339 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON M5A 1S9
Executive Director: Dalal Al-Waheidi
Board Chair: Greg Rogers

Charitable Reg. #:88657 8095 RR0001

STAR RATING

Ci's Star Rating is calculated based on the following independent metrics:

[Charity Rating: 1/5]

FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY

Audited financial statements available only through official request for information from Charities Directorate.

F

RESULTS REPORTING

Grade based on the charity's public reporting of the work it does and the results it achieves.

Low

DEMONSTRATED IMPACT

The demonstrated impact per dollar Ci calculates from available program information.

NEED FOR FUNDING

Charity's cash and investments (funding reserves) relative to how much it spends on programs in most recent year.

85%

CENTS TO THE CAUSE

For a dollar donated, after overhead costs of fundraising and admin/management (excluding surplus) 85 cents are available for programs.



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OVERVIEW

About WE Charity:

Due to irreparable harm from the fallout of the WE Charity scandal, WE Charity announced it is closing the Canadian WE Charity. The US and UK WE Charities continue. WE Charity was a one-star-rated charity. Read Ci's report before donating.

WE Charity (first known as Free the Children) was co-founded in 1995 by Canadian teenagers Craig and Marc Kielburger. WE Charity's mission was to empower students by giving them and their teachers the tools to create transformative social change. WE Charity rose to global fame. WE Charity and Craig Kielburger were on the Oprah show and CBS' 60 minutes.

WE Charity grew and became a global children's charity with development programs in Africa, Ecuador, Haiti, India, and China. WE Charity's international development followed a holistic and sustainable model designed to empower communities to lift themselves out of poverty. WE Charity also ran youth volunteering programs in schools. In 2009, WE Days began. These were massive youth rallies in Canada featuring celebrities and spokespeople to motivate and empower youth to change the world. Students and celebrities alike volunteered in communities and traveled overseas.

The covid-19 pandemic severely disrupted WE Charity's operations. Covid-19 canceled WE Days and overseas student trips. On top of the covid-19 pandemic, WE Charity became embroiled in parliamentary investigations known as the WE Charity Scandal. This was one of Canada's largest news stories of 2020.

WE Charity is currently suing CBC's Fifth Estate, Canada's premier weekly news report, for its investigative look into donor deception. The mother of WE Charity's co-founders is suing Canada's highly-rated podcast, White Saviours. WE Charity's lawyers have corresponded with Charity Intelligence. Please appreciate our report sticks simply to facts.

DONOR ADVISORY: Charity Intelligence issued a donor advisory on July 17, 2020, reflecting WE Charity Canada's turnover in directors. New information came to light about its unique governance structure and the control of the co-founders. WE Charity Canada appointed four new directors in March 2020. WE Charity's board changed again in March 2021 when three of the four newly-appointed directors stepped down in March 2021. Greg Rogers remains as board chair.

In F2022, WE Charity spent $11.6m on its programs and spent $2.9m on grants to external parties. The charity reports that since founding it engaged 7,000 schools in WE Service Campaigns, supported 3,000 charities, and reached one million students through its WE Day celebrations. WE Charity also states that its international programs provided water to one million people, educated 200 thousand children, and launched 30 thousand women-led businesses. 

Other Charity Intelligence reports:
WE Charity Closing, the details, June 2022
WE Charity Foundation; the legacy continues, June 2022
Charity Intelligence WE Charity Foundation report, August 14, 2023.

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Results and Impact

Ci could not find any quantified results on WE Charity. This may not be a complete representation of WE Charity's results and impact.

Charity Intelligence has given WE Charity a Low impact rating based on its demonstrated impact per dollar spent.

Impact Rating: Low

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Finances

WE Charity does not disclose its financial statements publicly. Ci received WE Charity’s financial statements after requesting them from the government.

WE Charity’s F2022 financial statements are unaudited and redacted. Ci used the charity’s T3010 filing with the CRA to report expense information as the charity does not use activity based costing.

