Web watchdog – Focus on finance

By Todd Cohen

Financial research on Christian groups is the focus of a new nonprofit Web site designed to serve donors.

Created by a former portfolio manager for Templeton Investment Counsel, MinistryWatch has built a database of more than 400 U.S.-based Christian charities that raise roughly $6 billion a year.

The site rates a charity based on how it acquires and spends its financial resources, and how it manages those resources and its need for cash.

Charities are organized by categories such as leadership training, overseas missions, publishing, radio and television, and relief and development.

Soon to be added to the site is MyMinistries, a portfolio-management service that will let users sign up to receive reports on ministries they select, and an Education Center that will include materials on issues involving giving.

The site soon will include ratings of individual ministries, comments by MinistryWatch analysts, and the ministries’ responses to those comments.

MinistryWatch is a program of Wall Watchers, which was created with an investment of about $500,000 from Rusty Leonard, a former Templeton portfolio manager who had been based in Charlotte, and his wife, Carol, an accountant.

The site, with a staff of seven, including four analysts, is modeled on financial research groups such as Morningstar and ValueLine, says Mark Long, president of Wall Watchers and former director of research for IPAC Securities in Auckland, New Zealand.

While income on Leonard’s investment has sustained the organization, Long says, Wall Watchers’ strategy is to co-brand its services with other sites, including Christian portals.

He says Wall Watchers is an evangelical ministry but does not base its evaluation of other organizations on their theology.

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