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Standards Program for Canada’s Charities & Nonprofits

Enhancing governance and effectiveness

September 23, 201523 September 2015

Arts statistics and management

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This document from Imagine Canada, the national association of charities, is intended to support charitable organizations by providing a “Canada-wide set of shared standards for charities and nonprofits designed to strengthen their capacity in five fundamental areas:

  • board governance
  • financial accountability & transparency
  • fundraising
  • staff management
  • volunteer involvement.”

Within each of these areas, the standards vary based on the size of the organization. Level 1 organizations have five or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees and $2 million or less in annual expenses. Level 2 organizations have 50 or fewer FTE employees and $10 million or less in annual expenses. Level 3 organizations have either 51 or more FTE employees or more than $10 million in annual expenses.

Within board governance, there are standards related to board leadership, board oversight, and governance policies and processes. For example, all levels of organizations are expected to have “a mission statement that is approved and revisited by the board at least every five years to assess its continued relevance”. In addition, all organizations are expected to have a strategic plan in place. Boards of Level 2 and 3 organizations are also expected to take responsibility for approving the strategic plan and evaluating progress related to the plan’s priorities.

The standards of financial accountability and transparency include having up-to-date financial statements, completing “an accurate Registered Charity Information Return” for the Canada Revenue Agency, and making annual financial statements publicly available. There are further standards for transparency of Level 2 and 3 organizations, including information that should be provided on the organizations’ websites.

Fundraising standards relate to donor relations and fundraising practices. For example, “all fundraising activities conducted by or on behalf of the organization must: be truthful; accurately describe the organization’s activities; disclose the organization’s name; disclose the purpose for which funds are requested; disclose the organization’s policy with respect to issuing Official Income Tax receipts including any policy on minimum amounts for which a receipt will be issued; and disclose, upon request, whether the individual or entity seeking donations is a volunteer, employee or contracted third party”.

Within staff management, there are standards related to: policies and other documentation; recruitment, orientation, and training; and performance management and staff development. For example, Level 1 and 2 organizations are expected to review human resource management policies at least every two years, and revise them as needed. Level 3 organizations are expected to review such policies annually. Level 2 and 3 organizations should have “a compensation structure that fairly evaluates and compensates the value of each position”. All levels of organizations are expected to provide all employees with “a work plan or performance objectives that identify their tasks/activities and the expected result”.

Volunteer involvement standards include having volunteer assignments that “relate to the mission or purpose of the organization and involve volunteers in meaningful ways that reflect their abilities, needs, and backgrounds”. All organizations are also expected to have “appropriate screening processes for volunteers”. Level 2 and 3 organizations are further expected to regularly evaluate “the impact and contributions of volunteers and the volunteer program”.

For a fee, “organizations wishing to demonstrate publicly that they meet the standards can participate in a voluntary peer-review-based accreditation process”. The fee includes access to supports such as volunteer coaches, an online hub, gap analysis, sample policies and procedures, and a discussion forum.

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