine executives earn more than $200,000 each, according to its 2021 federal 990 form, the most recent available.

The executive offices are a family affair, with family members of founder and President Hal Donaldson taking home more than $800,000:

  • Donaldson earns $467,355 a year;
  • wife Doree, a vice president earns $165,318;
  • daughter Lindsay Donaldson-Kring earns $101,384;
  • and daughter Erin-Rae Peace takes home $80,455.

A board member’s brother earns $164,980. Wives of two board members earn $50,450 and $55,452, respectively. The son of the COO earns $46,548.

Conflicts of interest

Twelve of the ministry’s 13 highest earners earn base compensation from Convoy in addition to other income from the organization and/or related organizations, including one or more of the following:

  • Bonus and incentive compensation;
  • Other reportable compensation;
  • Nontaxable benefits.

It’s not clear what additional services these employees provide on top of their normal work to earn this additional income, but nonprofit leaders express concern about such arrangements because they may indicate conflicts of interest or create scenarios where officers can direct company spending to their own businesses.

Five board members are listed as individual trustees or directors, which typically means they are trusted friends or family members who receive no compensation for their service, but Convoy pays them between $3,000 and $36,000 each.

Convoy has a conflict of interest policy that requires leaders every year to report such conflicts to the ministry’s finance/compliance department, which then forwards a report to the president and board chairman, who are given sole discretion to determine whether reported transactions or conflicts are “just, fair, and reasonable,” without board oversight.

Convoy’s 990 claims it will provide its Conflict of Interest Policy upon written request, but we have yet to receive our copy.

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.