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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

2015 Annual Report

Imagine Canada: A Year in Focus

This is a challenging time for the nonprofit sector. Organizations are faced with ever-increasing scrutiny. Canadians’ priorities are shifting, expectations are high, and funding has to be secured in new ways.

For Imagine Canada, 2015 was a year of assessing our challenges, taking a longer view, prioritizing and refocusing.

We looked at the sector’s needs that we are able to fill, and those we are uniquely positioned to fill. 

We evaluated the success and effectiveness of our existing activities and carefully considered our skills, our expertise and our strengths. 

We made tough decisions about what we should be doing, and not doing, along with changes to our structure and our team.

We have made a plan for the future; a new strategic framework. 

We are now more focused and better positioned than ever to help sector organizations thrive and fulfill the promise of their respective missions.  

This is Imagine Canada’s annual report for the year 2015.

“As Canada enters the globally competitive knowledge economy of the 21st century, the skills and talent of Canadians will become an increasingly dominant factor in success. It’s a trend which will serve to highlight the value and importance of charities to Canada because charities are in the people business.”

BRIAN EMMETT, Chief Economist for Canada’s Charitable and Nonprofit Sector

Finding clarity about the state of the sector and the needs of charities

Finding clarity about the state of the sector and the needs of charities

We consulted widely for an in-depth look at the environment and the needs of the sector.

Charities in Canada as an Economic Sector

Discussion Paper cover

Download (PDF)

In 2015, we released a discussion paper by Chief Economist for Canada’s Charitable and Nonprofit Sector, Brian Emmett and co-author Geoffrey Emmett called Charities in Canada as an Economic Sector. With the charitable and nonprofit sector representing 8.1% of Canada’s GDP and 10.5% of the labour force, the paper is an invitation to Canadians, governments, businesses and communities to not only think of charities as purpose driven, but also as an essential component driving Canada’s economy.

Research and consultation to develop our new framework

As we came to the end of our 2013-2015 strategic plan, we needed to articulate a path forward for our organization.

To create the new Imagine Canada Strategic Planning Framework (see below), we consulted with over 700 participants from sector organizations, using a mix of online surveying, focus groups, one-on-one interviews and meetings. 

Our broad and deep consultation helped us to identify the concerns of the sector, in turn helping us to identify our strategic priorities.

“Reaching out and being consultative was a priority in developing our new framework. We took care to ensure that non-traditional ‘voices’ were invited into the process. The Board and staff of Imagine Canada also contributed their thoughts and wisdom along the way.”


Evaluating the effectiveness of our work

Evaluating the effectiveness of our work

We conducted a significant internal review, evaluating our own programs and activities.

Sector Source

A three-year evaluation of the Sector Source website and online resource library was concluded this year. This evaluation combined analysis of website statistics, reference questions received and two user surveys and revealed that the site has successfully supported sector leaders in expanding knowledge, building skills, solving organizational issues and sharing information with others.

Imagine Matters

Our member newsletter was evaluated and updated to better represent our brand, reinforce the value of membership and offer a more engaging and memorable reader experience – including a new mobile-friendly responsive design and change to bi-weekly publication.

Early Alerts

These email updates deliver the latest news from Parliament Hill. Our 2015 evaluation, which included a survey, telephone interviews and a regression analysis, revealed that the publication was most valued by organizations not focused on policy issues. These organizations relied on Early Alerts to provide them with relevant, high-level overviews of government activity. 

Charity Focus and Quick Prep

To understand the usefulness and long-term viability of Charity Focus and Quick Prep, we reviewed a number of elements such as: site traffic and user behaviour, user feedback (gathered through surveys), cost of operating and whether the program had achieved the original program goals and would support Imagine Canada’s current strategic framework.

After evaluating potential options for each service we ultimately decided to retire the programs.

“We need to walk the talk when it comes to evaluating impact. We have a responsibility for ensuring that the organization is tracking toward meeting its mission-related objectives. In 2015, we asked our research staff to apply their skills to an in-depth internal review, evaluating the impact of Imagine Canada’s own programs and activities.”

CATHY BARR, VP, Mission Effectiveness

Making tough decisions about what works and what doesn’t

Making tough decisions about what works and what doesn’t

We prepared for our shift in focus, dismantling elements that don’t efficiently support progress toward our goals and organizing ourselves to face the challenges ahead.

Reframing our revenue and cost structure

Over the years, two significant trends have created funding challenges for Imagine Canada – the same challenges faced by many other nonprofit organizations: 

  1. Government funding has dropped significantly over the long term.
  2. Funders are changing and tightening their funding criteria.

