How much of a service fee do agencies charge? What is that used for?

“Here are some things admin fees may cover.”

Service fees will vary according to the agency. You need to ask the agency how those service fees are allocated. Some agencies may charge 10% home-based administrative fees and another 10% for local administrative fees. 

The home-based service fees may pay the salary of personnel like those who record donations, send a receipt to the donor, notify the missionary of the donation, and prepare documents for the IRS. Others may help with obtaining visas and flight information. 

The local service fees may pay the salary of those local personnel who work for the agency, for example a “documents coordinator” who will work with local government offices to obtain the proper papers you need you to reside and work in that country.

Local staff may also assist you at customs or even with getting a driver’s license, or coordinate banking and finances. All this takes time, and local personnel can save you a great deal of time and frustration. 

A word of caution: agencies with low service fees may in reality be passing on the fees to the missionary who then takes it out of her/his salary. On the other hand, agencies with higher service fees may have more accurately stated the actual cost of the services. Always investigate.

Answer from Ed Klotz, who served with SIM for 22 years in Nigeria, Liberia, and Eritrea.

“Here’s why agencies charge service fees.”

Agencies charge service fees because of the costs of handling the business needs of missionaries serving overseas. Few people give to agencies, preferring to give to the individual missionary. Agency home staff may handle the receipting and transfer of donated funds, work with medical insurance companies, handle taxes and Social Security deductions, pay bills, and invest retirement funds.

Agencies also provide pre-field training and re-entry assistance. They provide media to explain to churches and donors what the missionary is doing and why, and often they’re the ones who handle inquiries from donors about their missionary. 

Agencies should provide full financial disclosure of how they use the service fees to both the inquiring prospective missionary and their donors.

Answer from Elizabeth in Michigan, who has served with SEND International in the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, and the US for thirty-eight years.

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