What is ECFA?
ECFA is an accreditation agency dedicated to helping Christian ministries earn the public's trust through adherence to seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. Founded in 1979, ECFA provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, fund-raising and board governance. Members include Christian ministries, denominations, churches, educational institutions and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations. Collectively, these organizations represent more than $18 billion in annual revenue.
ECFA's Standards of Responsible Stewardship focus on board governance, financial transparency, integrity in fund-raising, and proper use of charity resources.
Why has The Finishers Project chosen to be a member of ECFA?
ECFA Foundational Pillars
The mandate for ECFA is reflected in the nature of its founding, the values upon which it was founded, and the mission for which it exists. ECFA is not a self-appointed entity separate from the Body of Christ. Rather, it was founded in 1979 by evangelical leaders who came together to establish a means by which responsible ministries could collectively demonstrate a positive witness for Jesus Christ. The ECFA mission grew out of a call for collective biblical accountability.
In order to help Christ-centered organizations earn the public's trust, ECFA has developed and continues to maintain standards of accountability that convey God-honoring ethical practices.
The ECFA seal of approval is the sign that an organization has met the requirements for membership in ECFA. When an organization earns the privilege to display the ECFA seal, it clearly demonstrates to the public its willingness to follow the ECFA model of accountability. This model is characterized by ECFA's structure.
An independent Board of Directors, which is voted upon by the broad membership, governs ECFA. Membership in ECFA is granted only upon ECFA Board approval. The Board has authority to terminate the membership of organizations that do not uphold ECFA Standards.
A uniquely qualified Standards Committee works at the direction of the ECFA Board as the "investigative arm" of ECFA.
ECFA's professional staff-also accountable to the ECFA Board-provides support for the work of the Standards Committee, and implements ECFA policy, programs, and procedures for the benefit of members and the donor public.
The ECFA model is uncomplicated, demonstrated by the Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. Straightforward, simple and easy to understand, these Standards lend themselves to ready and consistent application.
Inreviewing its members, ECFA utilizes a compliance process that is designed to be responsive and fair. Compliance among all members is confirmed through an Annual Membership Review.
Special compliance issues that arise, either through routine evaluation procedures or from other sources, are addressed respectfully, confidentially, and with a redemptive approach.
To accomplish its goals, ECFA has garnered outstanding technical expertise from its staff, its Board members, and Standards Committee volunteers. The result is the Body of Christ caring for its own through peer accountability.
Much of ECFA's credibility over the years has been reinforced by outstanding Christian ministries whose example and reputation positively reflect upon the Body of Christ. When organizations of such caliber voluntarily submit to independent scrutiny, all member organizations benefit by association. The extraordinary diversity of ministry size and mission among member organizations has strengthened ECFA's foundation and extended its positive influence globally.
ECFA Enhances Credibility of Christian Ministries
Membership in ECFA contributes to the integrity and image of the entire Christian community. The greater the credibility of the individual member organization, the greater its contribution to the total membership. That the image of Christian ministry has been scarred by the actions of a few organizations is undeniable. However, membership in ECFA is a powerful statement that a ministry acts responsibly and honors its commitment to accountability.
Although ECFA membership spans a broad spectrum within the evangelical Christian community, common denominators link member organizations. Spiritually, all proclaim "Jesus is Lord!" as each unique organization creatively spreads the good news of the Gospel. Functionally, all must raise and spend funds to accomplish their mission goals. Despite many factors that segment ministries, ECFA membership utilizes these common denominators to unify the Christian community.
ECFA is not self-regulation. It is peer accountability, a biblical demonstration of the church caring for its own. Peer accountability has proven effective in many professions, such as accounting, legal, medical, and higher education.
ECFA Lessens Government Intrusion
ECFA was formed 28 years ago in response to threatened legislation. The fact that so many organizations have voluntarily submitted themselves to ECFA's independent standards of accountability has clearly forestalled this threat. As a viable accreditation agency, ECFA helps preserve freedom from governmental intrusion for all ministries - including those who are not members of ECFA.
Independent academic researchers have documented that ECFA membership is a factor in the favorable contribution decisions of a sizable percentage of the Christian donor public. Increasingly, donors are looking for the ECFA seal before they give.
