Dan's Response to The Age

Words by Daniel Flynn
11 August, 2013

Some of you may have read an article that was published by Fairfax today, which attempts to throw into question what we do at Thankyou. I wanted to personally share my thoughts with you on this because it may have raised some questions in your mind that need answers. Why do these questions need answers? Because this is bigger than you and I. This is bigger than our organisation or even the charity partners we work with. This is about the people that we help get sustainable access to safe water, food security and health and hygiene training. For their sake we can’t get caught up in politics and opinions that attempt to discredit the work that is set up to help them. We want to set some facts straight and provide some background to help answer these questions that have been raised.

We work using a projects-based model that means we essentially provide ‘grants’ to organizations that submit project proposals, providing these proposals meet our criteria. As outlined on our website, we currently work with World Vision, Oxfam, Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse. It’s worth noting that we live in a country where 20 of the 25 largest aid organisations have a religious foundation. We cannot discriminate against organisations based on their beliefs and therefore we must base our decisions on the merit of their development work. At Thankyou we are driven by impact, which means that we partner with the organisation that can provide the most sustainable impact.

One of the main points of the article was dissatisfaction that we have funded multiple projects run by a charity named Samaritan’s Purse.  The article highlighted the fact that Samaritan’s Purse has two arms – a missionary arm and a development arm, which is correct. We only fund projects run by Samaritan’s Purse’s development arm. In order for Samaritan’s Purse to maintain tax deductibility status as a charity in Australia, its development work is clearly separated from its religious work. In the event they ever crossed this line, they would lose this status and Thankyou would no longer fund their projects.

Another point raised was that Samaritan’s Purse is not a signatory of the ACFID code of conduct. It’s worth noting that to become a signatory of the ACFID code of conduct is costly and many times is not feasible for smaller charities. Samaritans Purse has the lowest admin fee of any of our project partners, which is 10 per cent. That’s a good thing. But it means that in order for them to pay the $25,000 ACFID fee, they would need to raise a further $250,000 just to cover that. Our funding isn’t high enough to ‘demand’ them to pay the fee but having said that, we have a written agreement in place that says any of the projects we fund must meet the ACFID code. One of the clauses most relevant to them states that funds designated for development must not be used to promote a particular religion.

While we don’t need to defend the position of any of our project partners, I want to give you background on how Samaritan’s Purse became a partner. When we first started out we funded projects through only two organisations. Both had no religious links and are two of the biggest international charities in the world. They signed agreements to meet all of our criteria and we sent both organisations money thinking we were on to a good thing. However, the proper reporting never came, even when it was clearly agreed upon by both parties. Following these disappointments, Samaritan’s Purse submitted a proposal and it met all of our criteria. We did a test fund as a trial and found that all their reporting lined up after we visited the project. Essentially, from a development perspective they ticked all the boxes. They have over time been one of the most transparent and flexible project partners we have worked with, enabling us to give accurate and in-depth reporting back to our customers through Track Your Impact.

The article made mention of ‘company ties’ to Planetshakers. It sounds a little ambiguous to me. The ‘tie’ they are referring to is that it’s the church I personally attend with my wife on a Sunday, as do a couple of our other staff members. I’m not sure how they have deducted that this relates to the company as a whole.

In regards to private donors who have provided us funds, it was portrayed as though there was some kind of mystery behind this. Quite simply, the individuals who donated funds were well-meaning people who plainly asked if they could remain anonymous as they were giving the funds because they supported our idea, not because they wanted the credit. I think that’s pretty noble of them!

The article also made mention of our financial statements and that we don’t plan to release these, which is only half true. While we do not release financial statements for the company due to competitive reasons (we are operating in the highly saturated FMCG industry and to divulge this kind of financial information would prove a competitive disadvantage) we do release the financial statements of our Charitable Trust (all the money raised for projects) and you can view these here. As of next year we will provide an Annual Impact Report which will show you in further detail the impact made.

I love this quote by a lady we all, irrespective of our personal beliefs, hold in high regard: “If you’re kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.”

– Mother Teresa

Thanks for your support to date. We’ve raised over $760,000 and helped over 56,000 people get access to safe water. It’s just the beginning.

Daniel Flynn
Managing Director & Co-founder