By Stacey Egger
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has received a renewal of its accreditation by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) through 2022.
BBB accreditation for nonprofits requires an extensive and in-depth review of an organization and its structure and practices.
The LCMS met all 20 of the BBB’s accountability standards, which include matters of governance (such as board oversight and size), regular review of organizational effectiveness, finances (including program and fundraising expenses, accurate expense reporting, and budget plan), and fundraising and information (including annual reports, website disclosures, and the publication of truthful materials).
A full list of these standards and the LCMS’ BBB evaluation is available here.
High standards of transparency
The LCMS first applied for and received accreditation from the BBB in 2018, following Resolution 9-04a at the 2016 LCMS convention, which encouraged “increased transparency of financial reporting” from the Synod.
“The issue we immediately encountered with that resolution was, what is the standard that has to be met to demonstrate transparency?” said Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement. “The original resolution in 2016 didn’t really lay out that standard. So we had to look outside the LCMS and ask, ‘Who is holding nonprofits accountable from a transparency standpoint?’”
The LCMS had previously applied to GuideStar/Candid and received its accreditation in 2015. Following the 2016 convention, LCMS Mission Advancement decided to take the next step in applying for the rigorous BBB accreditation.
“Better Business Bureau is one of the very few watchdog organizations that invests time actually looking into a nonprofit’s compliance with transparency standards. Most nonprofits, upwards of 80%, don’t have that accreditation,” said Hofman.
“They really do look. They ask questions. They delve into your audited financial statements. They want to see that you’re making those financial statements available online. There are 20 specific standards the BBB applies when evaluating a charity’s commitment to transparency and accountability — and so that’s the benchmarking method that we’ve gone to.”
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson said, “This re-accreditation of the Synod, under exacting standards set by the Better Business Bureau, sends a strong note of confidence to our members and contributors who are the faithful stewards of the mission and ministry of the LCMS. When it comes to financial transparency and accountability to donors, we are seen by expert outsiders as being in the very upper echelon of nonprofits. That’s great news for which we are filled with gratitude for the determined involvement and dedicated work of many people. Thanks be to God.”
‘All they have to do is call’
Hofman emphasized that, while the LCMS does satisfy the BBB’s standards for financial transparency and accountability as an organization, the ongoing task remains getting pertinent information into the hands of those who want it.
“There is information. There are answers to questions. And when people can’t find what they’re looking for, all they have to do is call us. … Our job is to engage the church in a manner that’s faithful to Scripture and the Confessions, and to speak the truth in love. Part of our responsibility is to be the advocate for the external constituent who is looking for answers.”
To contact LCMS Mission Advancement, call 888-930-4438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted May 13, 2021