Friday, July 27, 2012

Standards for Not-for-Profits

Imagine Canada has launched a new Standards Program for Canada's Charities & Nonprofits. Its mission is to "build excellence within Canada's charities and nonprofits through common standards of practice and to strengthen confidence in the sector". This is a national program that encourages excellence in five key areas:
  1. board governance
  2. financial accountability & transparency
  3. ethical fundraising
  4. staff management
  5. volunteer involvement
The Standards Program is (in the words of Imagine Canada) "first and foremost, a capacity-building initiative". Organizations can use the standards to improve and monitor their practices, and can even choose to participate in a voluntary peer-review-based accreditation process. This is an excellent tool for boards that wish to review and evaluate their own organization (which all boards should be doing anyways). For those organizations that wish to participate in the accreditation process it can be a great tool for strengthening confidence and trust in your organization. Imagine Canada lists the benefits of accreditation as the below, however even without the accreditation process many of the benefits below stand, and the practice of ensuring your board and organization can meet the standards should be a positive one for your organization:
  1. Demonstrates to stakeholders that your organization has met externally established standards in key areas and is operating in a transparent and accountable manner.
  2. Increases your credibility in the eyes of funders, the public and other stakeholders.
  3. Strengthens staff and board knowledge and morale.
  4. Enhances board, volunteer and staff recruitment and retention.
  5. Provides a framework to mitigate the risk of inappropriate or ethical behavior.
  6. Helps you identify areas of concern so they don't become big problems.
  7. Fosters a culture of openness.
  8. Helps ensure that board members and staff understand and follow legal and financial requirements.
  9. Helps ensure that board members understand and are meeting their fiduciary responsibilities.
  10. Requires the development of policy and procedures that promote the sustainability of your organization.
  11. Ensures you have key policies and procedures in place so you can focus on your mission.

You can download the Standards Handbook from the Imagine Canada website for free and use it as a checklist for evaluating your board/organization.  The handbook is not long (only 16 pages) and includes easy to read tables that include 73 standards grouped into the 5 areas above. The standards are grouped into 3 levels, based on the size and financial capacity of your organization. Most libraries in the Chinook Arch region would fit into Level 1, although achieving many of the the standards at higher levels would be desirable.

More information on the Standards can be found at:, or you can download the handbook directly from

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