Building confidence in giving back

How to ensure your donations make the biggest difference
Imagine Canada

People want to know that their donation dollars are being put to good use, and it’s not always easy to tell. It’s a problem that concerned Dave Spedding, Chief Operating Officer of UNICEF Canada. “If you’re an overseas charity like UNICEF, a lot of your money goes elsewhere, which requires a whole different level of trust,” he says. “It’s not like donors can just go to Cambodia to watch us vaccinate a child.”

When he joined UNICEF eight years ago, Spedding felt there was more the organization could do to show people that their money was going where it was needed most. “Going through Imagine Canada’s Standards Program was what was missing to further ensure donor trust and confidence,” he says. “And earning the Trustmark through the Standards Program is a good way to encourage best practices amongst all charities.”

What the Trustmark means

UNICEF Canada was one of the first of the more than 240 charities in Canada to have met the 73 standards required to earn the Imagine Canada Trustmark as a symbol of excellence and leadership in the charitable sector.

To earn accreditation, charities must identify and reduce organizational risk, improve board governance practices, demonstrate transparency, financial accountability and fundraising, and foster a strong workforce. “One of the good things about the Standards Program is that it’s hard,” Spedding says. “And it should be hard! But it’s not an Everest that a charity can’t climb — and it’s worth it, as many larger donors take a lot of time to research where they’re giving their money, and the Trustmark gives them reassurance.”

One of those larger donors is Canada Life, which has contributed more than $200 million in support of Canadian nonprofit, charitable and community organizations in the last 30 years. The organization relies on the Trustmark for guidance when choosing which charities to support. “While Canada Life is a large and growing organization, our company and employees are connected by a shared sense of responsibility to give back and help build stronger communities,” says Debbie Down, Director of Community Relations. “Imagine Canada helps us to do it in a way that ensures the greatest impact.”

Making every contribution count

Canada Life is involved with hundreds of initiatives that benefit communities across Canada at any given time — and has just as many requests for support coming in. As part of its application process, the company asks charities to identify whether they’re accredited, or in the process of being accredited, through Imagine Canada’s Standards Program.

“To us, accreditation is a symbol of credibility and professionalism,” Down says. “It means many check-boxes are already completed in our vetting process, like: Does the organization have good governance, and do they have sound fiscal accountability and practice? At the end of the day, we believe the charitable sector will be strengthened by all the organizations that gain Imagine Canada accreditation.” Spedding agrees. “People want to be confident that the money they’re giving goes where it’s supposed to,” he says. “When charities earn the Trustmark, the level of excellence it represents helps builds that confidence.”

To learn more about the Trustmark and what it takes to earn accreditation through the Standards Program, visit: imaginecanada.ca/standards