FAQs – How Does ECFA Certification and Compliance Work?

With over 2,500 Christ-centered churches and ministries now accredited by ECFA, you’ve probably seen ECFA’s recognized seal on a ministry’s website, social media, or giving materials.

What exactly does ECFA accreditation mean, and how does an organization earn the right to display ECFA’s seal of financial integrity?

Keep reading to learn more!

What is ECFA?

Founded 40 years ago by Billy Graham and other evangelical leaders, ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) has grown from a visionary and faithful group of 150 charter members to over 2,500 leading churches and ministries across the United States today.

ECFA enhances trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries through its annual accreditation of organizations based on Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, drawn from Scripture.

ECFA serves as a financial accountability partner to ministries who voluntarily seek accreditation and continue to faithfully demonstrate their commitment to ECFA’s high standards. The standards are set at an appropriately high level to provide the essential guardrails for financial integrity in churches and ministries of all sizes. While admittedly the standards do not address every potential issue or challenge an organization may encounter, they have stood the test of time in helping thousands of churches and ministries enhance trust and become better stewards of their God-given resources.

Additionally, ECFA promotes financial accountability and best practices through innovative resources, including books and eBooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, blogs, research in best practices, conferences, and more.

Where can I learn more about ECFA’s standards?

ECFA’s standards focus on independent board governance, sound financial management, and responsible stewardship and fundraising.

The standards set a high bar for organizations—often far above the minimums required by law. For example, an ECFA member must annually engage an independent CPA to audit, review, or compile its financial statements and be willing to provide a copy of its latest financial statements to anyone upon written request.

Learn more about ECFA’s integrity standards for ministries at ECFA.org/Standards.

Is ECFA an auditor or fraud examiner?

No. Although ECFA is led by experienced, professional staff with credentials in accounting, finance, and law, ECFA does not offer financial audits or other professional services for members.

But as a condition for accreditation, ECFA requires its members to have their annual financial statements audited, reviewed, or compiled by an independent CPA.

How does ECFA ensure compliance with its standards?

ECFA employs CPAs and other professionals who have the necessary experience and expertise and possess appropriate discernment and judgment to make sound recommendations and decisions to carry out ECFA’s compliance program, under the oversight of ECFA’s Board of Directors. 

The ECFA Compliance Review Process utilizes various means, including:

  • Membership Application:  This process is designed to confirm an applicant’s compliance with the ECFA Standards. It includes a series of questions related to the Standards, as well as a thorough review of relevant supporting documentation. For a complete list of required documents, visit here.  Approximately 35% of applicants are accepted into membership upon submitting their initial applications. Other organizations who may not immediately meet ECFA’s membership criteria are offered free coaching and resources to assist in making necessary changes to qualify for accreditation.

  • Annual Membership Renewal:  Each of ECFA’s 2,500+ members must complete an Annual Membership Renewal form, on which an individual authorized by the member affirms compliance with the Standards.  It also includes a review of CPA prepared financial statements and other required documentation by ECFA’s professional staff.  If questions arise concerning a member’s compliance with the standards, ECFA staff will request additional information necessary to confirm compliance.

  • Standards Check-In Program:  A Standards Check-In is a periodic, in-depth review designed to further enhance a member’s compliance with ECFA Standards.  This process includes the review of various items from the member, including meeting minutes of the governing board, internal financial statements, fundraising appeals, conflict of interest monitoring process, among other items. These periodic reviews are conducted virtually for some members, and onsite at the member’s location for others. The onsite Check-In includes face to face meetings with several representatives of the member – such as the Executive Director, Lead Pastor, CFO, Board Chair, Development Director, and others.

  • ECFA Member Compliance Concern Reporting:  ECFA staff is committed to following up on all concerns related to ECFA Standards. Sharing a concern is easy through ECFA Share a Concern page.

  • Formal Compliance Reviews: When there is a serious concern of noncompliance, ECFA may place a member under a formal compliance review. ECFA staff will investigate the necessary details to help determine whether the member is in compliance with the standards. A formal compliance review may lead to the ECFA Board suspending or terminating an organization’s membership for unresolved compliance issues. All membership changes within the past 12 months are posted here.

To read more about the ECFA Compliance Review Process, visit here.

Does ECFA ever take disciplinary action against its members?

Yes. As an accrediting organization, ECFA protects the integrity of its Standards and seal.

When necessary, ECFA takes action against member organizations who are unable or unwilling to comply in a timely manner with any of the standards. Depending on the circumstance, ECFA may suspend membership for a period of time, or terminate an organization’s membership.

As the basis for any disciplinary action, ECFA relies upon facts and documentation—not allegations or innuendos. While it takes time to proceed thoughtfully and deliberately in these matters, doing so is critical to arrive at a fair and true determination regarding an organization’s membership status.

ECFA desires to restore its members to compliance through a confidential, Biblical and redemptive approach. 

Does ECFA publish a list of former members? 

As a demonstration of ECFA’s commitment to transparency and accountability, change in membership status is posted on ECFA’s website for 12 months after the change in status occurs.

All resignations, suspensions, or terminations of membership while under compliance review are included, as well as voluntary resignations of members not under a compliance review. View the latest updates here.

How is ECFA funded?

ECFA’s ministry is supported primarily through annual membership fees. These fees are calculated on a sliding scale so that membership is affordable for organizations of all sizes.

With over 2,500 supporting members, ECFA’s determinations regarding compliance with its standards are not influenced by the annual membership fee of individual organizations. Rather, review criteria have been objectively identified and are uniformly applied to all member organizations.

ECFA’s ministry is also supported through the generous awarding of grants from time to time. 

If you appreciate ECFA’s ministry to enhance trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries, you can also make an individual gift to support ECFA by clicking here.

Is ECFA itself accountable?

Absolutely. ECFA abides by all of the same standards it expects of its members, including independent board governance, annual CPA audits, and appropriate transparency.

ECFA staff are accountable to the Board of Directors, consisting of national ministry leaders and professionals respected for their Christian character and wisdom. The independent Board is elected by the ECFA membership and is subject to term limits.

See also ECFA’s Bylaws and IRS Form 990 with ministry financial updates for the three most recent years.

Who are the current members of ECFA?

ECFA members are located across the U.S. and U.S. territories and range from the very large national ministries, many of the nation’s largest churches, to smaller local ministries and churches. Members include Christian ministries, denominations, churches, educational institutions and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.

See our "Find a Member" tool for a searchable list of current members based on ministry type, location, and other characteristics.

How can I give to an ECFA member?

GiverConnect™ is provided by ECFA to allow donors to quickly and easily find giving opportunities for participating ECFA-accredited organizations. GiverConnect™ allows you to search for opportunities that match your interests!

The funds given through GiverConnect™ go directly to ECFA’s members, with no overhead assessed by ECFA.

How can my ministry become ECFA-accredited?

We welcome your application at ECFA.org/Join!

The online application form is confidential, user-friendly and takes only a few minutes to get started.

After you’ve submitted the form, an ECFA Compliance Team member will follow up with more information and to schedule a call to discuss the ECFA Standards and membership requirements in more detail.

What if I have other questions?

The online contact form is a quick and convenient tool if you have additional questions regarding ECFA or one of its members.

Thank you again for your interest in ECFA!

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