Recognizing the need for a new economic model, we started to reframe our revenue and cost structure. We carefully evaluated the strategic impact of our spending and investment of resources. We also identified areas of need, such as for more dedicated fundraising support. 


Revenue provided by government funding; 2005 - 2015

“Charities need to make responsible decisions – which aren’t always easy decisions. We need to be strategic and conscious about our mission, realistic about our resources and set ourselves up to achieve our goals.”

OWEN CHARTERS, Chair, Board of Directors

Reorganizing our staff structure and roles 

During 2015, Imagine Canada’s employee structure was reorganized based on two underlying factors

  1. Alignment of roles with our new Strategic Planning Framework 
  2. The need to re-work our annual operating cost structure to be more realistically aligned with attainable revenues

As a result, our employees were structured into two main areas: Mission Effectiveness and Operations. This was set up to ensure that all work is linked directly to strategy through a Mission Effectiveness group.  While those staff work on delivering value to the sector, their need for support services to conduct their work is the rationale for an Operations group.

“In 2015, we faced one of our most difficult years to date financially: a challenge, but also an opportunity to show leadership in how charities need to handle uncomfortable but responsible decisions. The changes to our existing structure, programs and properties show the courage of our leaders to think differently and put the building blocks in place for future success.”

BILL HARPER, VP, Operations

Retiring Two Programs 

Based on careful review and evaluation, we decided to retire two Imagine Canada resources Charity Focus and QuickPrep. 

Charity Focus was created to help charities demonstrate transparency and communicate impact. Funding for this program ended in 2012 and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website has since improved, with plans to launch an entirely new Charities Listing search by 2019, making Charity Focus redundant.

QuickPrep, a tool for improving the accuracy of the data charities submit to the CRA, had limited long-term viability. Funding for Quick Prep also ended in 2012 and continuing updates to the T3010 forms created significant technological and financial challenges.

In addition, the CRA will soon be launching an online T3010 form and is working on launching a new set of online tools to guide charities through compliance and reporting, making QuickPrep redundant.

Focusing on our strengths and developing them further

Focusing on our strengths and developing them further 

We identified areas of strength and excellence – areas that merit and require our focus and further development.

“Growing the Standards Program is key because it’s the beginning of a reframed conversation with Canadians about the sector. Canadians can trust that accredited organizations are worthy of their time and money. As such, the Standards Program will continue to be a flagship program for Imagine Canada.”


Recognizing the value the Standards Program brings to the sector

Since the launch of the program in 2012, more than 160 organizations have strengthened their capacity and successfully achieved accreditation through the Standards Program’s rigorous peer-review process. More than 100 additional charities are working toward accreditation.


Number of accredited organizations; 2012 - 2015


With the growing success of the Standards Program we decided to close the Ethical Code Program as of December 31, 2016 – a program that overlaps with the Standards Program. While the Ethical Code Program has played an important role in promoting good financial accountability and fundraising practices among Canadian charities, the Standards Program is more comprehensive and rigorous; it includes fundraising and financial-accountability standards as well as standards on board governance, staff management and volunteer involvement. 

We also worked with YMCA Canada to pilot a model for federated groups to work through the Standards Program. The pilot was successful and will inform our work with other federated groups moving forward.

Sponsor banner

“In a year of evaluation and difficult decisions, we identified that the Standards program needed little change, but instead, growth. This is an example of a program that was created by the sector, for the sector, with tremendous volunteer involvement and benefit to participating organizations.” 

CATHY BARR, VP, Mission Effectiveness

In 2015, we experienced a number of additional “wins” in areas where our strength has previously been established. 

Grant Connect

In 2015, our annual Grant Connect user survey revealed improved ratings over previous years. For example, 31% of respondents rated their satisfaction as extremely high vs. 16% in 2014. We were also excited to launch month to month billing, making Grant Connect more accessible for all charities.

As revenues from this program continue to increase, we have recognized the importance of Grant Connect, not just as a funder and prospect research tool, but as an important social enterprise that supports other Imagine Canada programs.


Increase in Grant Connect customer satisfaction


Media Campaign

Building on the success of the previous year, we created an earned media Holiday Giving Campaign in the final few weeks of 2015, suggesting the top five giving considerations for Canadians. The campaign took advantage of media attention during “giving season” and yielded 110 media hits including CTV National News, CBC’s The National, multiple CBC outlets and regional’s newspapers – with an overall reach of tens of millions.

