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Pride, passion and a new way to tell our story
publication date: Dec 8, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Imagine Canada has found a way for all charities to present the full story behind the numbers that reporters and self-appointed watchdogs so often emphasize. The organization's National Summit in Ottawa offered the right moment to announce its new opus, Charity Focus.
Stunning unawareness by lawmakers, our neighbours and media
Imagine Canada CEO Marcel Lauzière said he was stunned by the unawareness he encountered when sector advocates tried to educate MPs and some media on the issues around Bill C-470, which in its original form would have capped charity salaries.
Some MPs didn't realize that charities had staff at all, let alone highly trained and competent staff. Personnel at the Summit swapped similar stories - a bank manager telling them they needed a salary to qualify for a mortgage, relatives asking when they were going to get paying jobs.
And everyone agreed that they have allowed media and self-appointed evaluators to define and describe them, rather than speaking out with pride and passion about their impact.
Charity Focus spotlights all Canadian charities
Imagine Canada expects to launch Charity Focus in January. It's a welcome 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.
The site will transform the dry data from the Canada Revenue Agency's T-3010 forms into graphs and other easily understood visuals. But every charity will be able to add its choice of additional material such as annual reports, program information, fundraising policies, videos and links to social media platforms.
"It's one response to what we've been hearing from MPs and the media about lack of transparency in the sector," Lauzière stated.
With this module alone, Charity Focus has the potential to be an inclusive, fair and comprehensive site that helps donors and media understand the complex issues charities address.
Getting the data right
Many charities will welcome the new site's T-3010 prep tool that allows them to check for mistakes and inconsistencies before reporting to the CRA. Sophisticated and secure, it allows charities to save their working calculations and print the final version for submission. Links to Imagine Canada's Charity Tax Tools offer plain-language help for personnel struggling to understand the T-3010's requirements.
Lauzière hopes it will help reduce the error rate on T-3010s - a rate that has stayed stubbornly high despite CRA's own efforts to simplify both the form and its documentation.
Helping you help Canadians give
Canada Helps will have a "Donate Now" button on every charity's page. That will make it easy for donors who like what they find to give right away. It's clear to me that Charity Focus is potentially Canada's leading charity information site for donors, policymakers - even for members of the media.
But it won't achieve that status through Imagine Canada's efforts alone. Start thinking now about the kind of information and rich media you'll upload to your page when the site goes live.
And spread the word that Charity Focus will be there for you, and for every Canadian who's honestly curious about Canada's charities.
For more information, contact Imagine Canada at 416-597-2293, ext. 301; 1-800-263-1176, ext. 301; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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