The Richmond, Virginia-based Christian Children's Fund (CCF) has become the recent target of allegations of financial abuses and misrepresentation. Critics have called into question the organization's statements that 80 percent of its more than $100 million yearly income goes to benefit the 2 million children it claims to serve in more than 30 countries.
Paul Nelson, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, cautions that the process of distinguishing between generating income and overhead is "not an exact science." Nelson says, "There is disagreement even among professional accountants as to where you draw the lines.... It's not even always consistent within accounting firms."
To former CCF board member Thomas Naylor, however, the problems go deeper than questionable judgments regarding overhead versus program expenses. Naylor's wide-ranging critique begins with the organization's name. "There is no statement of theology or doctrine," Naylor says. "This organization has nothing to do with Christianity."
CCF board chairman Graham Spanier says the organization's mission statement "refers to the Christian ethic of helping thy neighbor, which our name is based on."
Naylor, who taught economics at Duke University for 30 years, served on CCF's board of directors from January 1992 until early this year, when he was voted off. He says no one in the organization would tell him the cost of an April 1993 trip to Warsaw, Poland, where he was part of a 35-member CCF-sponsored delegation staying a week at a posh hotel.
Naylor told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that a CCF internal auditor regularly presented reports at board meetings indicating financial mismanagement, incompetence, and possible corruption among Third World field employees. He claims the reports were ignored by the board. After he sent memos to directors raising questions of accountability, Naylor says he received a call from the chairman of the audit committee, who informed him that CCF was demoting its internal auditor. "The whole mentality of the organization," Naylor says, "is that the first thing you do is deny, the next thing you do is cover up, and then you kill the messenger."
Among Naylor's additional allegations is that CCF leadership failed to answer any of his questions related to organizational expenses, such as the travel budget of president Paul McCleary and the annual budgets of CCF branch offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Geneva. According to Religious News Service, McCleary says he spends 40 percent of his time traveling overseas, and the travel budget of workers in the headquarters office alone was $350,000.
Naylor says CCF's Spanier assured him his questions would be addressed at the January 1994 board meeting.
When that did not happen, Naylor says he sealed his own fate by offering a tongue-in-cheek resolution proposing that CCF be renamed the "Paul F. McCleary Fund," and that instead of having a board of directors, it should have a "team of cheerleaders made up of current board members, the only requirement being that they never disagree with McCleary."
McCleary, 64, is retiring as CCF president this month after six years in the post. His annual salary is $154,615.
Naylor maintains that CCF's organizational scheme is fundamentally flawed. "Is it possible to stuff 112 million dollars through five layers of management aimed at 400,000 children in 40 countries in 1,500 projects?" he asks. "I don't think it can be done without inordinate possibilities for graft, corruption, incompetence."
Spanier responds, "In the entire history of the organization we have never removed a director until Mr. Naylor's behavior became so disruptive that the board could not conduct its normal business." He says that Naylor's other charges regarding personnel matters and internal auditing practices are "erroneous, grossly exaggerated, or misleading."
Two monitoring organizations, the National Charities Information Bureau and the American Institute of Philanthropy, have recently issued statements that CCF meets its standards of approval. Spanier says at least 80 percent of income goes to programs, citing a detailed report issued by the National Charities Information Bureau on October 3.
Naylor responds: "They make these evaluations based on talking only to the management of CCF and to the outside auditor, which does not audit at the country level, where the problems are."
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