Sector Champions

Several new members joined as Sector Champions – Canada’s most influential charity and nonprofit leaders dedicated to building a stronger nonprofit sector – with our best attendance yet at our 2015 Sector Champions roundtable.


Among our greatest assets are the contributions, insights, involvement and collective voice of our members, who inform and guide our decisions in all areas of our mission-driven activities. In 2015, as in previous years, our member organizations demonstrated their commitment to strengthening the capacity of the sector. 

Ensuring a focus on the role and value of the sector

Ensuring a focus on the role and value of the sector

We continued to give a voice to and increase the profile of the sector at the federal level.

Public Policy

Our public policy efforts of previous years continue to pay off in results – for example, over $360 million in savings for charities and nonprofits over the last three years – and in momentum.

Day on the Hill

In the spring, a collective of groups organized a charities lobby day on Parliament Hill, our Day on the Hill, using the day to promote sector-wide issues. On May 14, 2015, staff and board members from 10 national organizations participated in almost 30 meetings with MPs and Senators from all political parties.

“We’re now talking about a significant shift in how we do public policy work in the sector: a shift to a more collaborative model. Our Day on the Hill was an important first step towards working in that way.”

CATHY BARR, VP, Mission Effectiveness

Pre-budget submission 

Earlier in 2015, we prepared a pre-budget submission to the Commons Finance Committee, recommending:

  1. Implementation of the Stretch Tax Credit
  2. A government-sector working group to improve access to business development programs
  3. Incentives to encourage new graduates and highly-skilled young people to seek employment in the sector.

2015 election and new government

During the federal election, our strategy was to:

  1. Inform platform and policy development to increase the profile of the sector with politicians and parties.
  2. Help charities and media stay on top of election issues and engagement opportunities relevant to our sector.
  3. Ensure charities have the knowledge and confidence to engage in policy discussions during the election period and beyond.

During the election campaign, we published an Election Edition of our Early Alerts, providing weekly updates about charities’ policy and advocacy efforts, and party commitments on issues of interest to charities.

After the election, we started the process of building relationships with the new government and establishing Imagine Canada as the go-to resource and partner for issues affecting the sector, by meeting with a number of key officials, politicians and ministerial staff.

Defining our future direction and priorities

Defining our future direction and priorities

We charted out new directions for revenue generation and articulated a new framework for Imagine Canada – and for the sector.

Changes to our revenue generation activities

We identified a need to revitalize our corporate citizenship initiative, the Caring Company Program, which saw a significant participant decline in 2015. We conducted an online survey and in-person and telephone interviews to help inform upcoming changes – which will include a refreshed brand, improved program features and an overall better customer experience. 

The future of revenue generation for the sector

We have also been researching and planning the new Personal Philanthropy Project to develop strategies for encouraging high-net-worth individuals to increase their charitable giving. In 2015, we received a commitment of $350,000 over the next two and a half years to support this work, which has potential to benefit the entire sector.

“Our new strategic framework represents a shift in focus for Imagine Canada to a more outwardly-facing organization – offering leadership where the sector needs it, and support when that is most required. Our focus is on harnessing and embracing the collective strength of the sector.”


New Strategic Framework for Imagine Canada and for the sector

Download (PDF)

Recognizing that successes achieved by Imagine Canada will fundamentally alter the operating environment for all charities and nonprofits, our new Strategic Framework includes broad strategic directions, measures of success and game changing outcomes. 

Rather than a strategic plan, we now have a framework with a view further “down the road”: with conditions for success and goals over a 7-10 year period. 

We are working to create a system, for Imagine Canada and for sector leaders, in which:

  • We will be able to measure and effectively communicate the value and impact of the programs we offer.
  • We will broaden the spectrum of opportunities available to charities and nonprofits to create financially sustainable business models.
  • We will understand and adapt to the powerful forces shaping  Canadian society. 

To accomplish this vision, we must:

  • Amplify our voice: so that citizens have an improved perception of social impact organizations and organizations have the ability to speak with a unified, amplified voice to key audiences.
  • Ensure our relevance: to create a sector-wide operating culture that sees organizations use more data, information, research and knowledge to make wise decisions.
  • Influence our environment: so that a “social impact lens” is applied when public policy is being created.
  • Elevate our excellence: for a Canada where charities and nonprofits are operating at the highest level of governance and deliver the highest quality programs.

