Canada’s charity sector loses a valued platform in improving transparency, accountability and impact.
April 8, 2016, Imagine Canada shelved its CharityFocus website. CharityFocus was just launched in February 2012. Too young to be gone so soon. The purpose of CharityFocus was to help “transparency in Canada’s charity sector and communicate impact”. It showed donors a charity’s financial information, annual reports, research and evaluation studies to get a well-rounded picture. CharityFocus’s site was heralded as transforming “government filings into graphs and visuals”, helping charities be transparent to donors and the public. Janet Gadeski of CharityInfo wrote “it’s a welcome, essential contrast to stories and information services that focus on financial ratios, select very few of Canada’s 85,000 charities for analysis, and restrict input from the charities themselves.”
Canada’s charity sector desperately needs better transparency and accountability. In Charity Intelligence’s research on 650 Canadian charities, 136 of Canada’s largest charities with donations over $1 million still do not provide audited financial statements. Each year in Canada, $750 million in giving goes into a dark pool.
Charity Intelligence’s research process can never replicate the scale of CharityFocus’s presentation of government filings. As for its redundancy with the CRA’s Charities Listing new graphics, we feel strongly Canada needs more organizations championing for transparency and accountability, not less. As the voice of Canada’s charities, Imagine Canada’s CharityFocus was an essential tool working within the sector to improve transparency and accountability. As a charity, representing charities, working for charities, Imagine Canada has a closer relationship with charities than the government regulator. Canadians looking for better charity transparency have lost an important program.
On the measuring impact side, CharityFocus’s shut down is devastating. CharityFocus’s portal had charity annual reports, program evaluation and impact assessments. The CRA’s Charity Directory has nothing on communicating impact. Imagine Canada says it will be “working on new partnerships to communicate with Canadians on how charities are making an impact”. Please hurry. Charity Intelligence has published impact reports on just 10 Canadian charities. This is a critical area where there is too much work for any one organization to do alone.
With CharityFocus gone, Canada’s charity sector falls back to the status quo of 2012; accreditation on over 160 charities – an elite few – no tools to help charities accurately file annual returns and, for now, silence on the difference charities make.
We’re often asked how is Charity Intelligence different from Imagine Canada. Charity Intelligence works for donors. Imagine Canada works for charities. Together we strive for Canada’s charitable sector to be more transparent, accountable and focused on results.
For donors who care about charity transparency and accountability, please consider donating to Charity Intelligence. It’s not a sexy area of giving, it’s nuts and bolts, but we believe it is absolutely essential for a healthy charity sector. To see Charity Intelligence’s results in improving transparency and accountability, please read our 2015 annual report.