For the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), no advertising campaign could have produced the results it reaped from the PTL scandal. And as ministries flock to the ECFA banner (membership is pushing 420), the self-regulatory organization is toughening its standards.

Meeting last month in Arrowhead Springs, California, the ECFA board of directors took four major actions aimed at tightening its accountability standards. First, the board called for on-site inspection of ECFA-member organizations. The plan calls for volunteers, primarily attorneys and certified public accountants, to visit members’ headquarters to examine such records as the minutes of board meetings and to investigate possible financial abuses. The goal is for teams to visit at least 50 organizations a year.

Second, ECFA will do more to disclose information about members who leave or are terminated. ECFA president Arthur Borden said there would likely be a yearly newsletter listing the departed organizations and their reasons for leaving. In the past, ECFA has responded to questions about former members but has not otherwise released information about them. Borden admitted that for those making inquiries under the old system, “It was like playing ‘20 Questions.’

“We concluded this was not a satisfactory way to serve the public …,” said Borden. “Now, when it comes to releasing information, we will be proactive rather than reactive, especially where there are egregious violations.”

Third, ECFA will require members to make more information available, including their federal 990 forms, disclosure forms not-for-profit organizations must file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This will ...

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