The charity received $31k in donations in F2022. WE Charity also received $5.9m from other WE organizations. Ci included the amount within Other Revenue. Administrative costs are 15% of revenue (excluding investment income). The charity does not report fundraising costs. For every dollar donated to the charity, 85 cents are available to go to the cause, which is within Ci’s reasonable range.

WE Charity has $317k in reserve funds, which can cover 2%, or under one month of its annual program costs.

Due to the public interest in WE Charity and also since its website has not been updated with the most recent audited financial statements, here are WE Charity's audited financials:

For fiscal year ending August 2021
For fiscal year ending August 2020
For fiscal year ending August 2019

Charity Intelligence has sent this update to WE Charity for review. Changes and edits may be forthcoming.

Updated on August 15, 2023 by Liam Chapleau.

Financial Review


Financial Ratios

Fiscal year ending August
202220212020
Administrative costs as % of revenues 15.2%8.7%3.3%
Fundraising costs as % of donations 0.0%26.1%2.8%
Total overhead spending 15.1%34.8%6.1%
Program cost coverage (%) 2.2%11.1%(5.1%)

Summary Financial Statements

All figures in $000s
202220212020
Donations 312,06324,818
International donations 06,73827,534
Goods in kind 08,4865,194
Government funding 03,0606,677
Investment income (2)(89)(68)
Other income 5,928(266)(68)
Total revenues 5,95819,99264,086
Program costs - International 3,2465,67623,869
Program costs - Canada 8,34011,83128,176
Grants 2,90300
Donor-designated donations 010,1700
Donated goods exp 08,4865,194
Administrative costs 9031,7382,103
Fundraising costs 0539692
Other costs 24464602
Total spending 15,41638,90360,637
Cash flow from operations (9,458)(18,911)3,450
Capital spending 0(23,709)161
Funding reserves 3172,665(2,643)

Note: Ci used the charity’s T3010 to report expenses. The difference in the charity’s T3010 and audited financials is $2.9m. Ci adjusted for amortization of deferred capital contributions affecting revenues by ($nil) in F2022, ($15.9m) in F2021, and ($664k) in F2020. Ci adjusted for covid-19 government assistance affecting revenue and expenses by ($nil) in F2022, $2.7m in F2021, and $4.9m in F2020. Ci included foreign exchange gains (losses) in other income and included interest income, realized and unrealized gains (losses) on marketable securities, and earnings from investments in We365 in investment income. This affected total revenues by $20k in F2022, ($355k) in F2021, and ($156k) in F2020. Ci included interest on long-term debt in other costs and excluded losses (gains) on the disposal of capital assets from expenses. This affected total expenses by ($nil) in F2022, $464k in F2021, and $927k in F2020. Ci included investment income recorded below the line, impacting revenue by ($2k) in F2022 only.

Salary Information

Full-time staff: 51

Avg. compensation: $45,415

Top 10 staff salary range:

$350k +
0
$300k - $350k
0
$250k - $300k
0
$200k - $250k
0
$160k - $200k
1
$120k - $160k
7
$80k - $120k
2
$40k - $80k
0
< $40k
0

Information from most recent CRA Charities Directorate filings for F2022

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Comments & Contact

Comments added by the Charity:

This comment is from August 31, 20223. Charity Intelligence is committed to free speech and stands by our analysis of WE Charity. 

WE Charity official response to posting and analysis from Charity Intelligence

 

In the fall of 2020, WE Charity announced its closure as a non-profit in Canada. This was the result of a campaign of sustained attacks by media, politicians and pundits, based almost entirely on misrepresentation and misinformation. Charity Intelligence was one of the key sources of that misrepresentation and misinformation.

WE Charity is in the final stages of shutdown in Canada. As such, publishing of annual reports and related public reporting have naturally ceased. Costs incurred by the organization in 2021 to present represent only the wind-down of domestic and international programs. Therefore, Charity Intelligence’s current rankings are irrelevant.

