Best Practices: Transparency and Accountability

Note to Readers: Please be aware that certain words have particular meanings in this document:

  • “Must” is used to describe practices required by state or federal law.
  • “Should” is used to describe highly recommended practices.
  • “Constituents” describes people with a stake in the success of the mission, and may include members, neighbors, clients, board, staff, volunteers, and contributors.

<< Back to Best Practices Home

Role in Society   |   Governance   |   Planning   |   Transparency and Accountability   |   Financial Management   |   Fundraising

For a downloadable/printable copy of this document, click here.

Transparency and Accountability

Gospel rescue missions have a God-honoring responsibility to their constituents and the public to conduct their activities with accountability and transparency. Missions should regularly and openly convey information to the public about their goals, services, programs, results, and decision-making processes. Information from missions should be easily accessible to the public and to their donors and should create external visibility, public understanding, and trust in the organization.

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” (2 Corinthians 8:21)
  1. Accountability
    1. A gospel rescue mission, as accountable to God, should subscribe to a written statement of faith clearly affirming a commitment to the evangelical Christian faith and should demonstrate such commitment by operating in accordance with biblical truths and practices.
    2. A mission must comply with all legally required reporting procedures.
    3. The mission’s board should approve the engagement of an independent certified public accountant, review the annual financial statements, and maintain appropriate communication with the independent certified public accountant. The board should be apprised of any material weaknesses in internal control or other significant risks. The board should approve the financial audits, while the executive leader and principal financial manager should attest to the audits.
    4. Each mission should exercise the appropriate management and controls necessary to provide reasonable assurance that all of the organization’s operations are carried out and resources are used in a responsible manner and in conformity with applicable laws and regulations. Such conformity should take into account biblical mandates.
    5. A mission has a responsibility to establish and regularly determine clear performance measurements and to share those results with the public.
    6. Each mission should set compensation of its top leader and address related-party transactions in a manner that demonstrates integrity and propriety.
    7. Each mission should adhere to the standards as set forth in the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions’ Certification Program.
    8. Missions should seek membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and adhere to the standards prescribed by ECFA.
  2. Accessibility
    1. Boards of directors should make meeting agendas and descriptions of significant decisions available to those who request them.
    2. A gospel rescue mission should provide its constituents with ongoing opportunities to interact with mission leadership regarding its activities.
  3. Public Information
    1. A gospel rescue mission should produce an annual report (either printed or web-based) that contains information on its activities and performance. The annual report should include:
      • An explanation of the organization's mission, activities, and results;
      • An explanation of how individual's can access its programs and services;
      • Overall financial information, including income and expense statement, balance sheet, and functional expense allocation; and
      • A list of board members and management staff.
    2. Each mission must also make certain information available to the public, including:
      • IRS Form 990 for the previous three years, including clear statements of program service accomplishments in Part III; and
      • IRS Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption.
    3. In securing charitable gifts, all representations of fact, descriptions of the financial condition of the mission, 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 that would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding.
    4. Statements made about the use of gifts by a mission 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 mission. Appeals for charitable gifts must not create unrealistic expectations of what a gift will actually accomplish.
    5. Each mission must provide givers appropriate and timely gift acknowledgments.
  4. Solicitation of Community Input
    1. Gospel rescue missions are encouraged to hold public informational meetings to gather and distribute information about their approaches, goals, and effectiveness in carrying out their objectives.
    2. Missions should make it a point to gather with other missions, regionally and nationally, to exchange information on lessons learned and best practices. This promotes overall effectiveness and accountability within rescue mission ministry.
    3. Missions should actively work with other organizations to avoid duplication of services.
  5. Fairness and Equity Practices
    1. Information regarding any fees for services should be made readily available to the public. When charging for services, gospel rescue missions have an obligation to price equitably.
    2. Mission employees should have a mechanism for reporting misconduct that protects the individual making the report from any punitive repercussions.
    3. Each mission should maintain a conflict of interest policy that requires those with a conflict or potential conflict to disclose the conflict/potential conflict. The policy should prohibit interested board members from voting on any matter in which there is a conflict.
    4. Missions should ensure that services are made available in such a way that aligns with the mission’s stated beliefs. Even in cases where a mission must deny services, the mission should endeavor to provide alternatives in a spirit of love and compassion.
    5. Missions should ensure confidentiality to their constituents.

Resources for Transparency and Accountability

Mission audit request for proposal  |  Audit oversight process  |  Mission gift-in-kind receipt |  Gift acceptance policy manual 1  |  Gift acceptance policy manual 2  |  Gift acceptance policy  |  Mission accounting manual  |  ECFA article on fundraising costs  |  Internal controls checklist  |  ECFA records retention guidelines  |  Mission records retention policy  |  Conflict of interest policy  | Donor privacy policy from ECFA  |  Annual Report 1  |  Annual Report 2  |  CFO job description  |  Comptroller job description