Well that didn’t take too long.
The Canadian National Spiritual Assembly’s Treasurer, Mr. Enayat Rawhani, issued this letter recently:
At its recent meeting, the National Spiritual Assembly reviewed the financial position of the Canadian community as part of the formulation of a budget that would provide for activities related to the first year of the new Five Year Plan. A thrilling picture of Canadaâ€™s contribution to the growth of the Faith emerged from our review. At the same time, we noted with growing concern that the needs have substantially exceeded the flow of contributions to the national fund. Over the last few months, therefore, the National Assembly has drawn from funds set aside from bequests and endowments so that commitments to other funds of the Cause and the movement of the Plan in Canada may not be impeded. Examples include increased contributions to the House of Worship in Chile, an historic restoration of the Shrine in Montreal in preparation for the centenary of the visit of â€?Abduâ€™l-Baha, the winning of Canadaâ€™s international pioneer goals through the settlement of a large number of pioneers, international collaborative projects in Congo and Burkina, and of course, the personnel and operational costs of the processes of growth throughout the country.
Contributions to the fund fluctuate throughout the year, but by the end of March, the Assembly can usually foresee whether the contributions will meet the yearâ€™s needs. This year, contributions as of the end of March had reached $4,000,000, an amount which fell $700,000 short of the year-to-date expenditure budget. This gap moved us to immediately share the state of affairs with you, calling for a supreme effort to remedy this condition and in fact, welcome the new Plan at Ridvan with a surplus.
You can read the Treasurer’s full letter here. Interestingly enough, Rawhani is one of the longest serving members of the NSA with more than 16 years of continuous incumbency under his belt. But only the two most recent have seen him serve as Treasurer for the national body.
Most Baha’is will find nothing in the above letter surprising or out of the ordinary. After all, we are all used to receiving such exhortations about the fund. They are usually delivered with a breathless tone of impending doom and gloom. If we don’t immediately give sacrificially, who knows what will happen!
So why do I say, “well that didn’t take long?”. Because we just reviewed the financial situation of the Baha’i community. Based on the NSA’s own disclosure to the Canadian tax authorities, we know that the Canadian Baha’i community is doing very well financially. This is a chart that I shared with you already:
Total liquid assets have been growing consistently and the NSA now has more than $32.5 million. If we count non-liquid assets such as land and buildings, then it is more than that by a few million.
In fact, just a few days ago, I wrote this:
I hope that with this warchest, the NSA doesnâ€™t resort to the past manufactured financial crisis situations to motivate Bahaâ€™is to donate.
From the NSA’s own disclosures to the CRA, here is a concise summary of their annual financial status going back to 1996:
|Year||Total Income||Total Disbursements||Surplus/(Deficit)|
The NSA has consistently banked surplus after surplus, year after year. The cumulative net surplus over this time period is $28.7 million which would account for almost all the accumulated liquid assets that the NSA has at this point.
The only time there was a large deficit was in 2009 when they decided to contribute $12.5 million to the Chile Temple project. This created a $5.5 million deficit. Without this there would have been a surplus of $7.5 million. This donation to the Chile project provided another interesting discrepancy that is yet to be explained.
There is just one month remaining in the Baha’i fiscal year so the above letter can be seen as a ‘Hail Mary’ to try to get Baha’is to donate within this window of opportunity to prevent a $700,000 deficit. What I balk at here is not the letter itself in isolation. But that it is merely one among many similar letters that present a completely different picture and tone to that which the NSA itself reports to the Canadian government. We’ve seen many similar letters sent to the community during previous years when the fund ultimately presented a surplus.
I balk at the selective disclosure that the NSA engages in to reinforce informational asymmetry within the Baha’i community. They have never disclosed the full financial situation. They have never reported the true financial status of the community to the members of the community. They never report the balance sheet which would then show the massive and growing assets, both liquid and capital of the NSA. They never report the full income statement nor explain what exactly they are doing with the funds or how they are making decisions about them.
The pattern of behavior exhibited by the NSA is one of extremely limited disclosure coupled with intermittent jeremiads, like the one above, bemoaning the state of the fund and asking for further donations to avert a crisis. I find this wholly contemptible.