Over the years, Charity Intelligence has displayed an astonishing talent for dishonesty and unprofessionalism, particularly during the CSSG fiasco. Its affiliations with the Conservative Party of Canada and bewildering alterations in WE Charity’s rankings are a testament to its inherent bias.

A more fulsome accounting of CI’s biased, dishonest and unwarranted evaluation of WE Charity can be found below. However, Charity Intelligence's dubious affiliations, past indiscretions and questionable methodologies demand rigorous scrutiny. The organization's assault on WE Charity, based on half-truths and outright fabrications, warrants a thorough investigation. In the ever-evolving philanthropic landscape, watchdogs must remain accountable, objective, and transparent. Anything less is a disservice to the charitable sector and the public.

In summary:

  • Historical Rankings: Before 2020, CI had consistently awarded high rankings to WE Charity. Greg Thomson of CI even admitted to a Parliamentary Committee that WE Charity maintained a four-star rating from 2014, on grounds of transparency, reporting, and overhead spending. In 2019, WE Charity was even honoured with an A grade for transparency and reporting. However, in 2020, without substantial reason, CI did an about-face, downgrading WE Charity on multiple fronts. When questioned in a Parliamentary committee, CI representatives couldn't justify the significant downgrade.
  • Questionable Neutrality: CI's claim to unbiased evaluation is laughable, given their board composition and self-evaluation scores. Ties between CI's Kate Bahen and Graeme Hepburn to the Conservative parties are extensively documented [see Mark Bourrie’s Fair Press article], which makes one question the motivation behind their targeted assault on WE Charity.
  • Unprofessional Conduct: Kate Bahen's behavior during the entire CSSG controversy was nothing short of a smear campaign. Her tone-deaf comments, especially those aimed at Victor Li, WE Charity's CFO undergoing medical treatment, were inhumane and indefensible.
  • Blatant Self-Promotion: Charity Intelligence masterfully exploited the CSSG controversy to bolster its own image, sacrificing the truth in the process.
    • Between June and December 2020, CI's executive director, Kate Bahen, appeared in 698 articles, 356 TV reports, and 659 radio reports.
    • Donations to CI increased by 56% (or $206,195) from July 2020 to June 2021.
    • CI’s financial records show a 134% increase in “fee for service” during the same period.
  • Past Conduct: This isn't CI's first time misrepresenting data and facing backlash for naive analysis. Their track record is marred with criticism and even a brief revocation of their charitable status in 2012. Bahen even had to apologize to the True North Youth Foundation for false claims against that children’s charity.

Over 25 years, WE Charity made a significant impact. Over 100,000 educators were engaged in classrooms across Canada, the US and the UK, providing free resources to help students with service learning—integrating global issues, action and volunteerism into core curriculum. Over 1.5 million students earned their free ticket to WE Days celebrating service. In nine countries in Africa, South America and Asia, more than 1 million people gained access to clean water and sanitation, 200,000 students received an education in schools established by WE Charity, and over 30,000 women were provided with the tools and resources to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

It should be noted that, over the years, WE Charity has received funding from the Skoll Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as global businesses such as KPMG, Microsoft, and Unilever, as well as the family foundations of some of the most prominent philanthropists in North America and the UK. All performed due diligence on WE Charity and, based on their findings, chose to partner with and financially support WE Charity.  It should also be noted that Charity Navigator (the largest reviewer of charities in North America) in Fall 2020 provided WE Charity [WE Charity US, a different and distinct charity] a perfect four-star rating.

However, Charity Intelligence's latest narrative paints a radically different and distorted picture. Their retroactive downgrade of WE Charity in 2020 was a tactical maneuver to justify their venomous public onslaught. Their inability to provide substantial justification for this move under parliamentary scrutiny only exposes the cracks in their facade.

