2012 Charity 100 Methodology

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by MoneySense staff
June 20th, 2012

Online only.

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2012 Charity 100
MoneySense’s 2012 Charity 100 aims to help donors pick organizations that spend their money wisely. How do we determine which charities spend their money wisely? We’ve developed a rating system that gives letter grades to the 100 biggest charities in Canada. Charities are scored in four key areas (program spending efficiency, fundraising costs, governance and reserve fund size) before being assigned an overall letter grade relative to their peers.

Charities were divided into nine categories to ensure a fair comparison: Animal Services, Culture Arts & Research, Environment, Fundraising Organizations, Health/Health Services, Hospital Foundations, International Aid & Development, Religion and Social Services. Fundraising organizations were defined as organizations that spent more than 60% of their expenses on donations to other charities or that spent less than 10% on programs.

The financial data comes from the charities’ 2008, 2009 and 2010 Canada Revenue Agency T3010 information returns. The charities on our list are the biggest charities in Canada in terms of tax-receipted donations and non-tax receipted money received through fundraising. Revenue refers to donations and fundraising dollars. We excluded gifts in kind when sorting the list. We also excluded some organizations not generally thought of as charities, such as churches and universities.

Here’s the point breakdown for each of the four areas assessed:

-Maximum of 10 points for overall charity efficiency

-Maximum of 10 points for fundraising efficiency

-Maximum of 10 points for governance plus 1 bonus point for salary disclosure

-Maximum of 5 points for reserves for all charities other than community foundations

Each charity’s total out of a maximum of 35 + the bonus point (30 + bonus point for community foundations) was converted to a percentage out of 100. These percentages were then normalized by category of charity to the total charity population, meaning charities’ final letter grades were dependent on the performance of charities in their category.

CHARITY EFFICIENCY (MAX 10 POINTS)

1) Money spent on charitable programs and money donated to other charities was added up and divided by the total expenses.

2) Then points were awarded based on these ranges:

Regular Charities

10 points for 85%-100%, 7.5 points for 75%-85%, 5 points for 65%-75%, 2.5 points for 60%-65%, 0 points for less than 60%

Fundraising Organizations and Hospital Foundations

10 points for 90%-100%, 7.5 points for 80%-90%, 5 points for 75-80%, 2.5 points for 70%-75%, 0 points for less than 70%

3) Scores were totalled and a normalized for each type of charity, so we would be comparing each charity against other charities in this category. A corresponding letter grade was then assigned to each.

FUNDRAISING EFFICIENCY (MAX 10 POINTS)

1) Fundraising costs were divided by the total of money raised through tax-receipted and non-tax receipted donations and money raised through fundraising.

2) Then points were awarded based on these ranges:

Regular Charities

10 points for $0 to $10; 7.5 points for $10-$20, 5 points for $20-$30, 2.5 points for $30-$35, zero points for more than $35

Fundraising Organizations and Hospital Foundations

10 points for $0-$5, 7.5 points for $5-$10, 5 points for $10-$20, 2.5 points for $20-$30, 0 points for more than $30

3) Scores were totalled and a normalized for each type of charity, so we would be comparing each charity against other charities in this category. A corresponding letter grade was then assigned to each.

GOVERNANCE (MAX 10 POINTS + 1 BONUS)

This category has a maximum score of 25 points, which is reduced to an overall weighting of 10 points. At that point, one bonus point is possible for disclosing the highest paid salary.

1) Twenty of the points in this category are awarded based on a governance questionnaire that we sent out to all 100 charities. A charity got one point for answering “yes” to questions 1 to 11; one point for answering “yes” or “N/A” to question 12; and one point each for one for answering “no” to questions 13 to 14. If the organization didn’t respond to the questionnaire after several follow up attempts, they received zero.

Here are the questions:

1. Does your board of directors or a board committee approve the following:
a.   the annual operating budget
b.   audited financial statements
c.   fundraising policies
d.   governance policies
e.   a formal process to identify the organization’s major strategic and operational risks
f.    a formal, multi-year strategic plan
g.   Canada Revenue Agency filings
2. Does your board/board committee formally review the performance of the most senior staff person at least once every year?
3. Is the most senior staff person’s total compensation package approved by the board of directors or a board committee?
4. Are expenses of the senior staff member reviewed by a member of the board?
5. Has the board formally adopted a written code of ethics for directors, staff, and volunteers?
6. Does the organization have an investment policy?
7. Is there a process in place for measuring the effectiveness of the organization’s programs?
8. Is there a conflict of interest policy covering board members and staff?
9. Is there a formal process to orient new board members to ensure they understand their legal and fiduciary responsibilities and are fully informed on the organization’s finances?
10. Does the board or board committee review the performance of board chairs, committee chairs and individual directors annually?
11. Does the board or a board committee review the actual revenues and expenses versus the budget at least quarterly?
12. If the organization rents, trades, or shares donor list, does it ensure donors’ requests to be excluded from lists are honoured?
13. Does the organization sell its donor list?
14. Does the organization directly or indirectly pay fundraisers finder’s fees, commissions or percentage compensation based on contributions?