“In 2015, we organized ourselves for where we want to go and what we want to achieve, making changes that set us up to deliver on our plan. It was a challenging year, but the plans and decisions we have made will allow us to move forward with greater stability, clarity and focus. More than ever before, we are positioned to play the role that the sector needs us to play.” 

OWEN CHARTERS, Chair, Board of Directors

Financial Summary 2015

Financial summary

The information below for the year end December 31 is derived from the financial statements for 2015, which were audited by Collins Barrow Toronto LLP. Our complete audited financial statements and T3010 Registered Charity Information Return, as filed with the Canada Revenue Agency, are available at our Annual Reports section.


Revenue 2015


Detailed Financial Statements (PDF)

Our People 2015

Our people


Karen Alebon

Cathy Barr

Michèle Benoit

Lynn Chambers

Brynn Clarke *

Emily Cordeaux

Shellina Dhalwani *

Diane Ellison*

Stephen Faul

Brittany Fritsch

Michelle Gauthier *

Ian Gibney *

Ann Gratton

Marnie Grona

Shanti Hadioetomo *

Bill Harper

Lisa Hartford *

Devon Hurvid

Erica Ip

Bernadette Johnson

Sol Kasimer *

Meg Kwasnicki *

David Lasby

Julie Lebel

Bruce Macdonald

Haley MacDonald

Michael Meadows *

Joan Mitchell

Nicole Mitchell

Nisha Oliver

Olena Panfyorov

Margot Porter

Mary Ann Quinit-Ngoy *

Farah Rafi*

Natalie Rekai

Bill Schaper

Cornelia Schrecker

Galina Shapiro

Gillian Siu *

Toni Stockton *


Board of Directors

Jan Belanger

Owen Charters (Chair)

Marlene Deboisbriand

Yvan Gauthier

Derek Gent

Katherine Hay

Darlene Jamieson

Refat Jiwani

Margaret Mason

Kevin McCort *

Allan Northcott

Mike Pedersen

Peter Robinson

Lee Rose

Martha J. Tory *

Lynne Toupin

Stéphane Vaillancourt

Willy Van Klooster (Vice-chair)

Bob Wyatt *



Advisory Council

Father Paul J. Abbass

Lucie Alègre

Beth Bilson

Michelle Dagnino

Lois Fine

Gordon Floyd

Juniper Glass

Barbara Grantham

Richard Irish

Jason Kelly

Myna Kota

Denis Lalonde

David LePage

Susan Lewis

Janice Loomer Margolis

Michelle Madley

Susan Manwaring

Teresa Marques

Susan McIsaac

Dany Michaud

David Morley

Clare Northcott

Brad Offman

Patti Pon

Vinod Rajasekaran

Mark Rodgers

Bobby Sahni

Julia Sánchez

Dick Vollet

Sharon Wood

Catherine Woodman 


* Left Imagine Canada in 2015

Supporters 2015

2015 supporters

Corporate / Business Sponsors

Carters Professional Corporation


Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life *

Investors Group *

KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.)


Miller Thomson LLP

Power Corporation of Canada

Sears Canada

Spire Philanthropy

TD Bank Group *

Telus *


As well as the many participants in Imagine Canada’s Caring Company Program, whose fees help to support our work.


Foundation / Charitable Supporters

The Agora Foundation *


The Calgary Community Foundation

Deloitte Canada Foundation

Ivey Foundation

The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation *

The Lawson Foundation *

Mackenzie Strategic Charitable Giving Foundation

The Max Bell Foundation

Metcalf Foundation

The Mike and Martha Pederson Foundation

The Muttart Foundation *

The Ontario Trillium Foundation, an Agency of the Government of Ontario

PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada Foundation

RBC Foundation *

The Suncor Energy Foundation *

Suzuki Foundation

Tides Canada

United Way Alberta Capital Region

United Way Calgary

United Way Toronto

Vancity Community Foundation

Vancouver Foundation

The Winnipeg Foundation 


As well as the many Foundations, Charities and other nonprofits who are Grant Connect subscribers, Standards Program participants, Sector Champions or members, whose fees help to support our work.