Charity Intelligence head researcher Greg Thomson told a Parliamentary Committee: “Starting in 2014, CI rated WE Charity with our highest four-star rating based on transparency, reporting and overhead spending. WE Charity ticked all of the boxes and performed well relative to other Canadian charities.” 

Despite this, in 2020 CI retroactively downgraded WE Charity’s ratings for financial accounting, transparency and governance in order to justify its vitriolic public attacks on WE. When confronted about this by MPs in a Parliamentary committee, Charity Intelligence representatives were unable to explain the sudden reversal and significant downgrade.

As Tawiq Rangwala notes in his book, What WE Lost: Inside the Attack on Canada’s Largest Children’s Charity: “Throughout her many media appearances, Bahen maintained that Charity Intelligence had long-standing concerns about the organization, and that she was not simply jumping on the anti-WE bandwagon. But this was belied by years of consistently good ratings for the charity from CI. In testimony to the FINA committee, Greg Thomson, the director of research, said, ‘Starting in 2014, Ci rated WE Charity with our highest four-star rating based on transparency, reporting and overhead spending. WE Charity ticked all of the boxes and performed well relative to other Canadian charities.’ And in 2019, WE was given an A grade for transparency and reporting—the very things Bahen was now calling into question."

(For more on Rangwala’s analysis Charity Intelligence’s commentary on WE Charity, listen for free to Chapter 6 of What WE Lost.)

Charity Intelligence leveraged the CSSG controversy for its own self-promotional benefit, boosting its own profile by advancing false information to harm another charity. In his book, Rangwala describes how from June to December 2020, Ci and its executive director, Kate Bahen, had appeared in 698 print and online articles, 356 television reports, and 659 radio reports—all to talk about WE Charity, ME to WE, the Kielburgers, and the CSSG. “Kate Bahen of Charity Intelligence rode the WE Charity Scandal to bigger and better things. Her organization is now actively working with media outlets like the Globe and Mail to assist in investigative reports.” In that time period, from July 2020 to June 2021, Charity Intelligence saw a 56 percent (or $206,195) increase in donations within Canada from the previous year. CI’s own financial records show a 134 percent increase in “fee for service” in the same time periods.

WE Charity has always respected the need for independent oversight of the charitable sector, and therefore had always supported and sought to cooperate with Charity Intelligence to the greatest degree possible. Nevertheless, the actions of Charity Intelligence, and particularly the behaviour of its key staff since 2020 were wholly lacking in respect, responsibility, accountability, professionalism, and fairness. In particular, the rhetoric of Ms. Bahen on social media was puerile, unprofessional, and wholly unbecoming of someone who claims to provide neutral and unbiased assessment. For example, as Craig and Marc Kielburger were about to testify before the Ethics Committee, Bahen childishly tweeted a photo of a hamburger with the caption “Burger time!”

(More on the inaccuracy of public statements to follow below). As described by Rangwala, “It’s very simple and uncontroversial stuff, but you would never know it if you listened to Bahen. Although she presented herself as an unbiased observer, her public comments were often one-sided and carried charged language.”

Throughout the controversy, Bahen showed little to no regard for who got caught in the crossfire of her vitriol. In December 2020, she once again jumped on the bandwagon, this time attacking WE Charity’s CFO Victor Li, who was on medical leave after being diagnosed with a cerebral aneurysm—a bulging artery in the brain that, if it ruptured, could cause paralysis or death. Through his lawyer, he mase it clear that the stress of live testimony could literally kill him, and he offered the committee two options – a written response and delay his testimony until his condition stabilized.

Bahen was among those who falsely claimed that Li was avoiding the committee, implying wrongdoing. In one tweet, she stated: “WE CFO declines invitation to answer Ethics Committee questions. This is outrageous unaccountability and shames Canada’s charity sector. Enough. Parliament should revoke all charities that Victor Li oversees.”