ECFA Is Recognized by the Secular Nonprofit Community
In recent years, ECFA's influence and reputation have grown tremendously among the various communities in which it operates.
Secular Philanthropic Community
- ECFA's Standards and structure served in part as the model for the Maryland Association of Nonprofits, which established its own "seal of approval" for secular nonprofits in that state. ECFA is represented on the Standards Advisory Committee for its accreditation program. Maryland is now exporting its example to other states.
- ECFA is an active, respected participant in the secular philanthropic community. ECFA maintains close ties to the Independent Sector, the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
- The International Committee of Fundraising Organizations (ICFO) is an international body of primarily European regulators. As a member organization, ECFA has had a significant impact within this group, which is a leader in forging standards for charities that function globally. In addition, ECFA has assisted Christian groups that wish to establish similar organizations in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, and areas of the former Soviet Union.
- ECFA has an ongoing reciprocal relationship with the office of the Attorney General in many states. It is a regular participant in NASCO (the National Association of State Charity Officials). It has consulted with and participated in numerous IRS symposia, submitting comments on various proposals and initiatives.
- Although it is not a lobbying or trade organization, ECFA has been a significant resource to various members of Congress regarding legislation that might impact the "faith-based" community. The White House has briefed and consulted with ECFA regarding the President's "Faith-Based Initiative." When the issues have been biblically principled, ECFA has participated with others in signing various petitions or filing "friend of the court" briefs on a number of judicial cases.
ECFA Represents Ministries to the Media
ECFA conducts press interviews on a frequent basis. These range from the best-known news agencies to many regional and specialized media outlets, including the Christian press. ECFA has been interviewed or consulted by CNN, ABC's 20/20 and Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Dallas Morning News, and many other news media. Whenever there is a scandal in the charity world-regardless of whether the organization in question is an ECFA member or not-these media outlets often consult ECFA.
ECFA Provides Strength in Numbers
The membership's growing awareness of ECFA's impact has a direct relationship on the value of the seal. This increased recognition by the membership is both in spite of and because of ECFA's strong stance in upholding its Standards. ECFA's best work is done in biblical confrontation behind closed doors. Professionalism, fairness, objectivity, and consistency are cornerstones of the general operating practice of ECFA's Standards Committee and Board.
ECFA's organizations collectively receive $18 billion per year in income from their ministry efforts and represent over $26 billion in assets.
Members of ECFA's Board and Standards Committee are among the finest experts in the country. ECFA's technical capability is outstanding, as evidenced by its collaboration with several other organizations in publishing the Evangelical Joint Accounting Committee's Accounting and Financial Reporting Guide for Christian Ministries. This expertise is further exhibited in ECFA's many published opinions and commentaries on technical issues.
ECFA Provides Information to Potential Donors
ECFA is frequently promoted on Christian radio talk shows, in public service announcements, and through magazine ads. ECFA's website reaches thousands and continues to expand. Ministry profiles are available online with a link to each member organization's own website. In addition, ECFA's toll-free number is accessed daily by the public to verify membership, obtain profiles, and obtain other information about charitable giving.
ECFA Offers Review and Counsel
ECFA's field review program is a unique feature. Compliance with ECFA's Standards is verified by on-site visits by experienced professionals. Field reviews also result in helpful counsel and resources. Over 200 on-site field reviews are made annually and we are growing our field review staff so that we'll be able to ultimately review about 20% of our members on-site annually (about once every five years for each member).
ECFA Provides Up-to-Date Information
ECFA's newsletter, FOCUS on Accountability, targets key issues and provides members with reliable, up-to-date information from experts in the field. CPA firms, law firms, consultants, and others frequently ask to be added to the FOCUS distribution list.
ECFA's extensive database-encompassing nearly 1,300 members-is an excellent resource and tool to assist members and potential donors. Sophisticated software, now available to customize information in a confidential format, is helpful to member organizations.
ECFA Provides Defense of Members
Vigorously defending its members in good standing, ECFA is the best defense for any ministry falsely accused of wrongdoing. ECFA's independence is a key to its success in both denying accreditation and defending its members in good standing when appropriate.
For more information about joining ECFA click on this link: http://www.ecfa.org/Content/Join