* Imagine Canada National Partners


Friends of Imagine Canada

Cathy Barr *

Owen Charters *

Stephen Faul *

Gordon Floyd

Michelle Gauthier

Barbara Grantham

Marnie Grona

Bill Harper *

Darlene Jamieson

Refat & Dolat Jiwani *

Sol Kasimer

Meg Kwasnicki

Denis Lalonde

Marcel Lauzière *

Janice Loomer Margolis

Bruce MacDonald *

Peter Mackinnon

Margaret Mason *

Don McCreesh *

Mr. & Mrs. N. McGugan *

John D. McKellar

Michael Meadows

Allan Northcott

Mike Pedersen *

Peter Robinson *

Lee Rose

Georgina Steinsky *

Martha Tory

Lynne Toupin *

Stéphane Vaillancourt *

Willy Van Klooster

Dominic Wong

Sharon Wood


* Member of the Chair’s Circle


Community of Volunteers

David Armour

Sara Austin

Janet Austin

Michael Badham

Denise Baker

Ann Barnard Ball

Jacques Bérubé

Rahul Bhardwaj

Alison Bledsoe

Mark Blumberg

Susan Bower

Carmen Boyko

Guy Bradbury

Linda Brazier-Lamoureux

Peter Broder

Rhae Ann Bromley

Trish Bronsch

Michelle Campbell

Terrance Carter

Kristine Cassie

Owen Charters

Michelle Coombs

Amy Coupal

Denise Cumming

Karen Dade

Susan Dallhoff

Claude David

Marlene Deboisbriand

Lou Del Gobbo

Jacqueline Demczur

Rob Donelson

Christopher Dougherty

Ian Edward

Derek Evans

Iris Fabbro

Peter Faid

Michael Farris

Heather Fleming

Ross Fletcher

Marcy Fogal

Cynthia Foo

Tracy Ford

Scott Forfar

Kevvie M. Fowler

Darlene Frampton

Eva Friesen

Derek Gent

Marina Glogovac

John Graham

Cindy Grant

Sharilyn Hale

Debbie Hantusch

Brian Harrison

Renée Hébert

Jeanette Heywood

Laird Hunter

Cendrie Hutcherson

Catherine Jagdeo

Refat Jiwani

Chris Kelly

Graham Kelsey

Debra Kerby

Sandi Kiverago

Myna Kota

Barry Kwasniewski

Leslie Landell

Alain Laurendeau

Marcel Lauzière

Danielle Leguard-White

Len Lifchus

Kathy Lilyholm

Joanne Linzey

Lisa Litz

Ruth Mackenzie

Kathy Magee

Theresa Man

Patrick Manley

Tracey Mann

Susan Manwaring

Jane Marco

Daniel Marquez

Margaret Mason

Don McCreesh

Aine McGlynn

Ross McGregor

Susan McIsaac

Micheline McKay

Andrea McManus

Keith McNally

Noreen Mian

Shawn Mitchell

Lyndsay Montina

Luce Moreau

Linda Morgan

Scott Mullin

Larry Murray

Joan Nandlal

Mariana Nimara

Allan Northcott

Marlene Oliveira

Denise Ouellette

Glen Pearce

Mike Pedersen

Ann Perigo

Dr. Susan Phillips

Ryan Prendergast

Sue Pulfer

Jody Rathgeber

Lucie Rémillard

Mehvish Rizvi

Peter Robinson

Janet Rock

Lee Rose

Ann Rosenfield

Yves Savoie

Pamela Seto

Heather Simpson

Isabella Smejda

Jerry Smith

Scott Smith

Marnie Spears

Dave Spedding

Paula Speevak

Wendy Speziali

Ming-Young Tam

Andrew Taylor

Sheila Tilotta

Anne Tinker

Martha Tory

Lynne Toupin

Stéphane Vaillancourt

Sam Vanderveer

PJ Vankoughnett-Olson

Dick Vollet

Connie Walker

Kristine Webber

Beth Weintrop

Bobbi-Jean White

Shelley White

Faye Wightman

Barb Willet

Shirley Wilson

Bob Wyatt

Focus: 2015 Annual Report

Published by: Imagine Canada | T 416 597 2293 | F 416 597 2294

Copy Editors: Marnie Grona, Natalie Rekai, Cornelia Schrecker | Author: Marlene Oliveira | Design: Natalie Rekai | French Translation: Cornelia Schrecker

All rights reserved. The content of this electronic publication may be reproduced, in whole or in part, by charitable and nonprofit organizations for non-commercial use and where Imagine Canada is acknowledged as the original publisher including year of publication, publication title, and original document source (electronic publication link or website link). Otherwise, no part of this report may be reproduced without prior written agreement from Imagine Canada.

Our National Partners

  • great west life
  • Lawson Foundation
  • Muttart Foundation
  • RBC Foundation
  • Suncor
  • TD Bank
  • investors group

Learn more about our National Partners and other supporters.

Charitable Registration Number: 119218790 RR0001