And when she was criticized, she seemed to offer a mea culpa, but then doubled down on her attacks, calling Li a “mastermind” behind WE’s structure and accusing him of stalling the committee’s work.

(For more on how pundits and politicians tried to keep the CSSG controversy in the news, listen for free to Chapter 7 of What WE Lost.)

It is unfortunate that there appears to be few checks and balances on such misconduct. While Charity Intelligence presents itself as an expert on non-profit governance, its board consisting of just three individuals, two of whom are also paid staff of the organization (including Ms. Behan) – absolutely not in keeping with governance best practices for non-profits. Despite that, Charity Intelligence continues to assess itself, generously awarding itself the highest grades in its own evaluation.

There’s have also been questions raised about Charity Intelligence’s claim to partisan neutrality. According to lawyer and media critic Mark Bourrie, both founder Kate Bahen and CI board chair Graeme Hepburn are significant donors to federal and/or provincial Conservative parties.

“And no one at the 2020 Parliamentary hearings knew, or at least raised the issue, of Bahen’s donation of almost $1,000 to the Conservative Party before the CSSG became an issue, according to Elections Canada data,” Bourrie wrote on his Fair Press website. “No one described how board chair Hepburn’s lengthy ties to the Conservatives – both financially and personally – make Charity Intelligence’s involvement in attacking WE Charity highly suspect.”

According to Bourrie, Elections Canada data shows shows Hepburn donated to the Conservatives 56 times. “His largest annual contribution – just under $10,000 – was made in 2020, the year WE Charity was under attack from the Conservatives and Charity Intelligence,” Bourrie wrote, noting Hepburn’s total contributions were just over $43,000.

Bourrie also highlights that Hepburn’s wife, Cluadia, was a past director at the Fraser Institute, “the ultra right-wing think tank that has been associated with the Conservative party for decades.” She was also appointed to the LCBO through an Order in Council by Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government in Ontario in 2021.

“In 2022, she donated $1,200 back to the party that appointed her, according to Elections Ontario data. This was in addition to almost $24,000 to the federal Conservatives over the years, according to Elections Canada’s database.

“Prior to his wife’s appointment to the LCBO board in 2021, Graeme Hepburn donated almost $3,000 to the provincial Progressive Conservatives from 2019-2020. He also contributed around $3,200 to the provincial party from 2014-2016.

“The power couple also hosted a fundraiser for provincial PC party leadership candidate Tim Hudak at their home in 2009.

“None of these direct associations between Charity Intelligence and the Conservatives were raised by any member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee when Bahen and Thomson appeared before the Committee’s CSSG hearings in August 2020.”

It is also important to note that Charity Intelligence has previously been called out for its methods or misrepresenting data.

“When Ci launched its online search engine in 2011, it was the subject of a flattering profile in the Toronto Star, but it was met with considerable skepticism from other quarters,” Rangwala wrote in What WE Lost.

  • “For an article posted to its website, Charity Village, a company that recruits people to work in the charitable sector, spoke to many who criticized Ci’s ‘naïve analysis of data and lack of understanding of CRA guidelines and how nonprofits in Canada actually work.’
  • “Mark Blumberg, for example, said that ‘to telescope the issue of transparency into disclosure of an audited financial statement on the website of a charity is a simplification of the complexity of the issues.’
  • “Malcolm Burrows, the head of philanthropic advisory services for Scotia Wealth Management, concurred. ‘Ci seems to want to put all [charities] into a single space, and I think that does a real disservice,’ he said. ‘They need to look at that before they make these huge generalizations in public . . . You can’t have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard of accountability in the sector.’
  • “And Imagine Canada’s then CEO, Marcel Lauzière, offered a similar observation. ‘They’ve taken a [data-gathering] model from the investment world,’ he noted, ‘where you look at inputs and then tell your investors where to put their dollars . . . It’s not that simple when you’re looking at charities and at their outcomes and impacts.’”

