For nine years, MoneySense‘s Charity 100 has been helping Canadians make informed choices about their donations. This year, we’ve made our system for evaluating charities even better.
We now source the charities’ financial data from Charity Intelligence, a research organization that analyzes Canadian charities. Charity Intelligence, in turn, sources its data from charity financial statements, as opposed to their self-reported tax returns. In most cases, those financial statements are audited, which means the figures have been vetted by both an independent accountant and Charity Intelligence’s researchers. This data is the most accurate source of financial information for Canada’s major charities.
A charity’s financial efficiency is important, but the results it achieves with your donated dollars are even more crucial. We believe donors have a right to know how their money is being spent and whether it’s truly helping people. That’s why we’ve now made transparency worth 40 per cent of the final score.
The transparency grade is comprised of two elements. The first is simple, but important: Whether the charity makes audited financial statements available online without donors having to ask for them. The second element, the social results transparency grade, examines how well charities communicate their missions and impact to the public. This grade is based on a score assigned by Charity Intelligence researchers that assesses charities’ websites, annual reports and other communications materials to determine how accountable they are about what happens to donations once they’re in their hands.
We also added a new element to the financial component of the score, assessing how the salary of each charity’s executive director compares to its peers of a similar size. A MoneySense analysis found charities that pay their highest-compensated employee less than $80,000 a year tend to have poor efficiency and transparency, as do charities with top-paid staff members making $100,000 to $150,000 more than the average executive director salary for the charity’s size.
One thing the MoneySense Charity 100 does not assess is the worthiness of a charity’s cause. The charities on the list range from local organizations helping the homeless in specific cities to international charities distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to help people in need abroad. Their work is inspired by a broad spectrum of religions and political ideologies. To help readers choose the best charities that match their interests and beliefs, we’ve also broken out the top charities by category.
The holiday season involves navigating many appeals to your heartstrings and wallet. We hope the Charity 100 will be useful to you as you make those decisions. For more details about how we make the list, please see our methodology page.