06
Jan
11

Stewardship and Financial Accountability

Merry Christmas (belated) and Happy New Year everyone!

In preparation for an upcoming audit, I came across these excerpts relating to Stewardship and Financial Accountability that really struck a cord with me:

One of WV’s Core Values:
One of World Vision’s values is ‘We are Stewards’ and the following words describe what it means to be a steward –
The resources at our disposal are not our own. They are a sacred trust from God through donors on behalf of the poor. We are faithful to the purpose for which those resources are given and manage them in a manner that brings maximum benefit to the poor. We speak and act honestly. We are open and factual in our dealings with donor constituencies, project communities, governments, the public at large and with each other. We endeavor to convey a public image conforming to reality. We strive for consistency between what we say and what we do. We demand of ourselves high standards of professional competence and accept the need to be accountable through appropriate structures for achieving these standards. We share our experience and knowledge with others where it can assist them. We are stewards of God’s creation. We care for the earth and act in ways that will restore and protect the environment. We ensure that our development activities are ecologically sound.

From a World Vision manual:
Financial accountability is the reporting to others of one’s stewardship in financial terms. It includes, in addition to the presentation of financial statements to the providers of the resources –
• A recognition of the need for a clear relationship between expenditures and goals (which cannot be clearly shown in financial statements alone)
• Of the need for economy, and
• Of the need for evidence of fiscal propriety

Each of these needs calls for records of permanent evidence to be kept

In the Bible, there is a story about the Apostle Paul, who is on his way to take a donation from the Macedonian (Gentile) churches, to the Jewish church that was struggling financially. The words he used to communicate his desire for stewardship of those donations are ideal: ‘We want to avoid any criticism in the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right not only in the sight of God, but also in the eyes of men’.

These aspirations for stewardship and financial accountability strike me because in all honesty it is a hard thing to do, both professionally and personally. It is difficult to not automatically default into thinking of our own rights or what we deserve that would justify an attitude or action that lacks integrity. It is easy to think that it doesn’t really matter. Or for some, it could be easy to think that we are doing well (e.g. financially), that a little bit of waste or extravagance here or there is acceptable. However, our attitudes and justifications can quickly change when we realize that what we have been given is a gift (in the case of nonprofits in the form of donations) and that there is an element of trust (by the giver) that their gift will be used in a manner that is consistent with the identity and mission of the organization. When we realize that resources are a gift (rather than earned), the idea and desire to be good stewards seems to be a natural outflow of gratitude and appreciation.

Thank you for letting me share a personal conviction. In this New Year, let us put our hope in that which cannot disappoint!

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