In 2012, Charity Intelligence even briefly had its own charitable status revoked by Revenue Canada for failing to file its annual returns.

As reported in What WE Lost, Ms. Bahen had to issue a formal apology to the Winnipeg Jets’ youth charity, the True North Youth Foundation, after falsely claiming “that among other problems, the foundation was overspending on fundraising. Later, she issued a formal apology acknowledging that CI’s own report showed the foundation’s fundraising and administrative costs fell within ‘a reasonable range.’ She also offered contrition for calling the foundation a ‘puck hog’ in a CityNews interview and ended with a mea culpa for her ‘unfortunate mischaracterization of TNYF.’” This issue arose during CI’s testimony before a Parliamentary committee, with Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara stating: “I appreciate the work you are doing at Charity Intelligence,” he said. “It’s important, but it’s also a double-edged sword, because when you make a wrong call, you can actually hurt a charity significantly. I don’t know who’s doing the due diligence on Charity Intelligence on your calls. You have had to apologize in the past when you’ve made that wrong call and when the damage is, I would say, done.”

Although so much damage has been done by CI and Ms. Bahen’s misrepresentations and false statements, here is the truth behind some of their most egregious claims:

At no time prior to the pandemic or the CSSG program was WE Charity in significant financial difficulty. This is a critical point because Charity Intelligence’s narrative became the foundation for the false allegation that WE Charity lobbied the federal government for the CSSG program in order to allay its financial difficulties. The so-called “breach of covenant” which Kate Behan repeatedly referenced in the media (and note WE Charity’s financial statements never used the highly prejudicial word “breach”) was an accounting technicality resulting from a shift in WE’s fiscal year that impacted revenue reporting for two consecutive reporting years. Forensic auditor Dr. Al Rosen reviewed WE Charity’s finances and definitively concluded: “WE was financially viable at the time of the signing of the CSSG Funding Agreement with the Federal Government and was not in any financial peril.”

Charity Intelligence continues to dispute this, apparently rating their own analysis as more credible than that of one of Canada’s foremost forensic auditors. This despite admitting before a Parliamentary committee that Charity Intelligence staff are only analysts, with no accounting qualifications. As Dr. Rosen said to author Tawfiq Rangwala in What WE Lost: “The primary difference between our findings and the assertions made by the organization’s critics, is that ours were developed as a result of a detailed investigation into the organization’s finances before, and since, the onset of the pandemic. Conversely, the allegations and narrative asserted by critics often appear to be largely based on conjecture, and have not been substantiated in any convincing way by documentation or other evidence.”

From What WE Lost: “Every effort made to dispel this particular myth fell flat. This was an enormous problem, both because the myth suggested that WE Charity had somehow invented the CSSG to save itself from ruin and because it gave the charity’s donors and partners pause about the stability of the organization. Eventually, the Stillman Family Foundation, led by longtime donor Andy Stillman, stepped in and commissioned a series of independent investigations to try to get to the bottom of things and eliminate any confusion. One report, issued by Dr. Al Rosen in October 2020, squarely addressed Bahen’s claims.

“Rosen is a specialist in investigative and forensic accounting and a certified fraud examiner and forensic certified public accountant. He is famous for having predicted the collapse of telecommunications giant Nortel Networks almost two years before its demise. His work and views have been written about in the New York Times and many other publications, he has served as an expert witness on forensic accounting matters in hundreds of litigated cases, and he is author of Swindlers: Cons & Cheats and How to Protect Your Investments from Them.