2) The other five points in this category were given for transparency. Charities that had complete audited financial statements on their website for their most recent financial year were given three points. They get two additional points for having complete audited financial statements for the two previous years available online. If they had no financial statements on their site, they got zero.

This resulted in a score out of 25. We divided it by 2.5 to get a score out of 10. At that point, charities received a bonus point (one full point on top of the possible score of 10 out of 10) for disclosing the exact salary of the highest paid staff member.

RESERVES (MAX 5 POINTS)

1) We looked at how much cash and investable assets the charity had for this category. The result was then expressed in years and months. Community foundations were not scored for this category, as they hold investments for other charities.

2) Points were awarded for the amount of reserves as follows:

0 points for less than one month in reserve, 2.5 points for 1-3 months, 5 points for 3 months to 3 years, 2.5 points for 3 years to 5 years, 0 points for more than 5 years

3) Scores were totalled and a normalized for each type of charity, so we would be comparing each charity against similar charities in their category. A corresponding letter grade was then assigned to each.

9 comments on “2012 Charity 100 Methodology

  1. I found this article to be very thorough in its grading and will use it as a tool in my future donations to Charities. Thank you for such an informative article.

    Reply

  2. Thank you for the information. I always wanted to know administration costs of every charity. Last year I've got bad cancer and among other organizations I have contacted the Canadian Cancer Foundation. They were of zero help in many ways so I stop donating them any money.
    I am still interested to know what percentage of every charity goes to the administration costs including every thing, for example car lease cost for the executive(s) etc. There are charities that spend say 80 cents out of every dollar for the organization administration etc. I most certainly don't want to support any charity spent most of the money on itself.

    Reply

    • A business can be deemed successful with just a mere 10% profit margin. While a charity is held to a standard of 80%?! Yes, administration costs need to be taken into consideration – however it takes money to raise money. Generally speaking most people who work in the non-profit sector do not go to work to become rich – they work in the industry to make a modest living WHILE making their world a better place. While finding out about a charities cost to raise a dollar, why not also ask them how successful they were in fulfilling their mandate last year? How many people did they help? Did they reach their goals? I wish people would ask me that question (I work as a fundraiser). I live pay cheque to pay cheque, I rent and I don't go on fancy vacations. But I have chosen to work in a place where the reward is improving my community – not a Christmas bonus. My salary falls into that 20%. Please educate yourself on how to properly invest your donor dollars. Talk to the organization, stop by for a tour, volunteer. You will quickly learn how your money is being used.
      And just an FYI – there is currently NO standardized way to judge charities. How charities report on their money can vary greatly from organization to organization – all depends on their accountants. Any organization that says their cost to raise a dollar is less than 10% is lying – they just have great accountants or a special circumstance that allows them to report differently (paid staff through an endowment fund, etc).
      Whatever you do, keep donating! Every small amount (even the cost to raise a dollar) makes a difference in our communities! Charities step in where there is a need – you can chose how to make your world a better place.

      Reply

  3. What a silly process! What assurance is there that the answers to the simplistic questions are correct? What stops a respondent from simply answering 'yes' to all of the fourteen questions above knowing that that is what is required to 'get a good score'?

    Reply

  4. The best way to donate is to ask if the agency provides "Gift in Kind" receipts. This way YOU buy what is needed i.e. food, supplies, item a senior could use etc and the items are donated to the charity and you get a receipt for the amount you spent. That way, you know EXACTLY where your money is going and it does not end up in one big pot to pay for high salaries, photocopier supplies and other items such as that. If the agency does not provide "Gift in Kind" receipts, I don't donate as most money gets lost along the way and does not end up where you think it does.

    Reply

    • gifts in kind can come with all sorts of problems of their own. How to quantify the value of the donation? Not to mention the ineffficiencies. What if the charity needs lots of a particular item and could get a wholesale price? Who is going to store and distribute the donated items? Much simpler to give the charity cash and let them put it towards what is needed most.

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    • Do you think a charity can run on gift cards? How will they successfully fulfil their mandate if they don't have money to keep the lights on? Yes, charities have to pay bills too. Unfortunately companies don't give breaks charities; it costs money to properly manage a non profit – please tell me you are not as ignorant as you seem.

      Reply

  5. Its too bad Children's Health Foundation is not on this list as I have just recently been treated poorly.

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  6. Your information is skewed somehow. Are you getting paid to say good things about questionable practices in some charities? The Salvation Army CEO in Canada makes $20,000 or less per year, plus housing and expenses. More than .90 per dollar goes to the needs. Others like United Way, or World Vision Ce O's make high 6 figures plus another 200,000 expense account, free expensive cars, trips etc. Less than .50 per dollar goes to the needs. Your article is probably biased.

    Reply

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