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A Different Perspective on Complicance

On the 1st July 2000, Australia introduced a Goods and Services Tax. I was a Chartered Accountant working for a small accounting practice that specialised in pharmacies, and our clients were not happy. Some products had GST added, but many medications did not. They were unhappy about another tax, new systems, training staff, complex regulations, extra paperwork and more compliance.  

Compliance

Peter, the partner I worked for was a very astute business man. Where our clients saw compliance, Peter saw an opportunity and he convinced our clients to view this as an opportunity too. We aligned their compliance with improving their business management practice.  We aligned their monthly and quarterly reporting with evaluating their business performance.  We aligned their compliance obligations with improved business profitability. We delivered more value, they made more profit, and Peter made more in fees than before!

We aligned their monthly and quarterly reporting with evaluating their business performance.

I learnt a lot from Peter, unfortunately not about making money, but about win-win opportunities. Several years later I transitioned from an accounting practice to Business Manager of a charity that was struggling under the weight of compliance, with limited budget and staff. They had a church, school and childcare centre and I saw the same opportunity to align our compliance with a list of government bodies, with balancing the budget, with the staff we could afford, the volunteers we could coerce, oh, and fulfilling our charitable purpose.  

These days, my role sees me off the calculator, and focusing more on fulfilling our organisation’s purpose, but alignment remains higher than ever on my list of priorities.  To see new missionaries that we are sending overseas aligned with our mission and vision. New mission partners aligned with our safeguarding policies and procedures. The list of stakeholders has grown; board, staff, church partners, beneficiaries, and the list of compliance areas has also grown. 

We have continued to challenge ourselves, so that whenever we are presented with a compliance activity, we have an opportunity to sharpen our alignment.  Can we align that compliance activity with improving field practices, with an opportunity to evaluate impact, creating better tools and guidance for practitioners, engaging stakeholders on issues of shared concern and clearer reporting on outcomes?  Then every time we undertake one of these compliance activities, we are sharpening our focus and furthering our purpose. 

Every time we undertake one of these compliance activities, we are sharpening our focus and furthering our purpose.

We have a range of projects that involve vulnerable children, so several years back, when we reviewed our child safeguarding policies and practices, we also considered how this enhances and aligns with God’s heart for children. We reconsidered our own motivations in our dealings with vulnerable people.  We saw an opportunity to develop web resources for engaging churches in planning ethical short-term missions trips.  We raised awareness of the potential for harm, and the alternatives when engaging with vulnerable people in overseas communities.  We also profiled with our churches our responses to vulnerable communities, to poverty, to empowerment and shared stories of positive impact and of the good news message being shared.  And, we created some new donor relationships along the way (of course not as many as I would have liked).  

Yes, we improved our compliance in this area, but more importantly, we sharpened our focus and furthered our organisation’s purpose. 

Now with the ACNC External Conducts Standards (ECS) in effect, we have been presented with this opportunity again.  We have reviewed our organisational practices, we have mapped alignment with our purpose and some key objectives.  We saw an opportunity with our primary stakeholder base, churches, almost all of whom were ACNC registered charities in their own rights.  

So we developed tools to align awareness of good practice, remind them of biblical principles, educate them on conducting due diligence of overseas activities, encourage greater appreciation for the role of missions and development agencies, and offer engagement points with our missionaries and project partners. 

My encouragement for you is not to look at compliance as a distraction. Missions Interlink members have a significant amount of experience in operating in overseas contexts, in engaging cross culturally, in caring for the vulnerable and in long-term third party partnerships.  


QUESTION: 

When you look at these external conduct standards for overseas activities, what opportunities for alignment do you see for your missions organisation? 


Chad Irons

Chad Irons

Chad has been General Manager of __ACCI Missions & Relief__ for almost 10 years, after having served 2 terms of field service in Vietnam in different roles. Chad is a Chartered Accountant and also a Credentialed Minister with the Australian Christian Churches movement. He fellowships along with his family at Hills Church, Ferntree Gully in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne

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