Annual Report from NSA of Canada

The annual report from the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada finally made it’s way through snail mail. Unlike the speedier US counterpart (sent through the electronic intertubes) it is very bland.

The only interesting part is where they mention their new approach to the budget:

A continued challenge this year has been in maintaining sustained, generous response to the needs of the Funds of the Faith. Although contributions fell short of what was called for in the budget, in a wonderful development in the past month, efforts by institutions and individuals alike appear to have eliminated the current year’s operating deficit and also allowed a reduction in the accumulated deficit to approximately $650,000. Having sought the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assembly decided this year to establish an expenditure budget equal to the actual contributions to the National Fund over the last three years, resulting in deep cuts to services and staff at every level.

The emphasis above is mine.

So it appears that the NSA has finally decided to join the rest of us in reality. I’m loath to take credit for this but you may remember this blog performed a service to NSA treasurers and made them watch this presentation. Atleast the Canadian treasurer seems to have grasped the complex financial machinations explained in that video.

So in effect what they’ve done is look at the previous 3 years and averaged the contributions received for the National Fund. They’ve then set this as their budget for next year. This seems reasonable since contribution trends change little year over year. The NSA has attempted for many years to try and pull up the contribution levels by sheer force of setting higher goals.

This simply does not work. And it seems they have realized the folly of setting unrealistic expectations, not meeting them and then brow beating the Baha’is for “their” failure.

canadian-nsa-budget-sleight-of-hand.pngFor example, last Baha’i year the goal was $5.4 million for the National Fund. Actual contributions were $4.3 million. But with the new method, next year’s goal (the 3 year average of actual contributions to the National Fund) will be $3.6 million. Seems like they’ve made some real changes.

But not so fast!

While the National Fund’s goal is set at $3.6 million, they’ve done something very sneaky to actually create no change! Here’s what the NSA did. They introduced a line on the budget statement called “Additional Goal for National Fund”. This had a value of $2.1 million.

So if we take the realistic goal of $3.6 million and add to it this mysterious “Additional Goal” of $2.1, we get…. (drum roll)… $5.7 million.

Which is right back in the range of $5.4 million (from previous years!)

In effect, no change. Plus ca change and all that. I had no idea the NSA were fans of French existentialism ;-)

Here’s what it looks like:

National Fund___________________________$3,573,263
Additional Goal for National Fund____________$2,151,737
Total__________________________________$5,725,000

And no, there’s no explanation given as to what, exactly, this additional goal is for. Or why it is needed. And I’m sure it is just coincidence that it is exactly the amount that is needed to bring the budget up to a round number level at which it would show no real change from last year (except for a slight increase).

Such sleight of hand tricks like, saying you’re reducing the budget,while in actuality increasing it are the forte of the NSA and its treasury department. After all, they’ve been reporting a deficit year after year to the Baha’i community and a surplus to the government year after yea.

This is why we need more transparency and openness in the Baha’i Administration. This is why more and more Baha’is are reluctant to donate to the Funds. Would you give money to a charity that plays these sort of tricks? insists on opacity and obfuscation? refuses to answer simple questions?

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  • FJR

    While it is definitely important that one’s concerns are voiced when they feel as though a Baha’i institution is not being honest with them, or their money is not being used productively, I would think that there must be a reason for the Canadian NSA’s restructuring of it’s goals for the fund.

    As for it refusing to answer your questions, if you send a letter, usually you will receive a response indicating what the NSA’s reasoning is and how the funds are being contributed. And if you have suggestions for ways in which the fund can be better organized, make your voice heard beyond a blog on the internet. Let these people know!

    One important part of being a Baha’i is avoiding judgment of others, and so while if you have questions you must certainly ask them until you get answers, I think it is also important to have enough faith in your institution to believe that they are working towards the advancement of the Cause of God, and operate with purity of intention. All humans are capable of making mistakes, but I think it is very important that rather than criticize the institutions from a distance, that one lets them know how they feel, and tries to understand the reasoning why they may do things you do not understand, or agree with.

  • FJR

    While it is definitely important that one’s concerns are voiced when they feel as though a Baha’i institution is not being honest with them, or their money is not being used productively, I would think that there must be a reason for the Canadian NSA’s restructuring of it’s goals for the fund.

    As for it refusing to answer your questions, if you send a letter, usually you will receive a response indicating what the NSA’s reasoning is and how the funds are being contributed. And if you have suggestions for ways in which the fund can be better organized, make your voice heard beyond a blog on the internet. Let these people know!

    One important part of being a Baha’i is avoiding judgment of others, and so while if you have questions you must certainly ask them until you get answers, I think it is also important to have enough faith in your institution to believe that they are working towards the advancement of the Cause of God, and operate with purity of intention. All humans are capable of making mistakes, but I think it is very important that rather than criticize the institutions from a distance, that one lets them know how they feel, and tries to understand the reasoning why they may do things you do not understand, or agree with.

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