“Rosen did a deep dive into WE Charity’s books and concluded that prior to the CSSG, the charity was financially sound and not looking for a bailout. ‘At issue seems to be whether . . . WE was in financial difficulty and was reliant on the [cssg contribution agreement] to continue maintaining its charitable operations. Our analyses do not support such assertions of financial instability.’ He noted that the charity had $50 million in cash and real estate, and that these assets had been acquired specifically to help the organization manage year-to-year variations in funding. He acknowledged that like many Canadian entities, WE Charity faced some economic uncertainty because of covid but had laid off staff to better ensure the long-term health and financial viability of the organization. ‘The primary difference between our findings and the assertions made by the organization’s critics,’ he noted, ‘is that ours were developed as a result of a detailed investigation into the organization’s finances before, and since, the onset of the Pandemic. Conversely, the allegations and narrative asserted by critics often appear to be largely based on conjecture, and have not been substantiated in any convincing way by documentation or other evidence.’ In short, he wrote, ‘critics’ conclusions were reached without sufficient facts having been gathered and evaluated.’

“In an interview, Rosen told me that he thought the concerns raised by commentators like Bahen and parroted by the media and politicians were ill-informed and inconsistent with the facts and numbers. He also confirmed to me that he got all the information and cooperation he needed from the charity and its co-founders.

“Scott Baker, WE Charity’s chief operating officer, described the hours he spent with Rosen, reviewing financial documents and answering his questions. A self-described ‘math geek’ who holds a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Toronto, Scott enjoyed going through the charity’s finances in painstaking detail with someone of Rosen’s pedigree. But his face quickly clouded with frustration when he contrasted that approach to the media’s ‘reckless’ acceptance of Bahen’s so-called analysis. ‘You cannot compare the two,’ he said. ‘On one hand, you have Dr. Rosen, who has left no stone unturned and asked thoughtful questions when the answers were not clearly in front of him. On the other, you have Kate Bahen, who has no accountants on her team and has based her entire analysis on one document she misinterpreted. There was no effort by the media to understand. Of course it was frustrating.’”

There were no “blurred lines” between WE Charity and ME to WE social enterprise that resulted in a “backwash” of funds from the charity to the social enterprise. Ms. Bahen repeatedly told media: “I think the lines between these organizations are blurred intentionally.” When ME to WE was established, its corporate structure and relationship to WE Charity was reviewed by a host of legal and governance experts including some of Canada’s most respected law firms and former Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory. Since its founding 100% of ME to WE profits have been donated to WE Charity or reinvested to grow its social mission. Over the years, ME to WE Social Enterprise has donated more than $20 million in cash and cost-offsetting in-kind services to the charity. WE Charity has paid for services provided by ME to WE, like the purchase of deeply discounted ME to WE Trips for donors or youth on scholarships. Again, forensic accountant Dr. Al Rosen investigated the relationship and transactions between the two entities and concluded: “Any assertion that the ‘lines are blurred intentionally’ between these ME to WE Social Enterprises and WE Charity have not been supported by evidence… The ‘backwash’ analogy is not explained or reasonably based on the facts of the source of funds, use of funds and purpose of funds.”

And despite Charity Intelligence’s assertion that the relationship of WE entities is a “Frequently Asked Question” from donors, the allegation that there is “confusion” is entirely their own. Over 25 years, WE Charity never received any significant feedback from donors expressing confusion. Rather, more than 125 donors signed a letter to one media outlet discrediting such claims. 

Rangwala also covered this issue extensively in What WE Lost. “The second myth Bahen launched into the mediasphere concerned the relationship between WE Charity and ME to WE,” Rangwala wrote. “In an appearance on CBC Radio’s The Current, she argued that there is an inherent conflict in an organization that includes a public charity and a private social enterprise. ‘And these two,’ she declared, ‘are joined at the hip.’ But as we’ve already seen, that was exactly the point—the two entities worked together, with the for-profit social enterprise supporting the activities and mission of the non-profit charity. Even Bahen seemed to acknowledge how common this is when she said, ‘Many companies—big companies, public companies—have philanthropic arms.’

“And yet, that didn’t stop her from accusing WE of improperly channelling millions of dollars from the charity to the social enterprise as part of a process she referred to as backwashing. ‘We’ve never seen the backwash before,’ she told host Nahlah Ayed, noting that usually the money flows solely from the social enterprise to the charitable organization. But what she was describing was the purchase by WE Charity—at or below cost—of volunteer trips and handmade artisan products that were an integral part of the charity’s fundraising efforts. When WE Charity bought things from ME to WE, it paid an entity that was giving its profits back to the charity. If it had bought the same trips or products from an unrelated entity, that entity had no obligation to contribute anything to the charity. So far from being backwash, the flow of funds between the organizations was one aspect of an innovative partnership that, in my view, should serve as a model for others seeking to achieve maximum philanthropic impact.”

There was never a governance crisis at WE Charity. Ms. Bahen is quoted in media saying: “Did WE Charity inform the government that its board had resigned or was replaced just weeks before, and that there was a gap in governance and oversight at the charity? … Oh and by the way — it has no board.” In What WE Lost, Rangwala, who is a former board member and served at the time in question, provided an exhaustive inside account of what took place at the WE Charity Board during this time. The WE Charity board did not resign en masse. Through the summer of 2020, an orderly and long-planned transition of Board members took place associated with the org 25th anniversary, with three previous and highly qualified members—a lawyer, a certified accountant, and the former CEO of the Toronto District School Board—staying on to provide continuity and several new and highly qualified individuals joining the board. There was never a point at which WE Charity was operating without Board oversight. As Rangwala wrote in Chapter 10 of What WE Lost: “On April 4, the board voted to appoint new members so that those scheduled to transition could depart. It simply happened earlier than planned. But to be clear, all the existing board members remained in place and voted on the transition, and there were no other protest departures. And for this book, I spoke to several other board members who transitioned off in the weeks and months after Michelle’s departure. None felt they were forced out.”

Further false allegations: In media and on social media, the staff of Charity Intelligence made numerous other false statements including repeatedly misstating the value of the CSSG program, implying WE Charity of influenced third party evaluators with gifts and free trips, and wrongly attributing the actions of other groups (such as an east coast charity with a similar name) to WE Charity. The staff of Charity Intelligence also engaged in vicious and unwarranted personal smears against a WE Charity staff member who was suffering a life-threatening health condition.

WE Charity twice wrote open letters correcting the record on these false allegations, which only received a non-substantive, cursory response. You can read those letters: HERE and HERE.

Charity Contact

Website: www.wecharity.org
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Other frequently asked questions from donors: 

ME to WE: There is confusion among donors about the blurred lines between WE Charity and ME to WE. Collectively these two distinct organizations are referred to as "WE," "WE organization," "WE movement," or "WE entities." ME to WE is an affiliated social enterprise. In other words, ME to WE is a private business controlled by Craig and Marc Kielburger, WE Charity's co-founders. While WE Charity was founded in 1995, ME to WE started in 2004. ME to WE's CEO is Roxanne Joyal, Marc Kielburger's wife. WE Charity's CFO is also ME to WE's CFO.

WE Charity has a complex structure that is rare in the charity sector. Bloomberg News mapped out the charities and private Kielburger businesses that are WE entities.

WE Charity's response to this article is that while it has charities and businesses in many countries with different rules about social enterprises, states this corporate structure is necessitated by Canada's antiquated charity rules.

Tel: 416.925.5894

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Charity Intelligence researches Canadian charities for donors to be informed and give intelligently. Our website posts free reports on more than 800 Canadian charities, as well as in-depth primers on philanthropic sectors like Canada’s environment, cancer, and homelessness. Today over 500,000 Canadians use our website as a go-to source for information on Canadian charities reading over 1.6 million charity reports. Through rigorous and independent research, Charity Intelligence aims to assist Canada’s dynamic charitable sector in being more transparent, accountable and focused on results.

 

Be Informed. Give Intelligently. Have Impact

 

Charitable Registration Number: 80340 7956 RR0001